Monday, November 9, 2009

Sports Media Update - Novemer 10th

The college hoops season is almost upon us, and so is the season of schools jumping through hoops to receive additional media coverage. Next Tuesday (Nov. 17th) is the day when ESPN goes with a 24 hour marathon of college games. This time, all live. We're talking games starting at 11:00 PM local time out west to fill the overnight hours back east. And we're talking east coast games actually starting at 6:00 and 8:00 in the morning on weekdays.

Yet, the schools are receptive to moving the start time in order to appear on ESPN, even to the point of having free breakfasts at 4 AM and a variety of contests and promotions for students and fans who attend the games.

From a radio standpoint, I think next Tuesday will be an interesting way to test the credibility of sports departments. For example, St. Peter's and Monmouth play at 6 AM local time on Tuesday. I don't think even the student radio stations will broadcast this game, but it will be on ESPN. Of course, many fans of these teams have to go to work or school before 8 AM and wouldn't be able to watch the game to its conclusion.

Same with the Drexel vs. Niagara game which starts at 8 AM Eastern and local time. On stations with local teams playing in these games, I'll be curious to know how many (or few) will actually know to report the final score during morning drive. I would hope that the sports station will have fun with being able to deliver a local final score during their morning show.

But my fear is that some newscasters obviously not used to watching for a sports result in the morning will talk about the game as if it is coming up even though it is already over. If you are in any of the "local" markets for any of those teams, or for that matter in a local market where a game such as these are being played in the morning, tune in to your favorite radio station's news or sportscasts. This is an interesting test of their credibility. They should be on top of these games. If not, and especially if they announce the game is still to be played after it is already over, keep that in mind the next time there is a breaking news story and you want fast information on it.

Meanwhile, the regional telecast of Saturday's (Nov. 7) college football game in which Villanova upset Richmond 21-20 took on a flavor all its own after a potential game-winning field goal was missed by the Richmond field goal. While play-by-play voice Bob Picozzi and analyst Scott Brunner were letting the crowd react to the big miss, another voice was heard just as clear as the broadcasters themselves. One report said that some people initially thought it was one of the game broadcasters. I saw and heard the tape on this and believe that someone clearly had an open microphone and was waiting for the opportunity. But what this male voice said, right over the air, was "What a bum! Come on, end this f---ing game". A few seconds later, the same person said "Go home already!".

This was not heard from a crowd microphone. It was as clear as if one of the announcers was talking. It will be interesting to see if Comcast SportsNet is fined or what happens over this. A lot depends on whare that microphone was placed at the time this happened and who might have had access to it.

Reminds me of the incident in either the late 70's or the early 80's when during an ABC telecast of Monday Night Football with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell from Dallas, a guy came on with a microphone from somewhere and as clear as if Gifford were talking, said "Howard, the whole state of Texas hates your guts!". I don't know that the offender was ever caught.

MLB Network continues to unveil fresh programming even as the off-season begins in full fury now that the World Series has ended. Bob Costas will be doing more interviews on the Studio 42 show, including one with Bud Selig that debuts on Tuesday Nov. 10. The one I'm most anxious to see is the November 17th edition on which legendary Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell is scheduled to be the guest.

Sunday Night Football wins again. Not only did NBC again win the Sunday night ratings battle, but this past Sunday (Nov. 8) finishes as the 2nd highest rated telecast of this season, according to the early Monday numbers. The highest rated? You guessed it. Week 2 when the Cowboys opened the regular season in their new stadium against the Giants. If NBC had its way, it would stand for Nothing But Cowboys every Sunday.

But there is more to the story from this past Sunday night. What baffles me is that 5 of the top 8 metered markets impacting these ratings do NOT have NFL teams. Among the highest rated markets were San Antonio, Austin, Alburquerque, Las Vegas, and Richmond. Certainly, Vegas is understandable since betting is legal and a ton of people are visiting there who live in NFL cities. But Albuquerque and Richmond having high ratings for that game?

CHICAGO: Speaking of high ratings, sports radio has moved up the scales according to the recently released October ratings. WSCR "The Score" and WMVP ESPN are not only in a close battle for audience, but each shows increases across the board. So this is not a case of one station gaining at the other's expense.

WMVP ESPN 1000 charted #1 in 25-54 males overall, while 670 The Score finished tied for #3 in the same category. Men seem to be coming over from other news/talk stations in the market. Newsradio WBBM 780 finished 8th in this demographic, while WLS-AM Talk Radio finished 13th and WGN Radio at #15.

The Score's local morning show with 2 local sports writers passed Mike & Mike on WMVP this time around, making for an interesting race between the two.

Also in Chicago, Loyola University basketball will air on WNTD 950 AM this season, as well as west suburban WAUR 930 and the student station. John Fitzgerald returns for his 3rd season of play-by-play along with former assistant coach John Tracy as analyst.

TAMPA: WDAE has reinstaed morning host Dan Sileo as of this past Friday (Nov. 6) following his suspension after falsely reporting the Buccaneers were for sale. WDAE happens to be the flagship station for the team's broadcasts. Sileo had been off since October 29th.

BOSTON: The recent ratings released already show that Boston area fans can indeed support multiple sports stations. The Sports Hub WBZ-FM increased its overall audience size by more than 33% over the previous month, moving from 17th on up to 12th overall in the market. In men 25-54, the station rose from 12th place in the previous book all the way to 3rd place this time. Amazing when you consider the station made its debut in August. Of this year.

Yet, the established sports station WEEI finished 5th overall in the market, including both morning and afternoon drive within the top 3.

The Boston and Chicago results were part of the trend across the country for sports radio during the late September to mid-October ratings period. I'm sure the baseball post-season and the high ratings of the NFL telecasts played a part, but there is major progress for sports radio stations.

In Detroit, WXYT finished #1 in several categories. KTCT San Francisco and KTCK "The Ticket" in Dallas both set ratings records since the PPM system took over in those markets. Obviously, the Phillies heading toward their 2nd straight World Series had a positive impact on WIP and its rising ratings.

These sports stations are doing as well or even better than ever before. It might not be only because of the baseball post-season and the NFL off to a good start in the TV ratings. My hunch is that more people want the escape from hearing about the economy, politics, and the bad news that seems to dominate the headlines.

BOSTON: More TV sports cutbacks, as Butch Stearns is out as sports anchor from Fox 25. Word is he is not going to be replaced. This leaves Ryan Asselta as the only remaining sportscaster. I have said for months that local TV stations cutting back on sports coverage is a mistake. A lot of male viewers in prime demographics will be driven to regional or national sportscasts, such as SportsCenter, which usually air opposite the late local newscasts. Now, with the surge in ratings for sports radio stations, especially in Boston, the timing of this announcement seems odd. Fewer reasons to watch the local TV news, and more benefits for sports radio and TV outlets.

HOUSTON: The market competition for the sports radio audience continues, although KILT 610 has taken the lead among the four sports stations in morning drive. The brand new morning team of John Lopez and Marc Vandermmer on KILT showed a ratings rise of more than one-half point, slightly more than the drop in audience at KGOW 1560.

St. LOUIS: WXOS, making great strides in its first year on the air, has just shaken up its midday schedule as the station broke up the Pat Parris and Bryan Burwell team. This comes even though WXOS was leading its competitors in the midday period. Whether a replacement is named or not, the station plans to take the show from 9 AM until 11 (instead of the current Noon), and expand Bernie Miklasz another hour from 11 AM to 2 PM. Parris is expected to continue on Fox Sports TV.

SAN DIEGO: After nearly 20 years, sorry to see Jim Stone being "laid off" from KNSD-TV sports. Stone is already off the late news and will be completely off the air by the end of this month after reporting on the Chargers games.

OKLAHOMA CITY: It's only their second season in town, but the NBA Thunder got off to a great start in the ratings book. Last weeks' telecast against the Lakers on Fox Sports Network was more than a full ratings point higher than last season's most watched telecast on the Network. The cable network coverage has expanded for this season into Wichita and Topkea Kansas among other areas.

CORPUS CHRISTI: KSIX 1230 began its weekly show about Texas A & M-Corpus Christi this past Monday (Nov. 9) from Noon to 1:00. Again this season, the show will take place on location. Steven King hosted this past Monday from a local restaurant.

EUSTIS FL.: WKIQ 1240 radio has returned to the airwaves and now is dedicated to local sports. Former ESPN 1080 Orlando sportscaster O.K. Walters has leased the air time, ending about 4 months of silence. Walters hosts local sports from 8 to 9 AM and then from 4 to 6 PM. The station will carry regional and national play-by-play, but Walters' plans also include letting students call local high school games. The only negative to this idea is the signal. The station remains at only 800 watts, with an estimated coverage area of about 25 miles in Lake County.

ESPNU begins its college hoops coverage this week. Here is the schedule with all times ET:

Wed, Nov 11
7 p.m. Robert Morris at No. 25 Syracuse (Syracuse) Dan McLaughlin & Tim Welsh
9 p.m. North Carolina Central at No. 4 North Carolina (Chapel Hill) Rob Stone & Jay Williams ESPNU
11 p.m. Detroit at No. 12 California (Berkeley) Carter Blackburn & Mark Gottfried ESPNU

Fri, Nov 13
6:30 p.m. Morehead State at No. 5 Kentucky Dan McLaughlin, Jimmy Dykes & Andy Katz ESPNU

Sun, Nov 15
2 p.m. CBE Classic: UC Irvine at No. 3 Texas (Austin) Dave Armstrong & Reid Gettys ESPNU
4 p.m. CBE Classic: Fairleigh Dickinson at Wichita State (Wichita) Dan McLaughlin & Mac McCausland ESPNU
6 p.m. CBE Classic: Texas-San Antonio at Iowa (Iowa City) Jim Barbar & Mike Kelley ESPNU

Mon, Nov 16
7 p.m. NIT Season Tip-Off – Regional Semifinal: Coastal Carolina at No. 8 Duke (Durham) Mike Gleason & Jimmy Dykes ESPNU
9 p.m. Regional Semifinal: Colgate at No. 14 Connecticut (Storrs) Justin Kutcher & Bob Wenzel ESPNU
11 p.m. Regional Semifinal: Texas State at Arizona State (Tempe) Steve Physioc & Miles Simo ESPNU

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