Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sports Media Update - November 3rd

Sorry, but I thought radio stations were supposed to report and comment on sports news and not manufacture it. Within just the past week we have had two more examples of this that somehow became national news.

Last week leading into the Brett Favre and the Vikings playing in Green Bay, Appleton WI radio station WAFL 105.7 created a "funeral" for Favre and gave it heavy airplay via the Rick & Lamb Morning Show. Complete with a mannequin of Favre and a hearse driven to a club for a "visitation" to "bring closure" to Favre's days as a member of the Packers. Part of what brought this story national was ESPN picking up on it.

In Tampa, WDAE has suspended "Sports Animal" host Dan Sileo after the Buccaneers complained about Sileo's on-air comments that the team was for sale, which the team says it is not. This resulted in the station issuing a retraction and suspending Sileo indefinitely (as of this writing) from his show.

In my opinion, the Favre "event" was not worthy of attention from a sports news organization. It was a radio station gimmick. It had nothing to do with Favre, the Vikings, or the Packers. It wasn't even any sort of protest or indication of sentiment from a large group of fans. It was a radio station gimmick - in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Sileo being suspended is not the main part of the Tampa Bucs story either. The story should be that team officials deny the team is for sale, and THEN give some details that the denial was issued because of speculation by a local radio station. Yet, sports fans around the country have now heard of Dan Sileo. Years from now people will forget that they heard of him because he did not check his facts before reporting a story.

I'm afraid that these are two more signs that sports "reporting" doesn't mean what it used to - and what it should. There are already too many rumors and possibilities reported within the context of sports news. Having radio stations create "stories" on top of this only makes it worth for us sports fans who thrive on "real" sports news.

On another note, with positive potential, maybe radio stations and networks are seeing my point from months ago about how sports could lead the way for HD Radio, if it isn't too late.

After the debut last month of a Pittsburgh Penguins "channel" on HD Radio in Pittsburgh and the talk of similar from other teams including the Dallas Cowboys, CBS Radio has announced an innovation.

As of this week, WFAN "The Fan" from New York City, generally considered to be the nation's leading local sports station, is now available on HD channels in Florida markets Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach. Based on the large number of "transplants" from the NYC area in these markets, this looks like a winner. Plus, this starting while the Yankees are in the World Series would be a nice draw among sports fans in Central Florida.

In the Hartford CT area, many fans can pick up WFAN 66 out of NYC, but there are a good number of Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins fans in the Hartford area. In response to that, WTIC-FM is starting Boston's Sports Hub WBZ-FM this week on one of its HD Channels. Great moves by CBS.

These are excellent examples of programming that can serve a niche radio audience. Just what HD Radio needs if it is ever to succeed. However, there are still a large percentage of potential listeners who don't understand what this is all about, and/or who refuse to spend $100+ for an HD Radio in this economy. My suggestion remains that if the radio stations want to get their HD channels off the ground and make them sources of revenue, they should be giving out HD Radios, or at the very least make them available at significant discounts through sponsors. These stations don't get it. A sports fan with $100 to spend on "radio listening" is going to pay for Sirius XM for 6 months and get game broadcasts and channels devoted to each pro sport instead of an HD Radio. But if they get the option of getting an HD Radio with specialized local and/or favorite team sports programming for, say, $20, then HD Radio has a chance.

The TV ratings for pro sports continue to skyrocket this fall. Brett Favre and the Vikings at Green Bay on Sunday wound up as the 2nd most watched regular season NFL telecast for Fox in 15 1/2 seasons of showing the games. The World Series telecasts, also on Fox, were up 46% over last year and the highest viewership since 2004 and the miracle Red Sox. This year's Game 3 was up 57% over the numbers from last year - and keep in mind both seasons had the Phillies representing the National League.

On the NBA side, the season opening doubleheader on TNT last week wound up as the most watched NBA doubleheader of the zeros. Actually, it was the most watched since 1996, and the Celtics win at Cleveland showed a 40% increase compared with the audience for last season's opener.

CBS is probably ready for the college basketball season, now just a month away. Especially with Kentucky vs. North Carolina on December 5th for its first telecast.

MLB Network continues to bring welcome innovations to baseball fans, even after the season is over. This coming Saturday, Nov. 7, at 8 PM ET, MLB Network will televise the Arizona Fall League "Rising Stars" Game including top prospects from several Major League teams. Daron Sutton and Tony Clark will call the game. This gives hardcore fans the chance to see prospects in acdtion from the Angels, Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Braves, White Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Mets, and others.

Then, on Saturday Nov. 21 at 2:30 PM ET, Victor Rojas will handle play-by-play of the League's championship game from Scottsdale.

Also this Saturday (Nov. 7), Hofstra University will hold a dinner and ceremony for the first inductees into the Hofstra Radio Hall of Fame in celebration of 50 years of radio broadcasting at the school.

Among the inductees are Ed Ingles, nationally known in addition to his 24 years as Sports Director of WCBS Radio, as well as Todd Ant, who has worked in the NYC market for more than 25 years with WCBS and 1010 WINS. Ant is currently with ABC Sports Radio Network. Congrats to both.

While injuries have taken their toll on many players, it's rate that it happens to a broadcaster. Unfortunately, just as it cut short his playing career, the back problems that plagued Bill Walton last season with ESPN and ABC have forced Walton to retire from the microphone after 7 years with the networks. Walton worked extremely hard over the years to become a better broadcaster, and it showed.

In Atlanta, WGCL-TV has formed a "partnership" for its sports reporting, rather than cutting back on sports like some other TV stations around the country. WQXI 79 The Zone sports radio will now provide on air content for the CBS TV affiliate, including the SEC Wrap-Up Show and some surrounding NFL coverage.

AUSTIN: Sports radio comes to the FM dial, and it will include a lot of local programming. 104.9 "The Horn" will be talking a lot of Texas Longhorn sports (It took me a while to figure that name out, too!), including Erin Hogan's morning show. The station actually moves over from 1530 AM which will remain ESPN Radio. Although 1530 will simulcast the local programming in the early going, the word is that 1530 will carry ESPN Radio national programming and give the Austin market both local and national sports coverage. Locals welcome the move because of the improved signal on the FM side compared with 1530. I welcome it because it gives sports fans the local or national sports option.

NEW YORK: WOR 710 will continue as the flagship station for Rutgers University football and basketball. The relationship, which began in 1992 with football, has just been extended between the University and the station through the 2013-14 season.

BATON ROUGE: Ricky Blanton has been named as analyst for the LSU Sports Radio Network's home basketball broadcasts starting this season. He will join Jim Hawthorne and Kevin Ford starting on November 13th. Blanton was voted onto the school's "All-Century Team" announced earlier this year.

The college football regional and national schedule for the coming week, with times Eastern:

Thursday, Nov. 5
7:30: Virginia Tech at East Carolina, ESPN

Friday, Nov. 6
8:00: Boise St. at Louisiana Tech, ESPN2

Saturday, Nov. 7
12:00: Purdue at Michigan, BTN
12:00: Illinois at Minnesota, BTN (atl.)
12:00: Western Michigan at Michigan St., BTN (alt.)
12:00: Wisconsin at Indiana, BTN (alt.)
12:00: Northwestern at Iowa, ESPN
12:00: Syracuse at Pittsburgh, ESPNU
12:30: Kansas at Kansas St., Versus
3:30: Ohio St. at Penn St., ABC
3:30: LSU at Alabama, CBS
3:30: Army at Air Force, CBS College
3:30: Wake Forest at Georgia Tech, ESPN2
3:30: Duke at North Carolina, ESPNU
4:00: Texas Christian at San Diego St., Versus
7:00: Memphis at Tennessee, ESPNU
7:15: Vanderbilt at Florida, ESPN2
7:45: Florida St. at Clemson, ESPN
8:00: Connecticut at Cincinnati, ABC (tentative, to be finalized Wednesday)
10:30: Fresno St. at Idaho, ESPNU

Sunday, Nov. 8
8:15: Nevada at San Jose St., ESPN

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