Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sports Media Report - Oct. 27th update

Media impacts perception, especially for sports fans. The post-season baseball games have served to sour the feelings about the quality of umpiring. Cameras have shown us some extremely questionable calls, led by the fair ball called foul in the Yankees ALDS series against Minnesota which could have turned around the outcome. There was the "2 men near third base with only one called out" call in the ALCS, which also went in favor of the victorious (in the series) Yankees.

Understandably, cries go out for MLB to add replays more often than the current determination of where a batted ball lands.

However, questioned ball and strike calls are adding to this mix. Fox and TBS both have used numerous replays with their own technology to attack pitch calls by the umpires. These pitch calls are subjective. I don't know that a computer can determine the exact angle and strike zone, especially as some hitters make adjustments with their stance and/or positioning in the batter's box during an at-bat or from one plate appearance to the next.

I think MLB needs to step in and ask the networks, along with local telecasts, to stop using the on-screen chart of the strike zone when replaying a ball or strike call. The networks will argue this is a part of their thorough coverage. My argument to them is that balls vs. strikes are subjective, and should be handled differently than a fair ball or runner not at the base where there is a definitive call that needs to be made.

If the fans continue to believe that the officiating is not up to par, it could only lead to reduced interest on the part of the casual fan, which translates to lower ratings.

However, I do want to see MLB make an effort to improve the quality of safe vs. out and fair vs. foul calls, and not necessarily with replay involved. In football, basketball, and hockey, the officials on the field, court, and ice need to watch over the entire group of players. Not the case in baseball. Instead of a replay deciding, let the umpires have a quick huddle after a call is made.

For example, the batter hits a ball into the gap and is seen rounding 2nd and heading to 3rd. Once that batter/runner has already passed 1st base, why can't the first base umpire hustle over toward 3rd base and back up the 3rd base umpire's call? He may have a different angle on a close play.

If the TV cameras show the umpires working together and moving around to back up and have a call stand based on umpires' collective views from different angles, it would help maintain the integrity of the game. And probably some casual fans who translate into ratings.

Meanwhile, the NFL has ratings, ratings, and more ratings to boast about this fall. Sunday Night Football continues to rock NBC's world. SNF being the number one TV show on Sunday night when up against the Yankees' pennant clinching game on Fox is nothing short of amazing, considering it featured the New York Giants in the game. The show ranks in the top 3 TV shows for the current season and dominates in key demographics.

Makes it bad timing that this coming Sunday (Nov. 1) is the Sunday night without a game for this season. Especially since the time changes early Sunday morning and people would not be too tired to watch the 4th quarter.

The NBA takes over our TV sets as the new season begins this week with 4 nights in a row of national doubleheaders. This on the heels of NBA-TV working harder than the players in practice to expand distribution to 45 million homes as this season gets underway. This includes Comcast, Cox, and DirecTV. NBA-TV plans to air 96 games during the season, more than ESPN and TNT (separately). This means an average of 4 to 5 nights each week with nationally available NBA telecasts for those who don't want to pay for the league package.

As we get ready for the World Series to start, I like how both sets of sports stations in New York and Philly are teaming up to cover and discuss the Series. WFAN New York and WIP Philadelphia are combining (and streaming) their midday shows so that fans of both teams can share in the discussion and the coverage.

Even though this is not intended as a cooperative effort, by coincidence the ESPN Radio stations for both cities are doing the same idea, but in this instance it is with the 2 to 7 PM shows.

Normally I prefer the sports radio present player and coach interviews along with opinions and predictions from other current and former players and executives. But letting fans of both teams have an equal say could add some spice as well. That is way more entertaining than putting on fans who all root for the same team to make the same not-so-bold predictions hour after hour.

Only thing not right about this is that they are only planning to do this for the first game, at least as of press time. This should go on every day through the day after the World Series ends.

CHICAGO: The powers that be at ESPN Radio seem set on getting the most out of their radio contract for the World Series. WMVP 1000 which is ESPN Radio Chicago is airing every game live of the World Series entirely, even at the expense of their Chicago Bulls NBA broadcasts.

The Bulls' season opening game on Thursday vs. San Antonio, along with their 3rd game of the season from Miami on Sunday, are being moved to another AM station so that ESPN Radio can air World Series Game 2 and 4 broadcasts. If the Series goes to a 7th game, or if weather forces postponements and there is a Game on Thursday Nov. 5th, it would impact a third Bulls broadcast.

I'm sure the Bulls are not pleased about this, as a station carrying an out-of-town broadcast ahead of a local team is rare. The fans in Chicago are not exactly gushing over an East Coast matchup in the World Series, but they want to know if Derrick Rose is going to be healthy enough to play a lot of minutes early in the season. This does not look like a local decision, especially with WMVP and rival WSCR 670 "The Score" both with increased ratings and doing close battle for listeners.

St. LOUIS: Speaking of sports station battles, congrats are in order for WXOS 101.FM which has another ratings success story. It finished in the top 10 for the market in men 25-54, while neither KFNS 590 or KSLG 1380 cracked the top 15 in that category. WXOS just began as a sports station at the first of this year, while KFNS broadcast the Cardinals games during their highly successful regular season (which was in progress during the ratings period discussed). Now that's impressive!

HOUSTON: Still no announcement yet about a morning drive co-host for KBME 790 although a series of co-hosts continue. On Tuesday (Oct. 27), the host was former Cincinnati radio talker Andy Furman.

College hoops fans in the Houston area, especially those who follow SEC teams, have reason for concern. The Conference's regional 62-game basketball package has yet to be picked up by any of the Houston stations. Channel 55 has been airing the football package, but those games are all on Saturdays.

PHOENIX: While the NHL Coyotes struggle with ownership this week, Fox Sports Arizona has stepped up and increased its TV coverage by adding eight more telecasts to bring its schedule to 57 games. However, as it stands now, these eight telecasts will probably be on tape delay due to scheduling conflicts.

Elsewhere, the sports media lost a pair of long time voices within the past few days, both with life-long local followings.

New York Rangers fans who go back a few years all remember Bill Chadwick from his 14 seasons doing commentary. The "Big Whistle", who officiated in 13 Stanley Cup clinching games years earlier, passed away at the age of 94. Chadwick worked with Marv Albert for five seasons on Rangers radio (yes - 'the' Marv Albert) and then teamed with Jim Gordon for nine seasons on the telecasts.

Southern and eastern Kentucky natives lost a "friend" when Jay Lasslo passed on at the age of 84 late last week. The World War II veteran did play-by-play of high school and local sports events going back to WSGS Hazard in 1956. He called his last high school hoops game at the state championships in 1996 and retired a few months later.

College football TV viewers have become spoiled in the past 15 years. Before then, it was front page news if your team's game was going to be one of the two or three games that might be available on a Saturday. Period.

Yet, this coming Saturday (Halloween), some fans are upset because they won't be able to see the Texas A & M vs. Iowa State game. It wasn't picked up by any of the TV networks or stations. While I understand the frustration, the other side of the coin shows that five of the six Big 12 games will be televised on at least a regional basis.

Nebraska vs. Baylor airs at 12:30 ET on Versus. Fox Sports (regional) has Missouri vs. Colorado at 12:30 CT and then Kansas State vs. Oklahoma at 6 p.m. CT. ABC has Kansas-Texas Tech at 2:30 CT as a regional game and Texas-Oklahoma State will air in prime time on ABC or ESPN2.

The regional/national tentative College Football schedule, ET:

Thursday, Oct. 29
7:30: North Carolina at Virginia Tech, ESPN

Friday, Oct. 30
8:00: West Virginia at South Florida, ESPN2

Saturday, Oct. 31
12:00: New Mexico St. at Ohio St., BTN
12:00: Indiana at Iowa, ESPN
12:00: Purdue at Wisconsin, ESPN2
12:00: Cincinnati at Syracuse, ESPNU
12:30: Nebraska at Baylor, Versus

3:30: Michigan at Illinois, ABC
3:30: Florida at Georgia, CBS
3:30: Temple at Navy, CBS College
3:30: Miami (Fla.) at Wake Forest, ESPN2
3:30: Central Michigan at Boston College, ESPNU
4:00: Nevada-Las Vegas at Texas Christian, Versus
4:30: Penn St. at Northwestern, ESPN

7:00: Eastern Michigan at Arkansas, ESPNU
7:30: New Mexico at San Diego St., CBS College
7:30: Washington State vs. Notre Dame (at San Antonio), NBC
7:45: South Carolina at Tennessee, ESPN
8:00: Southern Cal at Oregon, ABC or ESPN2
8:00: Michigan St. at Minnesota, BTN
8:00: Texas at Oklahoma St., ESPN2 or ABC

Sunday Nov 1
8:15: Marshall at Central Florida, ESPN

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sports Media Report - Oct. 20th update

Let's give a ton of credit to veteran sportscaster Tom Hammond for the way he handled his call during the final seconds of the Notre Dame vs. USC telecast on NBC-TV this past Saturday (Oct. 17).

With fewer than 5 seconds remaining in regulation, a Notre Dame receiver caught a potential touchdown pass which would have put N.D. down by just 1 point with the option of kicking to tie it or going for the two-point conversion and the win. However, the catch was made right at the sidelines, possibly out of bounds. Obviously a significant play.

Unfortunately, a lot of play-by-play announcers would have been determined to describe the outcome they saw and risk an incorrect call at a crucial situation. Instead, Hammond called it right away by saying "Caught!! But was he in bounds?" and went silent for a few seconds.

This way, he was on top of the play, and let the anticipation build for all concerned. He then took us through the slow motion replays which showed the receiver was indeed out of bounds and the game would not be tied or perhaps decided. Coming in the month of Chip Caray calling plays one way to have them happen in another way, this is especially rewarding to hear a sportscaster handle the situation the best way possible.

TV ratings from the just concluded MLB regular season continue to show some interesting developments from this season. It seems that 15 teams showed a drop in their local TV ratings, including the NY Mets showing a 17.2% drop. Actually, the Mets had the 5th largest decrease, trailing Oakland, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Arizona. The A's had a struggle with placement of their telecasts at the start of the season and it showed to the point of a 52% overall decrease from the 2008 season ratings.

On the national scene, TBS showed a ratings increase of more than 16% compared with 2008 for its Sunday telecasts, while Fox and ESPN each showed a decrease. Hard as it is to believe, this was the 20th season of ESPN televising MLB games.

Speaking of TBS, its Division Series coverage didn't attract much interest in the Dallas area. Of the 56 major TV markets, Dallas and Tulsa finished (tied) with the lowest ratings of any local market.

On the NFL side, Fox-TV wisely switched the Giants to an early game on November 1, putting the Giants up against the Jets for the second time this season and for something like the 4th time in 25 years. This time with good reason, as they moved the Vikings at Packers game to its doubleheader game. Ought to be a ratings blowout. Fox figures to have Brett Favre's first time in Lambeau Field against the Packers as a lead-in to the night's World Series telecast. (Yes - on Nov. 1st)

While some people think I must have too much time on my hands, get a load of this interesting site. This fan has mapped out the national coverage map for the networks for NFL telecasts each week:


College hoops season is coming up soon, and schedules and announcing assignments are being finalized. ESPN has moved its team of Brent Musburger and Bob Knight to "Big Monday" Big 12 telecasts. Not a popular move in Big 12 country, as the team of Ron Franklin and Fran Fraschilla has become quite popular. They will work some Saturday games together, while Franklin is scheduled to work some Wednesday telecasts with Bill Raftery and others.

Dave O'Brien moves to the Tuesday Big Ten matchups after the first of the year along with Steve Lavin, with Musburger also handling some Big 10 games later in Conference season. The "Super Tuesday" SEC telecasts will have Brad Nessler with Jimmy Dykes. Dave Pasch and Doris Burke will call Thursday and Saturday Big East matchups.

Altitude Sports & Entertainment, the Denver area regional sports TV network televising many Nuggets and Avalanche games, is expanding its satellite reach to be available on a larger scale basis. Altitude is already seen in parts of 10 states. In my opinion, since this channel is now on a "national feed" satellite, we should be able to contact our cable or satellite carrier and have them add the channel - no matter where we are.

The NBA Portland Trailblazers continue to work toward having some of their telecasts streamed online, especially the ones shown on Comcast but not available through other cable systems. However, it appears there would be a charge to the consumer. In my opinion, a consumer being charged for a game which is not carried on their cable system should be able to deduct the amount from their cable or satellite bill.

PHILADELPHIA: WPHT 1210 will carry the Phillies broadcasts through the 2010 season, but recent negotiations seem to have ended the deal then. This could mean an opportunity for WPEN to enter the bidding, especially with their recent adding of the simulcast on 97.5 FM. Meanwhile, the Sixers, Flyers, and Eagles all have radio deals extending at least into 2011 as of now. Or, it could be more than a negotiation ploy from the Phillies. The team made news a few months ago by directly purchasing broadcast audience research information previously used only by the stations. I can't help but wonder if they are going to be watching for certain audience trends and tendencies again next year, and perhaps would decide on a station based on their own research.

Then again, WPEN carried the Phillies for three seasons earlier this decade, but lacked a thorough signal in certain areas. Now they have a strong FM simulcast to offer.

SEATTLE: Not only is Seattle University starting the coming basketball season as a Division I team, they will be starting the season with their games broadcast on 710 ESPN, with "The Groz" Dave Grosby on play-by-play. Grosby is the long time afternoon drive co-host of "Groz with Gas" with co-host Mike Gastineau, and goes back to the 1991 debut of KJR-AM as a sports talker.

PITTSBURGH: Here's hoping for a fast recovery by Stan Savran from heart surgery following chest pains after covering the Steelers vs. Chargers game on Oct. 4th. Well, after he hosted the Mike Tomlin Press Conference on FSN that Tuesday before being admitted. After more than 30 years on the air in Pittsburgh, he hopes to get back to his seat on the "Stan & Guy Show" afternoons on 1250 ESPN.

KANSAS CITY: The sports radio race is probably more exciting than the Chiefs or Royals in the "race" this year. KCSP 610 continues to rise in the ratings and is making inroads on WHB, with a 13% rise in overall share from the previous ratings book as part of a more than 50% audience increase over the past year. Morning host Roger Twibell showed his best numbers thus far with the station in the recently released ratings.

HOUSTON: Sometimes you just can't win with the fans. KRIV-TV thought it was helping when it switched around its NFL schedule this past Sunday (10/18). On paper, it looked like a good move to bump the Philadelphia vs. Oakland late game telecast to not stick fans with the Raiders if they didn't have to. Instead, they went up against the Texans game with the New Orleans vs. N.Y. Giants telecast. As it turned out, the New Orleans game wasn't close, and the Raiders played their best game in many a moon against the Eagles.

But it didn't stop there. Doing this meant that the only late game shown in Houston was the New England vs. Tennessee game. The game that resulted in one of the biggest blowouts of the entire NFL season thus far.

NFL television: I don't know why it is such a big deal that Jacksonville will likely have most of the remaining Jaguars home games blacked out locally. This past Sunday's game against St. Louis was not shown locally either. But I have to believe the 'true' NFL fans would rather see better games instead. Unless the Jags' season continues to get better, they might do better if they SHOW the home games unless they sell out.

The NFL did lift the local blackout of the Monday Night Football (10/19) in San Diego, also allowing the ESPN telecast to air on local KFMB-TV. The 75 mile radius also allowed the game to be shown "locally" in Los Angeles on KCBS-TV. This is nice in San Diego, since there was no other game going on at the same time. But no way that Los Angeles should be involved with blacking out games for San Diego. Hardly the "local" market.

St. LOUIS: The NHL Blues took some telecasts away from over-the-air TV starting this season, instead assigning 70 game telecasts to Fox Sports Midwest. (Add in Versus and NBC, and the vast majority of Blues games are televised this season.) However, Dish Network refused to pay Fox Sports Midwest the increased fees for the added Blues telecasts. As a result, Dish Network subscribers lose out on 34 telecasts. Plus, Dish Network does not carry Versus and its national package including several Blues games. Once again, cable and satellite companies make decisions instead of letting their customers do so. The result is subscribers forced to pay what I consider to be extra dollars for religious and foreign language channels they would never watch - but can't watch certain sports channels or events because the cable or satellite company doesn't want to increase prices.

Yet, St. Louis isn't the only NHL city going through this. Fox Sports Southwest added 20 more Dallas Stars telecasts to its schedule for this season, but Dish Network is not airing any of the added 20 games. I couldn't make this up if I tried. One of these "lost" telecasts is March 4th against St. Louis.

MILWAUKEE: Even though Brewers TV local ratings dipped for the season, the radio ratings held steady as WTMJ finished at the top of the latest ratings, even increasing its rating since spring.

CINCINNATI: On the other side of the coin, and nice move by a cable system. Insight in the Northern Kentucky region (part of the Cincinnati market) carried some of Lexington's WKYT-TV's telecast of "Big Blue Madness" when University of Kentucky basketball began the John Calipari coaching era this past Friday (Oct. 16) from 7:00 to 9:30 PM.

INDIANAPOLIS: WNDY-TV will televise 13 Butler University Bulldogs basketball games this season, coming off their 26-6 record last year. These will be in addition to a minimum of 8 appearances on the ESPN Networks. Anthony Calhoun will call the games with radio analyst Ralph Reiff moving over to TV for those games.

KNOXVILLE: WPFT 106.3 has become "The Zone" and changed from classic hits to ESPN Radio.

YOUNGSTOWN: Congrats to John Caparanis, Sports Director of WBBW 1240 "The Fan" on being inducted into the Trumbull County Sports Hall of Fame.

REDDING: Fox Sports 1670 adds a 2:00 PM commentary from local sports columnist Aaron Williams which started this week.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The baseball wild card flop

I'm not going to let this go after this season. Back to my earlier comment about the lack of any "wild card" race for the playoffs, and how only 1 team in Wild Card contention finished even within 5 games of a division winner.

Now, the 2 mighty Wild Card challengers in this season's playoffs won a combined total of:


for this entire post-season.

Deserving of teams which failed to win a division. Do we still need to have this next year?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sports Media Report - Oct. 12th Update

It has been a very challenging week for the St. Louis Cardinals, their fans, and even for radio stations they helped to shape. From a media standpoint, it is more than recovering from the disappointing sweep by the L. A. Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs.

The huge news that for the first time in more than 35 years KMOX Radio is not the top rated station in St. Louis certainly has its place in this column. Yes, I know that for the past 2 seasons, the Cardinals games have been broadcast on a different station.

My point is that the Cardinals radio situation has resulted in defeat for all parties involved, separate from the team losing to the Dodgers.

This past regular season was the best for the team on the field since 2006 when the Cardinals went all the way to a World Series championship. And KMOX Radio aired every moment along the way.

Ever since the Cardinals bought into KTRS 550 and moved the broadcasts there, many fans have complained about signal and reception problems. Thousands of baseball-loving fans outside of the immediate St. Louis area not served by a Cardinals Radio Network station could no longer pick up the broadcasts at night.

While I understand that the Cardinals went revenue "now" from their broadcasts, they overlooked the future consequences when they no longer have avid fans between 50 and 200 miles from St. Louis who cannot easily receive the broadcasts anymore, and they become far less likely to attend games in St. Louis at least once per summer.

KMOX reportedly did all it could to keep the Cardinals broadcasts. And now, the ratings for the period of time leading into the Cardinals clinching their first Central Division title in 3 years show listeners are going away from KMOX.

Put those stories together, and it spells a bad decision all around. There is no way anyone can convince me that KMOX would lose its top ranking after 35+ years during a Cardinals clinching month if it still had the broadcasts.

If only the Cardinals had stuck to baseball and not plunged into the radio business. Ironically, this is an instance where a CBS Radio station lost audience because of something not their fault. Let's just say that a certain Cardinals outfielder wasn't the only one who "dropped the ball" in a crucial situation lately.

Speaking of dropping the ball, TBS made still another strange decision regarding its baseball coverage this past weekend. TBS was stuck with a nearly 3 hour window between games on Sunday (Oct. 11th) due to the Dodgers' sweep of the Cardinals. After the Angeles eliminated the Red Sox early Sunday afternoon, the network did a short post-game show with only a couple of on field interviews. Host Ernie Johnson was in the studio, as he would be later on the for the night doubleheader of telecasts from Minneapolis and Denver.

Yet, Johnson was alone for the afternoon session. How does this happen? What we wound up with was the night telecasts with, count 'em, three analysts in the studio bucking for air time. As a result, fans had no studio analyst for a clinching game. They can't use the excuse that Dennis Eckersley couldn't analyze the Red Sox, given that he did some Red Sox TV filling in (and quite well) for Jerry Remy throughout the season. After all, Red Sox TV voice Joe Orsillo called the series for TBS. You can't tell me they needed all 3 analysts to wrap up the Phillies-Rockies telecast of Sunday night which ran until after 2 AM ET on a Sunday night, and could not have been a series clinching game.

At least this move took away from Chip Caray's phantom play-by-play calls.

Then there was ESPN Radio putting Chris Berman on as play-by-play voice for its national broadcast of the Phillies and Rockies series opener. It is understandable that after 30 years of almost all TV work, Berman constantly forgot that listeners can't see what is happening when he talks. As a result, thousands of listeners, during a weekday afternoon when radio broadcasts have a bigger reach, had little to no idea of what just happened. This time, I don't blame Chris Berman. You can't tell me that ESPN Radio couldn't have gotten someone with years of radio play-by-play experience to take that plum assignment instead.

The time to blame Berman was, for example, in his Game 1 telecast play-by-play of the 2005 Division Series opener between the Red Sox and White Sox. When a ground ball went between the legs of the Boston 2nd baseman for a crucial error, Berman's call consisted of "OH.......NOOOOOO !!" on a national telecast with fans of both teams watching. But on the Phillies vs. Rockies radio broadcast, it wasn't his fault he was there.

Meanwhile, it is one thing when sports reporters bring facts together in order to speculate about a possible story. But it is another when callers to a sports station start doing the same. Have we gotten to that point?

The Zone 1280 in Salt Lake City had a very interesting group of callers last week just after the story broke that Dave Checketts (along with Rush Limbaugh) was teaming up to bid on the NFL St. Louis Rams. Checketts has ties to Utah. Among callers to the radio station was a man claiming to have seen a plan involving land supposedly set aside for an NFL stadium. Other callers pointed out how St. Louis lost the (NFL) Cardinals to Arizona in the late 80's and that the Rams moved there from Los Angeles. Interesting theory. It may or may not happen, and it might not even come to fruition, but that isn't the point. What got my attention was learning that callers to a radio station are tapping into a potential story.

On the TV side, the numbers continue to look good for the NFL. The Denver vs. New England overtime thriller on CBS this past Sunday will certain help. (Numbers not available at press time.)

But the great numbers for football across the board are already making an impact. CBS now reports that about 80% of its inventory is already sold for its February 7th Super Bowl telecast - reportedly at $2.5 million or more for a 30-second spot.

NEW YORK: Yankees telecast ratings on YES increased by nearly 10% over the course of the regular season, pushing it ahead of NESN as the most watched regional sports network in the country.

Even though fans couldn't actually see the studio, they might notice a different sound or feel to 660 WFAN as of this week. The Fan has now moved into the Manhattan studios of its CBS Radio sister stations, following 20+ years of broadcasting from Kaufman Studios in Queens.

PHILADELPHIA: ESPN Radio continues to try and rival WIP 610 for the sports audience. WPEN 950 AM is now being simulcast on 97.5 FM, and will continue to be split between local and ESPN national programming. Both stations are airing the baseball playoff broadcasts. This announcement comes just days after the latest ratings show that WIP has increased its overall audience by about one-third this year.

LOS ANGELES: While it is way too early to pass judgement, the latest ratings show KFWB 980 slipping into 34th place for the period which ended during September. Granted, the ratings period ended less than one month into the revised format (from News to News/Talk), but this time period included the Angels' run toward clinching the American League West Division title. It's not like beginning its NBA Clippers contract this month will make a splash. We'll see just how compatible Dr. Laura and the Clippers are on the same radio station.

BOSTON: WBZ-FM 98.5 The Sports Hub had an outstanding debut in its first month of ratings. From nowhere, WBZ-FM showed up in 11th place in 25-54 men, while scoring higher than the station "average" in this demographic for morning drive. These showings represent more than 1/2 of WEEI 850's audience in the same categories. Yet, both stations have reasons to be pleased. The WEEI 850 morning show with John Dennis and Gerry Callahan came in #1 in that demographic, while Glen Ordway in the afternoon did the same.

This is primarily a reflection of one of the strongest sports periods in Boston history. Even though the Red Sox were just eliminated, the Patriots continue a solid run, while the Bruins and Celtics begin seasons in which both are expected to make a solid playoff run.

CHICAGO: Sports radio in Chicago is seeing solid numbers from competitors WSCR The Score and WMVP ESPN Radio based on the most recent ratings. This is becoming quite the battle between the two. Overall, WMVP ranked 13th in the market, with WSCR right behind at 14th. In morning drive, WSCR ranks #7 with WMVP at #8. WMVP has the edge in afternoons, finishing 9th while WSCR ranked #15. In the 25-54 male category, WMVP finished #3 overall, with WSCR right behind at #4. To some, the demographic showing becomes even more impressive when you realize that a Spanish station is one of the 2 stations that finished higher.

The Score has made one improvment, although it is probably short-lived. Even though the station continues to air Dan Patrick's midday show on a significant delay late night, they knew to edit out segments about upcoming baseball post-season games which had already been completed by the time the show aired. Even though they did not change anything during the entire season of regular season games having been completed before airing the show.

DETROIT: "The Ticket" WXYT-FM is the ticket in the latest Motor City radio ratgings, showing an audience increase of more than 20%. And to think the ratings period concluded before the Lions actually won a game.

WASHINGTON D.C.: I'm sure the "Sports Hub" in Boston has this info plastered across every bulletin board in the station. The fan 106.7, which signed on just this past July, has already become the most popular sports station in D.C. in the 25-54 male demographic. Its audience increased by 38% in the 12+ age category, thus overtaking WTEM ESPN 980. In addition to U. of Maryland football and NFL broadcasts, The Fan begins NBA Wizards broadcasts this month.

HOUSTON: The KILT 610 morning show with Marc Vandermeer actually devoted portions of its morning show this past Thursday (Oct. 8) to the AHL's Houston Aeros. Vandermeer, the voice of the Texans, and John Lopez aired live from the Toyota Center Arena on the Aeros' Media Day and interviewed team officials and players. Even though Houston does not have an NHL team, it is unusual for a station of that size to devote morning drive time to hockey, let alone a minor league team.

TENTATIVE COLLEGE FOOTBALL ON TV for this week (subject to change, times Eastern):

Wednesday, Oct. 14
8:00: Boise St. at Tulsa, ESPN

Thursday, Oct. 15
7:30: Cincinnati at South Florida, ESPN
7:30: Howard at Morgan St., ESPNU
8:00: Virginia Union at Virginia St. (D-II), CBS College

Friday, Oct. 16
8:00: Pittsburgh at Rutgers, ESPN

Saturday, Oct. 17
12:00: Oklahoma vs. Texas, ABC
12:00: Ohio State at Purdue, BTN
12:00: Delaware St. at Michigan, BTN
12:00: Iowa at Wisconsin, ESPN
12:00: Northwestern at Michigan St., ESPN2
12:30: Mississippi State at Middle Tennessee, ESPNU
12:30: Princeton at Brown, Versus

3:30: Minnesota at Penn State, ABC
3:30: Arkansas at Florida, CBS
3:30: Houston at Tulane, CBS College
3:30: N.C. State at Boston College, ESPN
3:30: Southern Cal at Notre Dame, NBC
4:00: Virginia at Maryland, ESPNU
4:00: Colorado St. at Texas Christian, Versus
6:00: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, ESPN2
7:00: Illinois at Indiana, BTN
7:30: Miami (Fla.) at Central Florida, CBS College
7:30: Kentucky at Auburn, ESPNU
7:30: Stanford at Arizona, Versus
7:45: South Carolina at Alabama, ESPN
9:15: Missouri at Oklahoma St., ESPN2

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sports Media Update - October 7th

TBS had the luck of the draw with the Tigers 12 inning win over the Twins in "Game 163" on Tuesday night. Not only in getting the telecast, but then getting one of the most exciting games in recent memory.

However, play-by-play voice Chip Caray blew a couple of key calls and is sure to be criticized for years to come. He described a fly ball that was caught in an important situation as "a base hit" while the ball was in flight, and then made no attempt to admit his obvious blunder, continuing on with "caught!!" and the rest of the play.

As the game was ending in the bottom of the 12th, the throw from right field in a desperate attempt to stop the winning run was late and off the mark. But it was made since the Tigers' season was on the line. Yet, by the time the Detroit catcher caught the ball a few feet from home plate, Caray had already proclaimed "There is no play!". Somebody please tell him that there was a play, but it was a few seconds late. As if he wouldn't think that the right fielder wouldn't go all out to make a throw no matter what.

Not everybody likes Joe Buck on some of his baseball calls on Fox, but Caray's blunders in such a pressure game will be long remembered.

Sports fans around the country were presented with a lot of drama and excitement in 2 sports over 2 nights early this week.

Meanwhile, although this is being composed prior to having any ratings information, it will be interesting to see whether or not the post-season TV ratings are significantly better than the just concluded regular season. Fox-TV ratings are down for the regular season, even if it is not their fault.

For example, this past Saturday there was only one race of consequence available to them, and they could only show the Minnesota vs. Kansas City game as its primary regional offering. Minnesota had not been enough of a factor in the race to gain any national exposure all season, and Kansas City was not a factor in anything since May. This figures to be the primary reason why Fox ratings for the final Saturday of the regular season finished about 50% less than the final Saturday last year. Last year they had 3 regional games with post-season implications.

Of course, when it comes to TV ratings for sports, the story is clearly the Monday Night Football game. Brett Favre "scored" as much for ESPN as he did for the Vikings.

In the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, the telecast combined (between ESPN and KSTP-TV with the same telecast) for a 58.3 rating. That is rating, and not audience share, and was a higher audience than the Twin Cities had for the most recent Super Bowl. In Milwaukee, the combined rating for the ESPN telecast was 49.7. Early national results show the highest overnight ratings in ESPN history.

I wonder if the NFL Network's capsule replay at 8:30 PM CT on Wednesday (Oct. 7) will generate numbers in Vikings territory.

The Packers - Vikings game came after a week of hype in Green Bay and Milwaukee equaled only by the Super Bowl appearances by the Packers. Milwaukee's ESPN 540 promoted and devoted 20 hours of "coverage" leading into the game. Even if it was nothing more than tons of callers expressing their feelings about Favre and the Packers organization for most of it. Everybody had an opinion. Steve "Homer" True on the 2 - 6 PM show promoted "24 hours in a row" of Favre and Packers-Vikings talk throughout the 6 days on the air leading into the game. He even sat back on Friday afternoon while Slim Jim, his football prognosticator, predicted a Vikings win against the spread, which turned out to be correct.

On the national side, even though Fox is enjoying overall ratings success for its NFL telecasts thus far, this past Sunday (Oct. 4) wasn't quite as good for them. For example, in Houston, the Texans game vs. Oakland on CBS finished 2.5 ratings points higher than the Dallas vs. Denver game later in the day on Fox.

For this coming weekend (Oct. 11), my hunch is that CBS will have some bragging rights over NBC. While NBC continues to enjoy major success with Sunday Night Football in the first 4 weeks, this week will prove a big test. Winless Tennessee hosts Indianapolis. Not only does this figure to be a one-sided game, but there is comparably little interest outside of these markets.

CBS should score well with its national doubleheader game of New England at Denver. Denver is 4-0 and New England is always a draw. Among the CBS early games is the N Y Giants hosting Oakland. Not the best matchup, but 2 big markets will be watching.

On the baseball side, TBS’ broadcast teams for the Division Series and the National League Championship Series are Chip Caray with Ron Darling, Don Orsillo with Buck Martinez, Dick Stockton with Bob Brenly and Brian Anderson with Joe Simpson. Caray, Darling and Martinez will work the NLCS.

In college football, the SEC will have 2 of its biggest games covered on Oct. 17th. CBS will choose between USC-Alabama and Arkansas-Florida for its 3:30 PM ET game. The game not selected by CBS will be picked up for ESPN's prime time telecast.

There will be a new voice in the Cincinnati Reds TV booth starting next season. After 17 seasons, George Grande surprised many by announcing his retirement after the final Reds game this past Sunday.

Grande is most remembered for being one of the original ESPN SportsCenter anchors, and his "Hi, hello, and welcome back to ESPN SportsCenter....." greeting. Grande did Yankees TV for the 1989 and 1990 seasons prior to joining the Reds.

While we know there will be change in the Reds TV booth, things are not definite in the Mets' TV booth. Keith Hernandez shocked everyone with his on-air comment about being in contract negotiations and how he "hopes" he is back with Gary Cohen and Ron Darling for next season. These days, we even have media people negotiating through the media.

Same for the Texas Rangers, where Barry Horn reports in the Dallas Morning News that TV voice Josh Lewin does not yet have a contract for next season. He has been doing the Rangers for the past 8 seasons.

A good move by NBA-TV on Tuesday (Oct. 6) even though it was for a pre-season game. The NBA continues to push for international markets and coverage and scheduled a pre-season game between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz in London. With the time difference, the game began at 1:30 Chicago time and 12:30 PM Utah time on a Tuesday afternoon. NBA-TV televised the game live, and then had the foresight to do a prime-time replay.

This gave the fans who could watch live the option to do so. More importantly, it gave more people the chance to see the game at a more convenient time. Since it was a pre-season game, many fans were easily able to watch the prime-time replay without knowing the final score. As luck had it, the game was decided in the last 5 seconds. The only fly in the ointment was that what was supposed to be a relatively light night for sports on TV wound up with the TBS telecast of the Twins vs. Tigers game, which ran well into the NBA telecast.

The trend continues all around for sports on TV to do well in the ratings. NESN reports its highest ratings ever for the NHL Bruins opening telecast of the Bruins vs. Hurricanes game on Saturday (Oct. 4|) in 25 years of telecasts. It was highest rated opener since the 1995 season opener which didn't happen until January due to the NHL lockout.

HOUSTON: John P. Lopez is changing stations, moving to market sports leader KILT 610 to co-host morning drive with Marc Vandermeer. He replaces Andre Ware who left the station because of increased work on ESPN. Lopez most recently co-hosted with Ted DeLuca on KMBE 790. This will be a ratings race to watch over the next few months, as mornings have not done as well as the other dayparts in the sports radio ratings race.

CHARLOTTE: Better late than never for Bobcats radio. The team just reached a deal for their NBA games to air on all sports WFNZ, including pre-season games.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: ESPN Radio finally has a local presence, meaning that residents beyond the northeast part of the state (who pick up the Portland, Maine FM station). Beginning this week, WGAM 1250 from Manchester will be known as "The Game", while Nashua's 900 AM will also carry the majority of network programming.

PORTLAND MAINE: Speaking of the Portland area, Mike Antonellis has been named the baseball Eastern League's "Broadcaster of the Year" for 2009. He just finished his 4th season as voice of the Portland Sea Dogs. Mike also does news updates for the Portland Radio Group.

HONOLULU: ESPN Radio 1420 has expanded its local presence, adding a local show co-hosted by 22-year old Josh Pacheco and Scott Robbs middays.

MONTANA: While SEC, Big 10, and Pac 10 schools are among those enjoying significant television exposure every Saturday, Montana State is among those schools facing an uphill battle for coverage. The school has arranged for its game this Saturday (Oct. 10) against Northern Arizona to be televised on the ABC affiliate in Bozeman and streamed on www.MSUBobcats.com.

TORONTO: It may seem like just another radio budget cutback story, but this one could have some impact on the audience of 590 The Fan. Reporter Howard Berger will no longer attend every road game the Maple Leafs play. This would hardly be a big deal here in the States, but this is Toronto. This is the first time in 17 years the station has not regularly staffed road games.

The Fan competes against 640 AM, the Leafs' flagship station.

The upcoming college football TV schedule includes:

Thu, Oct 8
7 p.m. Colgate at Princeton Charlie Neal & Jay Walker ESPNU
9 p.m. Nebraska at Missouri Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer & Erin Andrews ESPN

Fri, Oct 9
9 p.m. Louisiana Tech at Nevada Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore ESPN2

Sat, Oct 10
Noon Auburn at Arkansas Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman & Bob Griese ESPN Radio: Bill Rosinski, Dennis Franchione & Joe Schad ESPN
Noon Purdue at Minnesota Pam Ward & Ray Bentley ESPN2
Noon Eastern Illinois at Penn State Dave Lamont & J.C. Pearson ESPN Classic
Noon Georgia at Tennessee Dave Neal, Andre Ware & Cara Capuano SEC Network
Noon West Virginia at Syracuse Mike Gleason & John Congemi BIG EAST

12:30 p.m.Houston at Mississippi State Clay Matvick & David Diaz-InfanteESPNU

3:30 p.m. Wisconsin at Ohio State Sean McDonough, Matt Millen & Holly Rowe ABC
No. 13 Oregon at UCLA Terry Gannon & David Norrie ABC
Baylor at Oklahoma Ron Franklin & Ed Cunningham ABC
Connecticut at Pittsburgh Mike Patrick, Craig James & Heather Cox ABC

4 p.m. Duke at N.C. State Todd Harris & Charles Arbuckle ESPNU

7:30 p.m. Southern Mississippi at Louisville Eric Collins & Brock Huard ESPNU

7:15 p.m. Colorado at Texas Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge & Erin Andrews ESPN

8 p.m. Michigan at Iowa Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit & Lisa Salters ABC
8 p.m. Georgia Tech at Florida State Mark Jones & Bob Davie ESPN2

10:30 p.m. Mississippi Valley State at Alcorn State Carter Blackburn ESPNU

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mourning the baseball season

There is always a sadness when the baseball season comes to an end, whether at the end of the regular season or at some point during the post-season. It usually depends on the fate of my favorite team, which is the White Sox. Their disappointing showing certainly contributes to feeling it today.

However, this year, there is more to it. I'm also feeling some sadness because my favorite sports in the whole wide world is slipping away again. I already stated my case for the need to stop the Wild Card, even though I know it probably won't happen.

The "revenue sharing" plan designed to create parity isn't working. Therein lies the problem. Both Los Angeles teams, the New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox, comprise 4 out of the 6 teams in the post-season. The Cardinals are backed by a big bucks brewery. The one exception will be the representative from the American League Central, and Detroit is a top 10 media market.

These teams actually won in 2 ways. First, they won on the field, fair and square, even if they spent and spent and spent to do so. They also won based on strategy. Or it could be called a loophole. They have the ability to command additional revenue, based on market size, which the 'smaller' teams do not. Sure, the 30 MLB teams share in the pie. But the big market teams can generate expensive plates to put the pie on.

Folks, it really isn't revenue sharing. New York and Los Angeles, especially, command millions and millions more for media rights. Factor in the additional sponsorship deals, suites, merchandise (to a greater local population), and the list goes on.

The Yankees used having a new stadium as their justification to significantly increase ticket prices. Even with the media rights and sponsorship revenue they command which is well above that of most smaller markets.

Sorry, but I'm not buying the "it's the economy" argument to the overall decline in attendance, with the exception of Detroit. People will pay the higher prices to go, just not as often as in the past. Therein lies the difference.

It should be that you can take a family of 4 to a baseball game and spend less than $75 for the afternoon or evening, including parking and some food. Since the cost these days is now in the $150 to $200 range, that family can only afford to go once (if that), rather than 2 or 3 times.

Trust me that those kids going once a year today won't grow up avid fans like we did when their parents can hardly afford to take them once, and even a team t-shirt costs $25. THIS is why attendance is dropping.

Factor in that the big money teams are still finding loopholes to win, and small market teams have a lesser chance once again, and you will see the sadness.

At this rate, even I "can" wait until next year.