Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sports Media Update - December 8th

We are a long way off from March Madness, at least in basketball terms, although a report from Sports Business Journal the other day has started a lot of discussion among fans and the media.

The possibility exists that the NCAA could add still another week of games to the Tournament. More games means more telecasts and broadcasts, and according to the report the possibility of more networks becoming involved.

As a fan, I'm totally frustrated by this, and it is far from actually happening. I lost some interest in the Tournament over 25 years ago when it expanded from 24 to 32 teams. Why have a regular season when more than one team can go from the same conference? But that is for another column.

From a media perspective, I see where this could be of benefit. More tourney games translates to more ad revenue. Especially with NFL ratings through the roof this season and the NBA ratings off to a good start, especially with teen viewers, as detailed here last week.

Yet, I think CBS has done a very good job with their coverage over the years. It is really only the first two days when games conflict, and now streaming has reduced many of those concerns.

However, more post-season telecasts are probably likely across the board. This NCAA possibility fits in with MLB talking about filling in the early post-season Division Series off days by adding more games to go from best of five to best of seven series.

Speaking of the NBA, a great move by NBA-TV on Monday night (Dec. 7). Instead of sticking with its originally scheduled feed of the Washington at Detroit game, NBA-TV wisely switched to show the Denver vs. Philadelphia game featuring the return of Allen Iverson. A great fan-friendly move that deserves a lot of attention.

In addition to NFL games continuing to score great ratings, CBS also rocked the ratings world from Saturday's (Dec. 5) SEC Championship Game telecast. The Florida vs. Alabama telecast wound up as the best rating ever for an SEC Championship since its debut in 1992, and the network's highest rated "non-bowl" telecast in 20 years (Notre Dame vs. Miami in 1989).

Fox TV scored its best overnight ratings in 3 years with the Cowboys vs. Giants doubleheader game this past Sunday (Dec. 6). For the season, the Fox NFL ratings are now up 8% over last year, and the playoff races are about to heat up for the final 4 weeks.

NBC won Sunday Night with Sunday Night Football - again - this past Sunday after switching to the Minnesota vs. Arizona game. Compared with week 13 last year, NBC showed a 23% increase, even though the Vikings were involved in the 2008 Week 13 telecast. Brett Favre is winning almost as much as the TV networks, and all have been around a lot of years!

TBS (Turner) Sports has found a way to not have Chip Caray make errant calls on any more baseball post-season telecasts. Or regular season for that matter. Neither party shared any details, but the problem has been resolved because Caray won't be back. As funny as the line would normally be, given that Chip is the son of Skip and grandson of Harry Caray, I prefer not to think of him as a "Chip off the old block".

Fox Radio Sports has made a change on its morning show. Out is Steve Czaban, whose last "scoop" for the network was breaking the news on his own blog earlier this week after a 7 year run. Czaban had also filled in for Jim Rome during his time with the network.

His replacement is Steven A. Smith, who most fans know from his days on ESPN. On ESPN Steven seemed to always be yelling at someone with his comments, so it will be interesting to hear if he can tone it down for mornings.

CINCINNATI: The Reds have finalized their broadcast teams for 2010 by replacing the now retired George Grande. Thom Brennaman is going to reduce his baseball role for Fox and handle 100 Reds telecasts. He had joined the Reds' booth in 2007 and has shared some broadcasts with his father Marty, which is expected to continue. Chris Welsh continues as TV analyst, with Jeff Brantley moving over to TV on occasion. Paul Keels, the voice of Ohio State football on radio and former Sports Director of WLW, will call the games that Thom Brennaman does not.

Even though it was only the Detroit Lions playing the Bengals this past Sunday Fox TV 19 pulled out all of the stops for one of the two Bengals telecasts it got this season. The Cincinnati Fox affiliate pre-empted the Fox NFL pre-game show in favor of a 90 minute local pregame show. News anchors Tricia Macke and Dan Carroll co-hosted along with sports anchor Zach Wells.

As it turned out, they were right. This past weekend the Bengals win over the Lions even drew better than Saturday's college game putting the U. of Cincinnati against Pittsburgh locally. The college game was the Saturday ratings leader, but more households were tuned to the Bengals on Sunday.

HOUSTON: Big changes are underway this week at KBME 790. Matt Jackson and Adam Wexler have taken over as morning team from 6 to 10 AM, with Dylan Guinn from 10 to Noon. Matt Thomas returns to his native area from Minneapolis to host Noon to 3 PM, as well as Astros pre and post-game coverage. Thomas is also remembered locally as the Public Address announcer during the NBA Rockets championship season.

Tom Franklin will no longer host a show, but is expected to continue play-by-play of University of Houston football and basketball. The station is also giving up the "Sports Animal" brand in favor of "Sports Talk 790". Can't help but joke about how many thousands of dollars it took to come up with the new moniker of "Sports Talk 790".

PHILADELPHIA: The success of sports radio continues, based on the latest ratings for late October to mid-November. This time not a surprise since this ratings period included the Phillies participation in the World Series. WIP 610 finished first among 25 to 54 males, while every daypart was up. Rival WPEN AM and FM finished in the top 10 in males during its first "full" ratings period, including a strong showing afternoons from Mike Missanelli.

DENVER: Chris "Birdman" Andersen of the Nuggets now has a weekly radio show, and it airs in morning drive. "A Birdman's View" airs on ESPN 1600 each Thursday morning at 8:00, at least through the NBA season.

St. LOUIS: It is always an honor to have a street named after you. But in St. Louis, the feeling was that the late Jack Buck deserved more than just a street. As of this week, a stretch of Interstate 64 in St. Louis has been renamed "The Jack Buck Highway". Gives new meaning to his call of "There's a long drive........".

WEST PALM BEACH: Even though WPTV Channel 5 earlier got rid of two sportscasters, the station has not given up on sportscasts during its local news. Starting with the coming new year, reporters from ESPN 760 radio will handle the TV reporting, along with the 15 minute extended wrap-up on Sunday nights. This includes hosts Evan Cohen and Jason Pugh.

SYRACUSE: During the first quarter of 2010, WTLA 1200 and WSGO 1440 (from nearby Oswego) will switch to all sports.

BATON ROUGE: WNXX, licensed to Jackson LA, changes over to sports and will carry ESPN programming, expected to be in place before the first of the year.

CEDAR RAPIDS: The Iowa vs. UNI game lost to "The Biggest Loser" on Tuesday night (Dec. 8). KWWL-TV decided to carry the TV show instead of the game feed from Panther Sports Network. The station was scheduled to air the game on its digital channel instead. However, the digital channel is not available on all of the area's satellite owners nor on certain outlying cable systems. Local fans of either team might just make the TV show ratings "the biggest loser" in the future. As if that show couldn't have been shown on delay.

LINCOLN NE: ESPN 1480 has canceled the local show "The Spread" with Jason Peter and Jeff Wilkerson and replaced it with The Doug Gottlieb Show. Wilkerson is also out as Program Director. This past March, Omaha's Big Sports 590 dropped its afternoon show with Matt Perrault and replaced him with Fox Sports Radio programming.

RICHMOND: The baseball minor league Richmond Flying Squirrels have announced a 2 year deal with Sports Radio 910 to become the team's flagship station and carry all 142 games. Jon Laaser and Anthony Oppermann will handle play-by-play for the AA affiliate of the Giants. Can't help but wonder if the Flying Squirrels will get off to a "rocky" start.

RALEIGH: It's not really a place you have to go to for job security. Although the minor league Carolina Mudcats will have their games aired on WDWG 98.5 starting next season. Patrick Kinas returns for what will be his 12th season calling the games, which will also be streamed on the team's web site while some will also be aired on WDOX 570 AM. The job security? Kinas' company actually owns the broadcasts rights along with handling all of the advertising sales and production of each broadcast.

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