Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why the Yankees online stream deal is all wrong

It’s bad enough that sports ticket prices have skyrocketed to the point of pricing many fans out of the ballpark, literally. To me it explains why the ratings for most post-season telecasts have increased even more within the past year. Fans are starting to become content with watching the best games on the tube.

Yet, the pro sports teams continue to overlook the fact that millions of sports fans are already paying for cable or satellite TV, which also has increased its prices because of the cost the cable companies force upon us in order to pay the networks which carry the games and indirectly the teams for the rights fees.

Now comes this announcement that Cablevision internet subscribers will soon be able to see Yankees games shown on YES Network via their computer. I do not live in the New York area and can’t subscribe to YES (even though I believe I should have that option through ANY cable company anywhere in the U.S.), but I started thinking this is a positive. There are times when I do not have access to cable but do have online available and this could be a way to follow my favorite team.

Until the hammer hits. Subscribers would have to pay $49.95 EXTRA to have this feature for the rest of the season. Say what? I thought that Cablevision customers were ALREADY paying a hefty sum to receive these channels, including a group they don’t even want. Now they would have to pay even more to watch a channel they are already paying for.

While others around the region who cannot or do not subscribe to Cablevision internet do not have any online option. I’m here to tell you the powers that be have this reversed.

If I were already a Cablevision internet subscriber eligible for this package, I would expect to have it available at no additional cost. Again, I would already be paying to receive YES and whatever other channels I am forced to take. Why does it matter HOW I watch what I am paying for?

This venture should be addressed to Yankees fans (and baseball fans for that matter) who are not able to take Cablevision internet, whether they are in the NYC area or not. This venture would make perfect sense if, for example, a Yankees fan now living in Florida could spend the $49.95 and be able to watch all Yankees games shown on YES for the remainder of the season. Now, Cablevision is providing him with an optional service he is willing to pay for. But as of now, it cannot happen.

You can’t tell me that advertisers, which add to YES’ income, wouldn’t jump at the chance to reach an exact number of out of area subscribers to Yankees telecasts, and that this wouldn’t become still another revenue stream for the Yankees.

The argument to this is that Major League Baseball has its MLB-TV online package available across the country, and a package such as this for the Yankees and hopefully other teams would be competition. My problem with MLB-TV, as it is currently structured, is that their online package does not include every televised game. It boggles the mind that customers to a special online national package are still subject to local blackouts.

I continue to emphasize that if I am paying additional to receive programming, I should be able to receive everything which is available. Simply put, if I want to watch the opposing team’s telecast or a national telecast instead of the local one I am “forced” to watch, it should be my choice, since it is my money. If the local telecast is that good, I would choose it over another. But I deserve to have that choice.

Let’s hope the Cablevision folks learn a lesson from this announcement. It would give more fans the chance to count the empty seats in the background of the online telecasts.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sports Media Report - June 23 update

The May radio ratings across the country showed more movement among sports radio stations than previous months have in some key markets. In Los Angeles both KLAC 570 and KSPN 710 showed increases, with KLAC almost doubling its audience over the past year. As we mentioned earlier, Dallas' KTCK The Ticket continues its solid lead against local competitors. That is even more impressive when you note that the 4 sports stations in Houston do not even combine for a bigger morning drive share in Houston than The Ticket has in Dallas.

In Chicago, even though the passion among baseball fans remains high (with both baseball teams coming off 2008 Division championships) the Cubs and White Sox radio broadcasts are not making a dent in the ratings. WSCR showed little movement at night vs. ESPN Radio WMVP with the Sox games, while WGN Radio ratings continue to struggle even with the addition of Cubs play-by-play to the past 2 ratings months.

My theory remains that the fans who enjoy baseball on radio prefer the old school professional broadcasters who focus on the game and only the game. White Sox broadcasts are handled by Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson, both former players, and while Farmer has improved significantly over the years, has not been well received by many fans. Cubs legend Ron Santo was a legend on the field but usually offers little more than a few cheers. And did I mention that TV ratings for both teams have shown increases for this season?

Overall, it's a week filled with comings and goings on the sports radio scene.

CHICAGO: Great to see WSCR 670 "The Score" get rid of its overnight syndicated programming and go live and local. Now, the 50,000 watt station only needs to either get Dan Patrick on live during the midday or switch to a live show after 10 PM or following its White Sox broadcasts. Saving money is one thing, but airing a show previewing games which have already been played by the time Patrick's show finally airs doesn't do a thing for the audience.

Better yet, the station has brought back Les Grobstein as host from 1 to 5 AM. Many remember this walking encyclopedia of sports from his days on WLS Radio in the late 70's and early 80's and through several sports talk and reporting gigs in the Chicago area ever since.

PHILADELPHIA: Sorry to learn of the death of 54 year old Gary Papa, who most recently was Sports Director of Channel 6 Action News, and died last week after a battle with cancer. Papa had been off the air for about 6 weeks, having been on Philadelphia TV since 1981. He had been Sports Director since 1990.

SAN DIEGO: I don't think anyone is surprised, but XX Sports Radio will have a "fill-in" host from 5 to 9 AM next week (week of June 29) when Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith are off. None other than Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, known for his long time stint on the former XTRA Sports 690.

Hamilton is an ideal fit for Southern California because of his knowledge of sports around the country. With thousands of transplants living in the San Diego area, this is a key to success in a market where the talk does not always center around the Padres and Chargers in season.

Speculation is already underway that this is an audition for Hamilton to return, especially since the station will need at least one more host by the end of the Padres baseball season. XX Sports carries extensive pre and post-game talk for its Padres broadcasts, which run through September.

Speaking of XTRA 1360 (its current incarnation), the station has a 2 year extension for its Chargers football broadcasts to run through the 2011 season. The new deal reportedly gives the team more ad time to sell rather than cash, which to me is a win-win for the team and the station.

The Chargers can package air time along with game programs, stadium signage, and sponsorships, while the station pays less out of pocket for the rights. KIOZ-FM 105.3 (yes, Rock 105.3) will also carry the games along with expanded pre and post-game shows. Josh Lewin is currently under contract to handle play-by-play only through the coming 2009 season. Word is that Lewin's contract will be extended, along with Hank Bauer, to coincide with the extension of the radio pact.

MIAMI: Sports 560 WQAM is finally going to be all sports. While it has been understandable from a revenue standpoint that WQAM kept 30+ year market veteran Neil Rogers on middays with the station's only "non-sports" talk show, the new sports show will make for a consistent format. Rogers accepted a buyout of his multi-year contract and is expected to retire.

BALTIMORE: WJZ-FM The Fan 105.7 is adding NFL coverage to its play-by-play roster starting with the coming season. The Fan has signed for the Westwood One package of Sunday, Monday, and Thursday NFL broadcasts. It already carries the Orioles along with University of Maryland sports. The NFL Ravens continue on WBAL 98 Rock this season. Baltimore is already one of the rare (but growing number) of major league markets to have both its MLB and NFL teams games broadcast on FM.

ALBANY: Clearance Channel strikes again. But at least it's not another batch of firings. Just a lack of hiring. WOFX 980's Big Board Sports Show continues to be hosted by Rodger Wyland, and remains the only regularly scheduled local sports show on the station. But now, when Wyland takes a day off or goes on vacation, there are no more subsitute local hosts, such as Channel 13's Andrew Catalon. On those days, WOFX instead runs a live airing of The Dan Patrick Show, normally heard during the afternoon on tape delay.

Then again, they probably considered voice tracking a sports talk show from New York City or Buffalo.

Wyland is now likely to be the most nervous and tense person ever to take a vacation.

CHATTANOOGA: WTZO-FM 105.1 has a new deal for University of Tennessee Chattanooga football and basketball starting this season, complete with coaches shows and a daily update to be known as "Mocs Sports Today". Until now, the football and basketball broadcasts were on (other) separate stations. Jim Reynolds has been named to continue as play-by-play voice for both sports.


TBS Sports has presented a steady diet of New York and Boston for much of its Sunday MLB Game of the Week showings this season. But this is going overboard. Since ESPN is carrying the Yankees and Mets on Sunday night, TBS is showing the Red Sox at Atlanta game this coming Sunday (6/28) with Chip Caray and Buck Martinez on the call. However, TBS just showed Atlanta at Boston this past Sunday. Yes, the same matchup 2 weeks in a row. But their response would be that it isn't always Boston and New York. They do have the Milwaukee vs. Chicago Cubs games scheduled for July 5th.

On the college football side, the Pac-10 Conference has announced a portion of its national and regional TV schedule. (The balance will be announced one to two weeks prior.)


Thu., Sep. 3 7:15 p.m. Oregon at Boise State ESPN2

Sat., Sep. 5 12:30 p.m. San Jose State at USC FSN
7:00 p.m. Maryland at California ESPN2
7:30 p.m. LSU at Washington ESPN

Sat. Sep. 12 1:00 p.m. UCLA at Tennessee ESPN
5:00 p.m. USC at Ohio State ESPN
7:15 p.m. Purdue at Oregon FSN
8:00 p.m. Oregon State at UNLV CBS College

Sat., Sep. 1912:30 p.m. USC at Washington ABC
12:30 p.m. Utah at Oregon ESPN
3:45 p.m. Cincinnati at Oregon State FSN
7:15 p.m. Kansas State at UCLA FSN

Sat., Sep. 26 12:30 p.m. California at Oregon ABC

Sat., Oct. 3 12:30 p.m. Washington at Notre Dame NBC5
:00 p.m. USC at California ABC

Sat., Oct. 17 12:30 p.m. USC at Notre Dame NBC
7:00 p.m. Washington at Arizona State FSN

Sat., Oct. 24 5:00 p.m. Oregon State at USC ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
7:15 p.m. Arizona State at Stanford FSN

Sat., Oct. 31 4:30 p.m. WSU vs. Notre Dame @San Antonio NBC5:00 p.m.
USC at Oregon ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

Sat., Nov. 7 5:00 p.m. USC at Arizona State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

Sat., Nov. 28 ABC 5:00 p.m. Notre Dame at Stanford ABC
7:00 p.m. UCLA at USC FSN

Thu., Dec. 3 6:00 p.m. Oregon State at Oregon ESPN

Sat., Dec. 5 12:30 p.m. Arizona at USC ABC

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sports Media Update - June 19th...........

Being a Hall of Fame athlete certainly doesn't automatically translate to the same level of performance in another endeavor, especially the broadcast booth. Tony Gwynn has not set the world on fire with his broadcast analysis, but he did manage to handle a broadcast challenge with class worthy of a Hall of Fame style mention.

This past Saturday (June 13), Gwynn was again working as an analyst on the Padres local telecast on their interleague game against the Angels. There was a very close play at home plate with the result being that the runner was called out, was clearly upset at the umpire and went on to the dugout rather than risk ejection. Seconds later, the replay showed that the runner was safe and that the Padres were robbed of a run, and possibly of a bigger inning to follow.

Gwynn was calm and collected as he gave his thoughts on the play at the plate and how the runner appeared to have been safe. What makes this significant?

The base runner happened to be Tony Gwynn Jr., his son. I'm sure that no one would have questioned it had Gwynn Sr. been more vocal or sounded upset at seeing his own son losing out on what should have been a run scored and possibly changing the course of a game. But his remaining a complete professional, along with the other announcers going along without bringing up that they were talking with the player's father, was very impressive. I'm also surprised that this incident received such little media attention elsewhere.

NEW YORK: WFAN listeners get a chance to hear Joe Benigno reunited with Sid Rosenberg on Friday (6/19) when Sid guests with Joe (or so we are being told - given that Sid is currently without a fulltime local sports talk gig) during his 11 AM hour.

DALLAS: ESPN 103.3 Radio has had a busy week, with a lot of positives for its audience. Earlier the station announced a 4 year extension of their Dallas Mavericks contract which keeps the Mavs through the 2012-13 season. Related programming will include a weekly show with coach Rick Carlisle. Chuck Cooperstein and Brad Davis will continue to handle the call of every game.

The station also introduces a "Lunch With A Legend" series which begins next week, on Friday 6/26. Fans that come to a local restaurant for a 3-course lunch will be at a live broadcast of the Michael Irvin Show with special guest Nolan Ryan. Great idea - but it could be a challenge getting a bigger legend for future lunches.

Time will tell how this all impacts the ratings for the ESPN station. The May ratings again showed The Ticket with a significant lead over ESPN Radio, while The Fan is a distant third in men 25-54.

105.3 The Fan adds Texas A & M Football play-by-play, joining the Cowboys on KRLD-FM.

ALABAMA: It's the Crimson Tide version of "soothing the Savage beast". Not really, but former Cleveland Browns GM Phil Savage has joined the University of Alabama football network as radio analyst beginning with the coming season. He joins play-by-play voice Eli Gold on the 50+ station network. Opening day is Sept. 5th in Atlanta's Georgia Dome against VA Tech.

TOLEDO: Sports radio WLQR expands its coverage area by adding the 106.5 FM WRWK signal beginning this coming Monday (6/22). The brilliant part of this is that the AM and FM will split up when there are play-by-play conflicts to provide full coverage choices, such as when the Tigers and Lions play at the same time.

The station will continue coverage of the Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings from Detroit, Ohio State football and basketball, along with some national feeds of baseball, NFL, and college football bowl games.

Finally, as the NFL season draws closer, Westwood One has begun unveiling its Sunday radio doubleheader broadcast schedule. In addition Westwood One will again feature all Sunday and Monday night games along with Thursday night games and all post-season contests.

Most of the broadcasts will be announced as the dates get closer, and are subject to local market blackout, but here are the early season games just announced:

















Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sports Media Report - June 9 update...........

Sports fans, especially NBA fans, could be in for a long overdue challenge to telecast regulations if things work out between the Boston Celtics and Comcast. The Boston Herald has reported that the team is talking about having its games streamed live and "free" for next season. The Celtics see the advantage of online telecasts being the interactive possibilities for the fans which are not available from TV.

To me the key word is "free". While no further details or possibilities have been disclosed publicly, it will be interesting to see if or how this comes to pass. To me, "free" means that anyone can watch the stream live online, whether across the street from the arena or around the world.

We do know that the extensive deal between the NBA and TNT includes "multi-media rights", we don't know if this is considered an NBA telecast. It leads to the question of just how many (or few) games. Would these be home games? Road games? A limit of, say, 5 games?

That's what makes this interesting, since the team is reportedly pursuing this arrangement. Audience measurement techniques would be impacted if people are watching online and not reflected in local TV or cable ratings.

If these would be made available only to local cable subscribers, then the games are not "free", since consumers pay each month for cable (or satellite) service. If these games would actually be made available to everyone, would the NBA and TNT consider this to be infringement on their local and national TV packages?

There is also the matter of the cable and satellite package of games which the NBA makes available for hardcore fans to watch out of market games throughout the season. If fans of other teams in the Atlantic Division could watch the Celtics games "free" online, would this impact their decision to purchase the league pass? (You bet it could!)

There is also the matter of the opposition team on the nights that Celtics telecasts would be streamed. Does this mean that if I am an Orlando Magic fan but don't like their announcers that I would watch the Celtics telecast "instead" on my computer if I so choose?

If I could watch either telecast, it would be a great choice for me as a fan. Even if do like the "local" announcers, it is often fun to hear how the announcers and analysts for the opposition talk about "my" team and approach the players.

But if the Celtics make this happen, it either wouldn't be "free", or it would go against previous policies. This could get as interesting as the Celtics post-season with a pair of 7 game series before it's over.

The issue of TV blackouts of one telecast when there are duplicate telecasts is also one that I would like to see addressed. One example is when ESPN (or TBS in the case of baseball) carries a MLB or NBA game nationally which also happens to be on a regional Comcast sports network.

The Comcast cable systems always seem to black out the ESPN telecast so that there is no choice but to watch on Comcast. (There are plenty of other examples, but this one seems the most blatant.)

Sorry, but as a paying customer spending a lot of money on cable (just as I would for satellite), I contend that NOTHING should be blacked out. If I want to watch the national or opposing team telecast, that should be my right. I am still choosing that team, that sport, and spending that time watching the game I so choose. If the local telecast is good enough, I'd watch it anyway. Not all of them are. But I should have the choice, and not have the cable company I am paying make the choice for me.

This coming Sunday (6/14) TBS will carry the Mets vs. Yankees game with Chip Caray and Buck Martinez (which SHOULD mean 3 telecasts in NYC but instead casual fans must choose between the Yankees or Mets telecasts only), and on June 21 they will show the Atlanta Braves at Boston with Ron Darling handling the commentary.

Meanwhile, congrats to Adam Cavalier, play-by-play announcer for Marshall University. He has been presented with the Jim Nantz Award as the nation's top collegiate sportscaster, as presented by the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America.

The Chris Schenkel Award for career work in college football broadcasting has just gone to Larry Zimmer, who has broadcast Colorado University games since 1971. Zimmer has called 444 CU football games, and this award comes within a few days of his having been inducted into the Broadcast Professionals of Colorado Hall of Fame. These awards do not take into account his 19 seasons of analysis on Broncos radio on KOA Radio where he teamed with Bob Martin. After Martin passed away, Zimmer called the Broncos games for 7 seasons, along with his Colorado University duties.

DALLAS: Sorry to hear about Eric Nadel missing several games from the Rangers' broadcast booth after having worked more than 3,100 consecutive games over the past (literally) 20 years to the week due to an eye condition.

On the TV side, Rangers ratings on Fox Sports Southwest are up more than 90% compared with last season (through last week), with a near 50% increase reported from KDFI-TV's telecasts. Shows what one of the best starts in team history can do to spark fan interest. Ironically, KDFI-TV has already given up its contract after this season, and after 10 years total. KTXA-TV 21 is expected to show 25 Friday telecasts in 2010. Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve have already been retained to continue both the cable and Channel 21 telecasts into next season.

HOUSTON: Not only was Nadel's 20 year streak stopped last week doing the Rangers broadcasts, but Astros TV voice Bill Brown missed a couple of telecasts last week due to a death in the family. Brown has logged more than 30 years of baseball work, going back to his days on Cincinnati Reds TV in the late 70's in the days of Ken Coleman.

FAYETTEVILLE: Station and format switching abounds in this Arkansas market but with a positive impact for sports fans. KEG-FM moves from 92.1 to a better signal at 98.3 FM (after 40 years), and will continue to broadcast University of Arkansas football. While 98.3 will continue with a music format, its old frequency at 92.1 begins a sports format as an ESPN Radio station.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL TV: The Big 12 Conference has announced its TV schedule for the coming season, including 14 ABC/ESPN telecasts. Other games may be added with as little as 6 days notice.

Scheduled times are Central time:

The 2009 Big 12 scheduled football telecasts:

Saturday, Sept. 5
Georgia at Oklahoma State, ABC-TV, 2:30 p.m.
Missouri vs. Illinois (St. Louis), ESPN, 2:40 p.m.
Brigham Young vs. Oklahoma (Arlington), ESPN, 6 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 6
Colorado State at Colorado, FSN SW, 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 11
Colorado at Toledo, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 12
Iowa at Iowa State, FSN SW, 11 a.m.
Houston at Oklahoma State, FSN SW, 2:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 19
Duke at Kansas, Versus, 11 a.m.
Tulsa at Oklahoma, FSN SW, 2:30 p.m.
Texas Tech at Texas, ABC-TV, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 25
Missouri at Nevada, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 26
Texas Tech at Houston, ESPN2, 8:15 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 1
Colorado at West Virginia, ESPN, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 8
Nebraska at Missouri, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 17
Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas), ABC-TV, 11 a.m.

Thursday, Nov. 19
Colorado at Oklahoma State, ESPN, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 26
Texas at Texas A&M, ESPN, 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 27
Nebraska at Colorado, ABC-TV, 2:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 5
Big 12 Championship Game (Arlington), ABC-TV, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sports Media Report - June 2nd update.......

Some very nice innovation from a radio station? Believe it or not, it is taking place this baseball season courtesy of Richmond VA Sports Radio 910.

The sports station wants to compete for the baseball audience at night and on weekends, and the possibilities are endless since other stations in the market carry the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals broadcasts. Neither team is having anything close to a compelling season once again, even if this offers listeners a game from each league most nights.

Fortunately, radio rights are not as ridiculous as TV (where teams literally more than 100 miles away are blacked out under certain circumstances) and a market without an MLB team such aa Richmond has choices.

Before the season, the station encouraged fans to vote on which (remaining) team to carry. Even after an extended voting period, the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox were too close to call. So the station decided to please the vast majority and acquired the rights to BOTH teams games.

On days when the Braves and Red Sox play at different times (such as one during the afternoon and the other at night), the market can choose among 4 live MLB broadcasts locally.

Better yet, 910 AM has taken the vote one step further. When the Red Sox and Braves play at the same time, listeners can vote before hand via the station's web site. As of late May, the Red Sox games had "won" the majority of conflicts and their games have aired.

What a great idea!

In other "non-MLB" city radio news, the Dodgers games are now back on a local Las Vegas station for the rest of this season and all of 2010, complete with a 10 minute pre and post-game show. KBET 790 will air the games in celebration of changing to a sports radio format. Until last Friday when the broadcasts started, KWWN 1100 was airing one Dodgers game per week, but that ends now that another station has taken over all of the games.

Speaking of great ideas, MLB Network continues to impress and improve since its January debut. The Network plans to televise the baseball amateur draft next week (Tuesday June 9 starting at 6:00 PM ET) and even had it moved to start later in the day than ever before to reach a potentially larger audience. That's a first round decision in more ways than one.

The Network also picked up points again last Thursday night. Since they couldn't show the Dodgers vs. Cubs game in Los Angeles or Chicago (which was thankfully televised locally in both markets), MLB Network showed the Detroit at Baltimore game from the Orioles feed in both of those markets. This made a lot of sense since National League fans in both markets would be watching the Dodgers vs. Cubs anyway. This gave White Sox and Angels fans (and the White Sox were idle that night) the opportunity to watch an American League game. This is the second time I know for sure that MLB Network picked up a "back-up" game feed so that all markets could have live baseball.

Sports Business Journal compiled data about the increase and decrease in the local baseball on TV audience into the later part of May. It showed the top 10 teams in terms of increased local TV ratings thus far this season are (in alphabetical order) the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, L A Dodgers, N Y Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, and Washington Nationals.

Of the "2 team" markets, only Chicago showed viewer increases for both teams, although the White Sox have the bigger increase thus far. In New York City, the Mets are up and Yankees viewership is down, in Los Angeles the Dodgers are up but the Angels have dropped, and in San Francisco the Giants are up with the A's significantly down from last year.

It will be interesting to see how ABC-TV does with the NBA Finals. TNT and ESPN are each coming off ratings success with their respective Conference Finals series telecasts. Yet many fear that ABC-TV will lose out because they didn't get the Cleveland and LeBron James vs. Kobe and Lakers marquee matchup.

On the NHL side, the ratings were good for NBC-TV's first 2 telecasts of the Stanley Cup Finals this past weekend. Never mind that after off days between games even since the start of the opening round, the network forced back-to-back nights to start the championship series.

Sorry, but I can't picture a Pete Rozelle (I know he is long gone - just making the point) or David Stern allowing their leagues to compromise like that. NBC-TV supposedly did this to not lose interest by waiting until this coming weekend to start - and protecting the scheduled starting time for the "new" Tonight show this week.

On the NFL side, Fox-TV Sports has dropped Brian Baldinger as one of its game analysts after 10+ seasons. Former safety John Lynch has been added, but nothing yet about which play-by-play voice he will be paired with to start the season.

SEATTLE: All the hype for months about KIRO 710 going all sports in April and having the Mariners and Seahawks broadcasts. Plus the former news-talk format moving over to KIRO-FM only. Even with a relatively good start by the Mariners, the sports station has come in 17th in the most recent ratings, starting below long time sports radio KJR. The news-talk format switched to the FM side dropped significantly overall and didn't fare much better than the AM station did.

PHILADELPHIA: After mainstay Howard Eskin's ratings continue to drop on WIP 610, Eskin now has a co-host. Rob Ellis started working with Eskin last week, the first time since 2002 that Eskin has not hosted solo. The reason? Mike Missanelli on ESPN Radio 950 has passed him up. By the way, Missanelli was Eskin's previous "partner" on WIP from 1999 into 2002. The Ellis stint has not been made permanent, but I think it's safe to say the ratings will decide that battle.

DALLAS: What pitcher gave up Barry Bonds' historic 756th homerun? I'll save you the time. It was Mike Bacsik. You are now wondering what this has to do with the Dallas sports media. It seems that Bacsik is looking to make sports headlines in a more positive way for himself. Not signed by a Major League team for this season, Bacsik started last week as a producer of Norm Hitzges' midday show on KTCK The Ticket in Dallas. Looks as though Bacsik will benefit more in the long run from that historic homerun than Bonds ever will.

DES MOINES: Following up from last week and the story that Marty Tirrell was scheduled to begin a sports talk show broadcasting from an auto dealer on 1700 AM. It didn't happen - at least not yet. It's not because of so many auto dealers closing up shop around the country. It is because of the non-compete clause in his contract that KXNO-AM, which fired him a few weeks ago, is trying to enforce.

This could keep Tirrell off the air until September. I could understand this being a concern if Marty had left KXNO to go elsewhere. But KXNO fired him due to the profanity laced argument that leaked onto the air. KXNO is a Clearance Channel station. While the parent company is fighting against paying musicians for performing rights on the music they have played for years and made millions from, they fight to keep someone off the air they fired.

SAN DIEGO: Even though there is some question about Compass Media Networks' plan to broadcast some NFL games for the coming season, Compass has hired Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton as one of its play-by-play voices. ESPN 800 San Diego is among the stations lined up to carry the broadcasts. This would put Hamilton back on in San Diego where he handled local sports talk for more than 20 years.

JACKSONVILLE: Those of us who have worked for radio stations within the past 40 years will believe this story, but it keeps happening. Even if you can afford a vacation these days, be careful.

After 13 years at WOKV 690, Cole Pepper returned from a 10 day trip to Hawaii to learn that his position as Sports Director was eliminated.

The kicker is that trip to Hawaii was sponsored by the station and included some advertisers and listeners.

Wish I could say I am surprised at this story. But then I thought back to the time in the late 70's when I learned that a news reporter with another station was let go the day before and was about to be hired by the same station I was working for. Fine and dandy, except that the guy had been on a week long camping trip without phone contact (years before cell phones). Several of us knew what was up before he was reached at home after his trip and told to come into a different company's radio station to work the next day.

Ft. MYERS/NAPLES: 770 ESPN Radio continues to crush 1200 AM Fox Sports, which showed up with overall ratings less than 0.5, yet has yet to indicate it will change format.

GRAND RAPIDS: "The ball" is rolling from the AM to the FM dial as of this week. WBBL moved from 1340 AM to 107.3 FM, and will continue to carry the Pistons, Red Wings, and most Michigan State football and basketball games. The station is also picking up non-conflicting Westwood One broadcasts. "The ball" has been on the air since 1994. At least it didn't get bounced.

LIMA, OH: Another AM to FM move for sports, although this one is for much improved signal coverage. ESPN Radio 940 AM has just moved (as of Monday June 1) to 93.1. The station will continue to carry the Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers play-by-play, as well as Notre Dame football. 940 AM has become an oldies station. While the change makes sense due to what were signal problems, the irony is that an FM station goes talk while an AM station adds music.