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

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