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.

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