Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sports Media Report - Sept. 29th Update

After a year or so of preaching about this, I am pleased to see that HD Radio channels are finally about to be used for unique content and a niche audience, literally starting this week.

For months and months I have campaigned for stations to use their HD channels for something other than experimental music formats or as a way to play 600 songs over and over again instead of 500. And I knew that sports is a big part of the solution.

WXDX-FM Pittsburgh starts "Pittsburgh Penguins Radio" on 105.9 HD2 this Thursday October 1, hours before the defending Stanley Cup champions begin their new regular season. Sports Business Journal reports this is a partnership between the team and the station.

More importantly, the channel plans 6 hours a day of live programming from the beginning. The advertiser supported service will include a simulcast of Sirius XM Radio "NHL Live" and other league content, at least to start, within the 6 hour live block. Yet, unique programming is also included from the start. A "Daily Players' Playlist" is planned to feature one-half hour of music, which would be favorite songs of Penguins players. A great idea! The avid fans (and that's who would be listening) get a specific idea of which songs their favorite players enjoy, and it is likely to be a variety of music that no single radio station would play.

The Penguins are likely not the only team to do this, as reports say that the Dallas Cowboys and KRLD are next to do something along these lines. The possibilities become even greater for player features, given the 53 man NFL roster compared with 20 for NHL teams.

As great and as overdue of an idea as this is, it still needs to be well marketed in order to succeed. It remains a very low percentage of consumers who own or have access to an HD Radio.
Normally, I wouldn't give out "free" marketing advice to entities which are not a client. But in the interest of seeing "sports team radio" succeed, I am going to pass along 2 ways to help kick start this innovation.

First, I would keep in mind that the team and the advertisers are doing this to reach as large of an audience as possible to spur interest in the team and sales related to it such as tickets and merchandise. I don't have any numbers, but I would say that the number of HD Radio listeners in the Pittsburgh market is probably much less than the number of seats for sale in the arena they play in.

Until HD Radio is more commonplace, I would also stream the channel online. This opens it up for thousands more fans, and obviously helps the advertisers by presenting banner and other direct response opportunities for their sponsorship dollars.

2) I would understand the need to increase the penetration of HD Radio. If it were up to me, the team, station, and/or advertisers would purchase a block of HD Radios in bulk. I would send them out to season ticket holders, and probably to clients who purchase a suite or skybox for the games. A $50 or less premium for people or companies which spend thousands of dollars with the team and would figure to be frequent listeners.

Marketed properly, this sort of thing could be the shot of salvation that radio needs. The teams do not (yet) have their own TV channels or the immediate possibility of live and interactive programming 24 hours a day focused on the specific team in its market area.

In addition, from a competition standpoint, a team's flagship station has a nice weapon against other stations with a sports format. If a Penguins fan can hear "Steve from Pittsburgh wants to talk about who should start at left wing" on the sports station, or hear that same left wing's favorite songs and more talk about the team throughout the day, that sports talk show is going to lose some listeners.

A shot and a goal on this one.

Meanwhile, football on TV continues to be a huge story, again, from this past weekend. Both in terms of ratings and coverage.

Let's give a lot of credit to Sam Rosen on Fox this past Sunday. For saying nothing. He was in position to call Brett Favre's last minute TD pass to Greg Lewis for the Vikings' big comeback victory. He called it enthusiastically, as you would expect. Then, he knew what to do. Say nothing. He sat back and let the pictures and the roar of the crowd say it better than anything he could say. Vin Scully would have been proud. Scully is a master at knowing when to be quiet, and now Rosen applied it to a significant NFL moment.

In New York City, the ratings people had a field day this past Sunday, as the Jewish holiday forced the Jets, Giants, Yankees, and Mets telecasts to all overlap at some point at the same time.

The "winner" wound up being the Jets, although many feel it is because their game was the most compelling. The Giants easy win over Tampa actually started out with higher ratings than the Jets, but as it became one-sided fans tuned over to the Jets game, which wound up with a 24-17 Jets win.

On the baseball side, the rain delay of about one hour at the start of the Yankees game resulted in an increase of over 25% in total audience for the last portion of the game. Due to the rain, this game did not climax until after the Jets and Giants games were over. But this was an important game for the Yankees, as they clinched the East Division championship over the rival Red Sox, whom they were playing. The Yankees telecast had nearly 4 times higher ratings than the Mets vs. Florida game on Channel 11, which finished a distant fourth in the imaginery 4 local teams ratings battle for the day.

The Jets and Giants going head to head is rare. I couldn't remember the last time it happened. Neil Best of Newsday came up with an October date in 1984 as the last time they went head to head, pointing out that this was back when the Sunday World Series game was played late afternoon and would compete against the NFL doubleheader game.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the early Monday Night Football ratings for the Carolina at Dallas game were looking strong. The Dallas market supposedly came in with nearly a 34 rating (that is rating - not share), with Charlotte around 30. The final numbers are expected to show this as one of the most watched shows of any type on cable this season.

In Cincinnati, the Bengals last minute win over the defending champ Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly drew a 35.8 local rating and a 57% share on WKRC-TV. The highest Bengals ratings in 3 years since, you guessed it, a September 2006 game against Pittsburgh.

Despite the showing in Cincinnati, CBS saw a national decline of about 18% from the Steelers vs. the Bears on week 2, and down almost 14% from its week 3 doubleheader telecast one year ago.
ESPN has added former manager and player Bobby Valentine as an analyst for its baseball related programming for the upcoming post-season. Valentine has not worked with ESPN since 2003. I haven't heard him for a long time either. Now we will get to find out if Valentine still sounds exactly like Al Michaels when he projects his voice.

DENVER: Baseball fans who go back to the days of the minor league Denver Bears, as well as those of the Rockies, will lose a connection after the Rockies' last game. Jeff Kingery, the voice of the team since their first game ever in 1993 (and voice of the Denver Bears going back to 1981) is leaving the broadcast team after the final out of the Rockies' season (or post-season). He is not retiring and denies that this is a financially motivated change by the team or KOA. They will have plenty of applicants, but those will be some tough shoes to fill for next season.

104.3 The Fan has exiled Sandy Clough into evenings. Make that "most" evenings, since Monday Night Football broadcasts will pre-empt his show. This move also comes just as Mile High Sports 1510 begins broadcasts of the Avalanche games this week and the NBA Nuggets broadcasts are not far behind. This means that on the weeknights Clough is on, he will be competing against a lot of local play-by-play.

DETROIT: Fox Sports Detroit gets ready for the return of the Red Wings starting this Thursday (10/1). The network has scheduled more than 40 hours of Red Wings programming over the first 10 days of the month, which includes surrounding their first 3 games of the season, and player profile features.

CHICAGO: The season opener for the Blackhawks will be overseas, so it will be interesting to see audience ratings for their season opener. It will be shown live on Comcast SportsNet this Friday (10/2) at 11 AM local time. This will be a first. Lunch time hockey on TV for the workforce on a weekday afternoon.

HOUSTON: Fox Sports Houston will feature the Texas Tech vs. New Mexico game this Saturday (10/3) on Fox Sports Plus due to a conflict with an Astros telecast. They will also show Baylor vs. Kent State at 6 PM. The network has added the Texas A & M vs. Oklahoma State game at 11:30 AM on the following Saturday Oct. 10th.

Speaking of the coming weekend's college football, in Eastern time:

Thu, Oct 1 7:30 p.m. Colorado at West Virginia ESPN
7:30 p.m. Alcorn State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff ESPNU

Fri, Oct 28 p.m. Pittsburgh at Louisville ESPN2

Sat, Oct 3
Noon Florida State at Boston College or Wisconsin at Minnesota ESPN or ESPN2
Noon Wisconsin at Minnesota or Arkansas State at Iowa or Florida State at Boston College ESPN or ESPN2
Noon Clemson at Maryland ESPNU
Noon Arkansas State at Iowa ESPN Classic (possible)
Noon Alabama at Kentucky SEC Network 3
:30 p.m. Oklahoma at Miami or Florida State at Boston College * ABC or ESPN
Penn State at Illinois ABC or ESPN UCLA at Stanford ABC
3:30 p.m. N.C. State at Wake Forest ESPNU
7 p.m. Mississippi at Vanderbilt ESPNU
7 p.m. South Carolina State at South Carolina ESPN Classic
7:30 p.m. Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (from Cowboys Stadium) ESPN2
7:45 p.m. Auburn at Tennessee ESPN
8 p.m. USC at California ABC
10:30 p.m. Colorado State at Idaho ESPNU

Here is the national TV schedule for the first month of the NHL season:

Oct. 1
7:00 Washington vs. Boston (VERSUS)
10:00 San Jose vs. Colorado (VERSUS)
Oct. 2

12:00 Florida vs. Chicago (VERSUS)
3:00 Detroit vs. St. Louis (VERSUS)
7:30 NY Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (NHL Network)
Oct. 3

12:00 Chicago vs. Florida (NHL Network)
3:00 St. Louis vs. Detroit (NHL Network)
7:00 Toronto vs. Washington (NHL Network)
10:00 Calgary vs. Edmonton (NHL Network)
Oct. 5 7:00 NY Rangers vs. New Jersey (VERSUS)
Oct. 6 7:00 Washington vs. Philadelphia (VERSUS)
Oct. 7 7:30 Phoenix vs. Pittsburgh (NHL Network)
Oct. 8 7:30 Chicago vs. Detroit (NHL Network)
Oct. 10 7:00 Pittsburgh vs. Toronto (NHL Network)
Oct. 12 8:00 Calgary vs. Chicago (VERSUS)
Oct. 13 7:00 Detroit vs. Buffalo (VERSUS)
Oct. 19 7:00 San Jose vs. NY Rangers (VERSUS)
Oct. 20 7:00 St. Louis vs. Pittsburgh (VERSUS)
Oct. 21 8:30 Vancouver vs. Chicago (NHL Network)
Oct. 22 7:00 Boston vs. Philadelphia (NHL Network)
Oct. 24 7:00 NY Rangers vs. Montreal (NHL Network)
Oct. 26 8:00 Minnesota vs. Chicago (VERSUS)
Oct. 27 7:00 Philadelphia vs. Washington (VERSUS)
Oct. 28 10:30 Los Angeles vs. San Jose (NHL Network)
Oct. 29 7:00 Washington vs. Atlanta (NHL Network)
Oct. 31 7:00 Toronto vs. Montreal (NHL Network)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The case against baseball's wild card

Those of us who do not like the Wild Card in baseball have another chance to speak up about it this week.

There are fans who are complaining because teams with the records of the Tigers and Twins are fighting for first place. For a while in August, it was looking as though the A L Central winner might not finish better than .500. It could wind up being about 86 wins.

It doesn't matter. We have 2 teams fighting down to a head-to-head series during the final week of the season. The winner goes to the playoffs as Division champs, while the second place team goes home and waits until next year. I'm here to remind you that is how it is supposed to be in every division every season.

Finishing in first place requires only one more victory than the second place team. Whether it takes 82 or 110 victories. Thank goodness that the A L Central runner-up goes home. The upcoming series is must win for both teams. It could be considered a playoff series when you think about it.

Suppose the Tigers and Twins each had won 94+ games, and both teams were ahead of the records of the 2 other second place teams in the American League. If that were the case, this showdown series would only be for playoff position. Not must win at all. Moving the pitching rotation around for the post-season. Not wanting to risk injury if a game becomes one-sided. And not having to go all out, win or go home. Unfortunately, that scenario has already happened since MLB stuck us with the wild card in the mid-90's.

Worse yet this season is that the A L Central is the only real race, out of 6 possibilities, as we enter the final week of the season. There is a very good chance that neither Wild Card team in post-season will finish within 5 games of the first place team in their division. Five games?

If there are no other serious division races, how can a team that far behind be rewarded with a post-season berth?

Nothing against the Red Sox, but losing those series to the Yankees a month ago was fair and square and put the Yankees up by a wide margin. I'm sure some fans will argue the point that the Wild Card gives teams a "second chance". I never knew that sports was about a "second chance". So give them 3 extra outs in the final game of the series. No, you say that is wrong? It would be a "second chance". What's the difference?

After thinking and thinking, I have found 2 consolation positives about the Wild Card for this season. One, I already pointed out, is that the one division race still remaining is win or go home and not for playoff position. The other is that since the Wild Card team is so far out of first place, we were not stuck with the usual media hype about which team will be the Wild Card and the treatment of that "race" as if a first place title is on the line.

This has been an outrage several times over the years. Final weeks when division titles are at stake, and instead the focus is equal to or greater than that about which team will be the Wild Card. The team that gets a second chance.

Football, basketball, and hockey have had too many teams (as in teams not finishing in first place) making the playoffs for years, with the NFL being the last of those 3 to cave in stating with the 1977 season. A team contending for the championship should have to win in order to win. Winning should include first place, not second. What a shame baseball went to this system.

Even worse, because of the TV contracts and the money from TV and ticket sales, we are stuck, at least for the time being.

I'm not big on expansion, either, but I would rather see the American League add 2 more teams quickly. That would give both leagues 16 teams. Realign into 4 divisions for 4 teams each. All you need to do is have the division winner with the best overall record meet the winner (should be in capital letters) with the least amount of victories in the first round, and then meet the winner of the 2 vs. 3 series. What a concept! All first place teams playing for the ultimate championship.

Then baseball would lead the way once again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sports Media Update - Sept. 23rd

Have the TV people and the NFL done "too good" of a marketing job? It may be only 2 weeks into the season, but I see some indications of this. Over the years, the NFL has been the most effective of the pro sports leagues in terms of building up the league as a whole.

Even the casual football fan finds appeal in watching a good matchup involving the Cowboys, Patriot, and Colts (among others) simply based on the success of these teams and their key players over the years. NBC has had major success with its first 2 Sunday Night Football telecasts, while ESPN had record viewership for a cable telecast for its Monday Night Football game this week. In fact, the Colts-Dolphins game ranks as the biggest cable TV audience of the year for anything.

Obviously, these huge ratings mean that the audience is coming from well beyond the market territory of the participating teams. So why is this "too good"?

Stories were published leading into the season about certain teams being concerned about not selling out their games and having telecasts blacked out. This past Sunday, the Detroit Lions game was televised in Detroit because the blackout deadline was extended another 24 hours. It barely made the deadline, even though it was Brett Favre's first appearance in Detroit since having left the Packers. But the outcome of the game was never in question, as the Lions lost still again. The Jacksonville Jaguars loss to Arizona was blacked out locally. Both of those games were Fox telecasts, and early indications are that Fox-TV's NFL ratings were down for week 2 compared with week 1 and last season.

The San Diego Chargers game also sold out only because of the 24 hour extension. It was shown locally in both San Diego and Los Angeles.

My hunch is that the fans in Jacksonville were probably happier with the "better" game they got early. Some Lions fans were probably upset at the sellout, since they could have seen a better quality game had it not. Therein lies my point. The NFL has marketed the league and the out of town teams so well that in many instances the fans prefer out of town matchups to the local teams.

Need more proof? Fans in Houston had the Houston Texans vs. Tennessee as the first televised game of the day, and of course had the Cowboys vs. Giants game on NBC Sunday Night Football later on. The Texans are not expected to set the league on fire. Which telecast had more viewers? The Cowboys-Giants game wound up with .8 higher ratings in the Houston market. And if CBS wasn't airing The Emmy Awards against it, there is no telling how NBC would have fared.

The teams with crappy records either don't or barely sell out. Yet, interesting matchups on Sunday and Monday nights generate significant ratings in only the first 2 weeks of a young season. The NFL appeal has reached a point where fans will watch the best matchups, regardless of the home team.

If the attendance concerns really were due to the economy, then even the better matchups wouldn't sell out.

This could be a push for local radio. There is the percentage of fans who are not going to buy tickets this season that will listen on the radio since they can't see the game on local TV when it doesn't sell out.

It is not just the NFL with increased ratings. The college game with Florida vs. Tennessee this past Saturday on CBS-TV drew a rating 60% higher than for the same matchup last season. It wound up as CBS' highest rated telecast this early in the season since Sept. 7, 2002, and the U. of Florida was in that game (against rival Miami).

Personally, I think this trend is great. With ticket prices, parking, concessions, and fans being gouged just to go to a game these days, staying home or going to a gathering place to watch the best matchups sends a message to the home team that they need to be competitive in order to fill the seats. The will to win is, or at least should be, what sports is all about.

Meanwhile, a TV oddity in New York City this Sunday. Both the Jets and Giants will be on at the same since the Jets moved their kick off against Tennessee up to the early game due to the Yom Kippur holiday. For the same reason, Jets and Giants fans who are also Yankees fans face additional competition, as the Yankees vs. Red Sox game was moved from Sunday Night to the afternoon. The baseball game will be seen on ESPN which does Sunday Night Baseball during the afternoon. TBS will not show a game this Sunday, instead showing the Yankees and Red Sox on Friday night in prime time.

LOOKING AHEAD: CBS-TV has announced that it will show the LSU at Georgia game at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday Oct. 3, with Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson on the call.

But ESPN is looking past next week. They have announced their 2010 college football opening telecast for next September 2nd. North Carolina will play LSU at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. So now when you get your 2010 calendar, you have a September event to pencil in.

ESPN is ready to welcome college hoops with another 24 hour marathon of games on November 17th. It starts at 12 Midnight ET with Cal State Fullerton at UCLA on ESPN. A live telecast from Hawaii will be game 3, starting at 4 AM ET, and Temple at Georgetown airs at 4 PM ET. By the way, Nov. 17th is a Tuesday.

LOS ANGELES: UCLA basketball won't be hard to find for local TV viewers when its season starts in November. As of now, 26 of its games are scheduled to be televised. In addition to 15 games shown as part of the Pac 10 Conference packages with ESPN, CBS, and Fox Sports Net, 8 games will be seen on Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West. ESPN will also show their 3 games in the 76 Classic in Anaheim on Thanksgiving weekend.

PHILADELPHIA: WIP 610 will handle both the Sixers and Flyers broadcasts for the upcoming season, but the station will not have control over the advertisers. How times have changed. The teams will oversee their own broadcast advertising and package sponsorships with other opportunities beyond the broadcasts themselves.

For the past couple of years we have been bombarded with reports on how radio stations are cutting back on jobs, programming, and whatever other costs they can think of. They search for ways to increase revenue. Then they let pro teams take over game broadcast revenue. Now a sponsor can spend additional money on game program magazines, arena signage, corporate seats and boxes, and promotional giveaway items. With money that in the past may well have been spent sponsoring other team or sports related programming on the radio station.

SAN DIEGO: It seems like old news even though it begins, again, on Monday October 5th. Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton in afternoon drive on San Diego sports radio. After weeks of speculation, Hacksaw begins on XX1090 AM in the 3 - 7 PM slot. He will continue to call NFL games for Compass Sports. It is a long way from past years when he called Chargers games, San Diego State, or USC football. Hamilton has always been a good fit in San Diego because of his vast knowledge of national sports. With so many transplanted sports fans, San Diego is not the typical market in terms of non-stop talk about only the local teams.

SAN FRANCISCO: Three of the inductees to The Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame at next Tuesday's (Sept. 29) ceremony are or were sports broadcasters. Most noteworthy is Hank Greenwald, the voice of the Giants from 1980 to 1996.

You may remember the call of "The band is on the field!!!" from the famous Cal Berkeley game in 1982. He is still the voice of Cal Bears football, but Joe Starkey was also Sports Director at KGO for 30 years.

Going back a few years, the 3rd sports honoree is Cliff Johnsen, who called San Francisco 49ers games back in the 1940's. That was so long ago it was before the All-America Football Conference "merged" with the NFL in 1950 and included the 49ers. Congrats are in order to all 3, who have brought thousands and thousands of hours of enjoyment to Bay Area sports fans.

KTRB 860 has a new Sports Director, but he is far from new to the market. Ken Dito takes over the position on the station, which now carries the A's games and Stanford football. Dito called A's games years ago on KSFO and KFRC, and was at KNBR as far back as 1979.

DALLAS: The radio ratings for August again show that males 25-54 are The Ticket. In that key demographic, The Ticket shows more than double the audience of ESPN Radio, which has a slight lead over The Fan.

TAMPA: NHL Hal of Famer Phil Esposito will host a one hour segment on WHBO 1040, which is the local ESPN station. It will air from 1 - 2 PM local time each Wednesday afternoon. My thinking is that Espo is being groomed to do a show in Boston, where he had the best of his Hall of Fame bound seasons, and where ESPN needs to make inroads into that crowded sports radio market. This show doesn't figure to be on because Tampa is such a hockey hotbed, especially airing once a week on a Wednesday afternoon.

REDDING CAL.: After a year and a half, sports radio is on the comeback as of this week, as KNRO 1670 debuted its syndicated lineup of Fox Sports Radio programming on Monday (Sept. 21). No word yet about regional play-by-play, but speculation is that Giants, 49ers, and Kings play-by-play could happen within the next year.

NORFOLK: ESPN Radio moves to 94.1 FM as of Monday Oct. 5th. At that time WGH 1310 will change formats, except for keeping James Madison U. play-by-play.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sports Media Update - Sept. 16th

Newspapers are media, too, especially when it comes to sports reporting. Going back more than 30 years, I used to complain about how newspaper sports coverage got way too much respect and how radio got too little.

I remember my friendly "arguments" with writers who would be in a big hurry to get quotes and statistics after night games would end and let everyone in sight know that they were "on deadline". And if I was around, they knew what was coming. I would remind them that "I am going on the radio in 10 minutes with a report on this game to thousands of listeners. What you are about to write won't be seen until tomorrow morning."

This was before we had any all-sports radio stations with their own "beat" reporters and before the internet. I always pointed out how the newspapers were competing for readers of stories which radio and TV usually had broken HOURS before.

In recent months, I have noticed how and have commented on how too much of the media is merely reporting what others are reporting and not taking on a new story. Even the sports radio stations will sometimes go with a story that "ESPN.com is reporting that........". While I realize they need to credit the source of a story, I also wonder why the station doesn't jump on their own sources to confirm or deny rather than credit another media for breaking the news.

But a story on Monday (Sept. 14) brought a new low in my opinion.

A friend was the first to e-mail me the breaking story about Chicago Bears all-pro linebacker Brian Urlacher appearently being out for the season due to a wrist injury suffered in the Sunday Night Football season opening loss at Green Bay. The Chicago Tribune had broken the story, and it is a big story at that. I went online and read the Tribune story.

Just as I did in my radio reporting days, I then wanted to get the slant on the story from another source, so I logged on to the Chicago Sun-Times web site. The biggest, albeit struggling, competitor of the Tribune for all of my life. They had the Urlacher story as a "News Flash" at the top of their home page. I clicked on it, and then was amazed.

Amazed to see that their "report" is that the Chicago Tribune is reporting the injury. Let's get this straight. The Bears are usually the biggest sports story in the Chicago area, and this was huge news, even though it was bad news for Bears fans. But all the 2nd biggest newspaper can do is say its leading competitor broke the story?

The morning show on WSCR "The Score" sports radio Chicago is co-hosted by a Sun-Times columnist. The paper has a Bears beat writer, and had additional writers covering the team's opener in Green Bay the night before.

Do you mean to tell me that not one editor at the Sun-Times could pick up the phone or tweet or do whatever they need to do to get a writer to confirm or deny the story within 5 minutes?

What an embarassment for the Sun-Times. Admitting a scoop by its larger competition. Instead of using its own resources.

I'm sure that the Sun-Times' argument to me would be that if I went to their site and they didn't have the story when the Tribune did I would feel slighted and not go back there. Wrong! If the Sun-Times is going to tell me that the Tribune already had the story before they did, there is now no reason to think of them first when a story breaks. It was one thing years ago when both papers had plenty of time to have their stories and angles ready for the next morning while TV and radio had reports the day and night before. But this is 2009, and a news gathering organization should be ready to pounce on a big story.

Speaking of the Bears' opening game, NBC showed only a 3% increase in audience for the first regular season Sunday Night Football game compared with last year. As expected, Chicago and Milwaukee were the 2 highest rated markets (the participating teams' biggest markets). The #3 market in ratings was Denver. The TV people are probably shaking their heads, since Denver plays in the opposite conference. The sports fans know it is because of former Broncos QB Jay Cutler making his debut for the Bears, and they were curious to see how Cutler would do, especially after winning in Cincinnati with Kyle Orton at QB that afternoon.

Speaking of Chicago, the NBA Chicago Bulls will have half of their home games also broadcast in Spanish starting this season. WRTO 1220 (a Univision station) will carry the broadcasts. The station also airs some White Sox baseball games, some Cubs games, and Chicago Fire soccer games in Spanish. The Bulls broadcasts will have a decided baseball flavor. Omar Ramos, who calls their White Sox broadcasts in Spanish, adds the Bulls to his portfolio. For analysis? Would you believe Ozzie Guillen, Jr?

I didn't either, but the son of the White Sox manager who does color on their Spanish broadcasts, will handle the chores on Bulls broadcasts. Jr. is a student at Columbia College Chicago, so my hunch is that we are not talking about a huge contract here. (I'm trying to be diplomatic.) But if the station is looking to take on a new market, they should get a basketball expert or not have an analyst. They are already cutting back on budget, and haven't even broadcast a game yet. Almost as bad is the marketing gimmick that the Bulls will wear "Los Bulls" uniforms for 2 home games this seasons. What a bunch of crap.

Chicago has the largest Polish population in the U.S. Why haven't they worn Polish uniforms? (I'm not asking for that - I'm pointing out how nuts this is getting.) It is bad enough that we tune in to watch pro teams play and get stuck with different uniforms all the time. Now we will have different languages on them? For a game that is all-American.............

CHICAGO: WSCR and WMVP, the 2 sports stations, continue to battle for ratings. Now the August book shows both stations in the top 10 overall during morning drive for the first time ever. More impressive is the fact that if the ratings totals were combined, the sports talkers would lead the pack.

This is significant because both stations received morning drive ratings among their highest ever, only to be in close competition with the other sports talker. September figures to keep them strong, as the Bears start, the Blackhawks (now a hot item) begin training camp, and fans of the White Sox and Cubs begin the "wait till next year" chant.

NEW YORK: Sports fans around the country probably remember Bonnie Bernstein from ESPN and CBS-TV. Now Bonnie has joined Michael Kay's afternoon show on 1050 ESPN Radio, as well as contributing to the ESPN New York web site starting early next year.

BOSTON: While we await results of the Sports Hub on Boston radio, and this week marks the debut of the Boston local ESPN web site, there are now more questions about the presence of ESPN Radio in the sports-crazy market. WAMG 890 had been carrying ESPN for more than 4 years, but gave up the fight as of this past Monday. Its weak signal, especially at night when it barely made it out of the Boston city limits, along with no local play-by-play, meant no results.

Since the Red Sox broadcasts were moved over to WEEI 850 AM, and the Sports Hub is a CBS station, it remains to be seen (or heard) what ESPN will do to establish a presence in Beantown.

On the TV side, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson has joined NESN as a studio analyst.

LOS ANGELES: The NHL Anaheim Ducks have hired Dan Wood as analyst for their radio broadcasts which will continue on KLAA 830 for this season. Wood will also contribute to the team's web site. This makes sense since Wood has served as a writer for the local Orange County Register since 2000 after several years on the beat of the San Jose Sharks.

The L.A. Clippers will only be on cable this season, starting a long term deal with Fox Sports Prime Ticket. This ends the team's long time relationship with KTLA Channel 5. Money talks on this one, but some teams would consider the future marketing impact of the NBA Champion Lakers being in the same market and having some of their games on over-the-air TV plus multiple national telecasts. The radio side looks better with the team's new deal with KFWB 980. Then again, if this season is like most for the Clippers, there is something to be said for them now being on the same station as Dr. Laura. It's the place to go for hearing about fighting losing battles.

DETROIT: Glad to see that Ernie Harwell will be honored on Wednesday (Sept. 16) night at Comerica Park just days after the announcement that the legendary broadcaster has inoperable cancer. A video tribute will be shown and Harwell will likely watch the game from the owners' suite.

Word is that Harwell will also be honored on Sunday at the NFL Lion's game, which is the home opener against Minnesota. I suppose it gives Lions fans a reason to attend the game. We join in wishing Harwell anything and everything he wants for as long as he has left. Hopefully he will be spared the jokes about sending him to a Lions game under his circumstances.

St. LOUIS: KMOV Channel 4 has now dropped a sportscast from its 5 PM weekday newscasts. This month. The month that has the Cardinals headed to the baseball playoffs and perhaps the World Series, the Rams' season starting, the Blues starting training camp, and college football in full swing. I wonder if they will bring that sportscast back in May.

I have to believe that University of Missouri football fans are outraged about this past and this coming Saturday. None of the networks picked up the telecast last Saturday (Sept. 12) against Bowling Green or this week against Furman. A pair of non-conference games. Yet, fans can see them on TV - if they pay to the tune of $29.95 per game. Sorry, but for what it costs us fans for cable or satellite TV, and with the number of games shown on them each Saturday, fans shouldn't have to pay one more penny. That's too much money for a ticket to either game, let alone to watch it on TV and pay all that.

ROCHESTER: Sports radio 1280 WHTK is now simulcast on 107.3 FM. The schedule remains the same, and now both stations will carry play-by-play of Yankees baseball, University of Buffalo football, and a package of NFL broadcasts.


MLB Network continues to cover the pennant races. This Thursday (Sept. 17) they show K.C. at Detroit in the afternoon and the Angels at Boston at night. On Saturday night they pick up a feed of the Angels at Texas. No word yet on which game they will show next Tuesday (Sept. 22). TBS will show the Angels at Texas on Sunday with Chip Caray and Buck Martinez, and has added a prime time telecast of Red Sox vs. Yankees on Friday Sept. 25.

And, ESPN has announced its college football telecast schedule for the coming weekend:

Thu, Sep 17
7:30 p.m.
No. 14 Georgia Tech at No. 20 Miami - Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer & Erin Andrews - ESPN

7:30 p.m. Howard at Florida A&M, Charlie Neal & Jay Walker, ESPNU

Fri, Sep 18 9 p.m. No. 10 Boise State at Fresno State Joe Tessitore & Rod Gilmore ESPN

Sat, Sep 19
Noon No. 8 California at Minnesota Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman & Bob Griese - ESPN

Noon East Carolina at No. 24 North Carolina Pam Ward & Ray Bentley ESPN

Noon Louisville at Kentucky Clay Matvick & David Diaz-Infante ESPNU

Noon No. 11 Ohio State vs. Toledo (from Cleveland) Michael Reghi & Doug Chapman - ESPN360.com

Noon North Texas at No. 4 Alabama Dave Neal & Andre Ware SEC Network

3:30 p.m. No. 19 Nebraska at No. 13 Virginia Tech * Sean McDonough, Matt Millen & Holly Rowe - ABC

Arizona at Iowa - Mike Patrick, Craig James & Heather Cox ABC or ESPN2

No. 3 USC at Washington Terry Gannon, David Norrie & Quint Kessinich ABC or ESPN2

3:30 p.m. No. 18 Utah at Oregon Ron Franklin & Ed Cunningham ESPN

3:30 p.m. Indiana at Akron Todd Harris & Charles Arbuckle ESPNU

3:30 p.m. Middle Tennessee at Maryland Frank Giardina & Jeremy Bloom - ESPN360.com

6 p.m. Navy at Pittsburgh John Sanders and Drew Haddad ESPN360.com

7 p.m. Louisiana-Lafayette at #9 LSU Eric Collins & Brock Huard ESPNU

7 p.m. Iowa State at Kent State Dave Weekley & Jerod Cherry ESPN360.com

7:45 p.m. No. 23 Georgia at Arkansas Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge & Erin Andrews ESPN

7:45 p.m. West Virginia at Auburn Mark Jones & Bob Davie ESPN2

8 p.m. Texas Tech at No. 2 Texas Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit & Lisa Salters ESPN

10:30 p.m. Hampton at North Carolina A&T Carter Blackburn & Eddie Robinson

CBS Sports has announced its college football game for Saturday, Sept. 26 (3:30-7:00 PM, ET) will feature Arkansas at *No. 4-ranked Alabama. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will call the contest, along with reporter Tracy Wolfson.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sports Media Update - Sept. 9th..............

Sports radio still has some advantages compared with sports on TV after all these years. This observation started during one of those "What did you do to keep up with out-of-town games before the internet and before cable TV?" discussions.

I was explaining to a 20-something friend that when I was growing up it was radio that had the magic for sports fans. You could hear every pro game of your local team compared with a handful of games televised locally. Unless there was a storm in the region at night, you could pick up games from around the region and the country on clear signals coming in from distant cities. Ask a baseball fan at least 40 years of age how he or she got hooked, and chances are listening to legendary broadcasters on the radio late at night will be among the top 3 answers.

Long before the internet and SportsCenter, radio stations also gave us sports news night after night. There was WJR Detroit doing a 15 minute sports wrap up at 11:15 PM. On weekends KYW Philadelphia used to do as much as 12 minutes of sports each half hour, especially during college football season. KMOX St. Louis "At Your Service" would run down the scores consistently overnight. And on it goes.

Through it all, radio has and continues to this day to broadcast every game of the pro and most college teams to the local or regional audience. No "blacked out" broadcasts or "pay per listen". To the point of now having more than one sports station in most markets, and pre-game shows lasting 2 to 4 hours for some football games.

It is the TV people that have made me realize what a solid job radio has done regarding play-by-play sports. I'll admit I, too, have been guilty of taking my disappointment at how the stations that play music have all gone to limited playlists, endless commercial clusters, and lacking local personality, and let it reflect on AM and FM radio in general. But as sports fans, we shouldn't do that regarding sports.

When it comes to the local teams, radio never lets me down. Their games will be on, live, and usually with pre and post-game programming and recaps. But television? Try aggravation at times.

It is getting worse every year trying to follow a MLB or NFL team on local television. Twenty years ago we never heard of a split package of TV games. One station carried the team, end of discussion. Now we have most MLB teams with shared over-the-air and cable packages. Some on more than one cable channel. Your local NFL team could be on Fox, CBS, NBC, or ESPN from week to week.

Even in this era where almost every pro game is televised, the TV people don't seem to want us to easily watch our telecast of choice. It seems like people can never get all of the games they want in one place.

Among the media issues in the news are DirecTV dropping Versus, as did some cable systems. This has NHL and college football fans up in arms, since DirecTV has NFL offerings they can't get on cable, but now cable has Versus which they can't get on DirecTV.

This week has brought us several stories about how the NFL is facing the largest number of home telecast blackouts it has had in years. I am quick to point out that the NFL blackout policy has been in effect for many years. It is quite an improvement for those of us old enough to remember when home games were not televised at all - sold out or not. Since the NFL is clearly the leader at marketing teams around the league, this "rule" could actually work against the league this season.

Some of the NFL teams not selling out home games are not expected to have a good season. Yet, those local fans instead get another NFL game, which likely would be a better and more appealing game than a crappy local team anyway. Just ask the fans in Detroit if they would rather see a Lions game or see Dallas vs. the Giants (for example). Media Week reported that the NFL has had only 4% of its games blacked out locally over the past 4 seasons, compared with 38% blacked out 20 years ago in 1989.

To me, the Versus story is way bigger than NFL blackouts. Sports fans are stuck without something they want when forced to choose between specific cable and satellite packages.

Meanwhile, on the college sports scene, the Big Ten Conference is coming under fire for its revised media coverage policies. Funny how this happens right after the Big Ten Network adds to its coverage base, expanding around the Midwest and now into the New York City area.

A detailed explanation of that situation can be found at:


On the other hand, given how many more colleges and universities are taking in millions and millions of dollars for expanded media packages, I can understand their wanting to protect the amount of outside coverage.

Yet, while all of this goes on and the fans win some and lose some without a choice in the matter, radio continues along broadcasting all of the games, just like it has always been.

Meanwhile, the sports media lost a couple more long timers within the past few days. Sad to learn of the death of longtime baseball play-by-play man Buddy Blattner at the age of 89. Buddy worked in St. Louis with the legendary Dizzy Dean before moving on to the early days of the Los Angeles Angels from 1962-68. He then moved along to the expansion Kansas City Royals in 1969 until he retired in 1976. By the way, when he left the Angels broadcasts after the 1968 season, his replacement on radio was a young sportscaster by the name of Dick Enberg.

Long time sportscaster Steve Daugherty passed away on Sunday after many years of radio reporting and local play-by-play in West Virginia. Both will be missed.

Former Patriots standout and 3-time Super Bowl champ Tedy Bruschi has joined the ESPN family as an analyst. He is expected to be a prime contributor to ESPNBoston.com, which officially debuts this coming Monday (9/14), the same day as the Patriots' season opener.

With college football going full throttle this coming weekend, CBS College Sports Network begins steady coverage with 4 live telecasts this Saturday (9/12). At Noon ET, Duke will visit Army, followed by Louisiana Tech at Navy at 3:30 p.m. Then it will be UTEP at 7:30 p.m., with Oregon State-UNLV at 11 p.m.

NEW YORK: The Mets will try something different on Wednesday night (Sept. 9). No, it doesn't mean they will win. TV play-by-play voice Gary Cohen takes the night off with pay, while Mets TV will feature analysts Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez only. People can see the game, so it might not make much of a difference.

BALTIMORE: It won't be the same. Ted Patterson has really retired, after an incredible 45 year run in Baltimore area sports. We're talking Orioles on TV in the early 80's working with Rex Barney. He also called games for UMBC, Towson State, and Navy. He hosted what may have been the market's first true sports talk show on WBAL before moving to WPOC for 16 years. For the past 11 years, he was Sports Director at WCBM-AM. From Brooks and Frank Robinson and Johnny Unitas all the way through Cal Ripken right up through last week. Wow.

PHILADELPHIA: No more "Jody Mac" on 950 ESPN. After being with the station for all 4 years of its existence, Jody McDonald did his final broadcast this past Friday (9/4). McDonald had previously worked at WIP, and reportedly hopes to catch on elsewhere in the market.

950 ESPN has kept co-host Harry Mayes in the 11 AM to 3 PM slot, and is moving Dan Schwartzman from nights into the co-host role for middays. The station may add local football related programming for nights or go with more ESPN programming.

CSN Philadelphia has expanded "Daily News Live" to a full hour on weeknights now starting at 5:00 PM. This keeps SportsNite at 6:00 and leaves room for a pre-game show for home and east coast Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers telecasts. It remains to be seen whether or not this is a pilot program for other CSN Networks. In Chicago, for example, their one-hour talk show begins at 5:30 with SportsNite at 6:30 and no pre-game shows for games that begin at 7:00 PM local time.

DETROIT: WDFN 1130 is bucking the sports radio trend and going to local sports programming as of this week. Sean Baligian now handles mornings, while Channel 2 Sports' Ryan Ermanni handles 10 AM to Noon. "Sharp & Shep" take over from 2 to 6 PM, consisting of Drew Sharp of the Free Press and Matt Shepard.

MILWAUKEE: Fox Sports Wisconsin will show 70 Bucks games for the upcoming season, dividing it up among 35 home and 35 road telecasts. And yes, Jim Paschke returns for his 24th season as play-by-play voice, while Jon McGlocklin begins his 34th year as analyst.

HOUSTON: Change is in the air at KILT 610 as Adam Clanton leaves the morning show after nearly 2 years. The move seems to be Clanton's doing since he has expanded duties at KPRC-TV Channel 2.

KFNC 97.5 has added an early afternoon local show, as Fred Faour and Matt Dean team up from 1 to 3 PM weekdays.

Comcast Cable has moved CBS College Sports Network to its Digital Preferred package for the Houston area in time for the season getting into full swing. The Network has 5 Rice and Houston games on its upcoming schedule, including SMU at Houston on October 24th.

WASHINGTON D.C.: As of Tuesday (9/8) Tony Kornheiser is back on the local radio scene on WTEM 980, WWXT Prince Frederick, and WWXX Warrenton. In addition, fans of Tony around the country will be able to hear him on ESPN980.com.

MIAMI: Speaking of returning hosts, this Thursday (9/10) marks the return of Sid Rosenberg, as he takes over middays on WQAM during the week.

DALLAS: The new Cowboys Stadium held a football spectacular on Labor Day with 4 high school football games taking place that started at 10:30 AM. Fox Sports Southwest televised them all, going until about 10:00 that evening.

SAN DIEGO: If you are paying him, use him. XTRA Sports 1360 had laid off host Chris Ello in January even with his contract running through this year. After more than 7 months, Ello returned Tuesday (9/8) to the 9 to 11 AM spot.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sports Media Update - Sept. 2nd

Nice to see a sports radio show behind the breaking of a sports news story, even if it is not your typical sports story. Yahoo Sports has confirmed that indeed Dave Carmichael on Sacramento's KHTK was involved in breaking the improbable story about the NBA's Ron Artest contacting and "making up" with the fan who started the memorable brawl in the Pistons-Pacers game a few years back. Artest has been a frequent guest and contributor on the show going back to his days of playing with the Kings.

What makes this story even more bizarre is that the on-air discussion about this between Carmichael and Artest has taken place even though Artest is now a member of the L.A. Lakers. Yet, without the Sacramento radio show, this story might not have gotten out. In this sports reporting era of trade, hiring, and firing rumors making up the supposed headlines as often as the actual games, it is good to see at least one radio station breaking a story.

There haven't been very many NFL pre-season games I have made any sort of effort to watch, but last Sunday's Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos game was certainly a rare exception. The teams that participated in the biggest trade of the past couple of years and who are not scheduled to meet during the upcoming regular season going head to head. I can't help but wonder how big of a factor the Jay Cutler trade was in NBC's decision to air this one nationally, but that decision paid off.

The Bears' win with Cutler's dominant first half gained NBC the distinction of having the most watched pre-season game in literally 5 years. (Yes, literally as the last big pre-season draw as Dallas vs. Tennessee on Aug. 30, 2004.) It wound up being NBC's best Sunday prime time audience since, well, the Super Bowl this past February. For at least the first half, the two teams played the game as if it really had meaning, and it made a difference to the audience well beyond Denver and Chicago. Even more unusual is the fact that 3 of the top 10 "metered markets" for the game were from markets which do not have an NFL franchise. Oh, and the NFL doesn't want us to know, but another of those top 10 markets for the Bears vs. Broncos telecast was Jacksonville, which is facing having most or all of the Jaguars home games blacked out this season due to poor ticket sales.

Then, this past Monday night, the Vikings' pre-season game with Brett Favre also scored well for ESPN. Here's hoping the TV networks will start picking pre-season telecasts based on trades, signings, and significant changes in the future.

The MLB Network continues to make new and great strides practically every week with their innovations and coverage of the season. Now, they are adding still more live game telecasts to the mix in addition to 2 games most Thursdays and 1 on Saturday nights.

They are scheduled to show 2 games on Monday (Labor Day), with the Red Sox at White Sox at 2:00 ET and the Yankees hosting the Rays at 7:00 ET. MLB Network is also planning to cover the playoff races by adding live game telecasts for the final 3 Tuesdays of the season on Sept. 15, 22, and 29th. They will announce which games as the dates draw closer. Meanwhile, TBS will use its opening for a prime time telecast on Friday night Sept. 25th when they will originate the Red Sox at Yankees telecast. Now if we can only get some closer division races..........

College football is back big time starting this week with a ton of national (and some regional) games on tap (shown by ET):

Thursday’s games
7:00: South Carolina at North Carolina State, ESPN
7:30: North Texas at Ball State, ESPNU
8:00: Eastern Kentucky at Indiana, BTN (Big Ten Network)
9:00: Utah State at Utah, MTN
10:15: Oregon at Boise State, ESPN

Friday’s game
8:00: Tulsa at Tulane, ESPN

Saturday’s games
12:00: Akron at Penn State, BTN
12:00: Navy at Ohio State, ESPN
12:00: Minnesota at Syracuse, ESPN2
12:00: Kentucky at Miami (Ohio), ESPNU
3:30: Georgia at Oklahoma State, ABC
3:30: Illinois vs. Missouri, ESPN
3:30: Baylor at Wake Forest, ESPN2
3:30: Nevada at Notre Dame,NBC
3:30: Jackson State at Mississippi State, ESPNU
7:00: Brigham Young vs. Oklahoma, ESPN
7:00: Louisiana Tech at Auburn, ESPNU
7:00: Northern Illinois at Wisconsin, BTN
8:00: Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, ABC
9:00: Buffalo at Texas-El Paso, CBS College
10:00: Maryland at California, ESPN2
10:30: LSU at Washington, ESPN

Sunday’s games
3:30: Mississippi at Memphis, ESPN

Monday’s games
4:00: Cincinnati at Rutgers, ESPN
8:00: Miami (Fla.) at Florida State, ESPN

DENVER: ESPN 1600 continues to push for listeners against Mile High Sports, and they are hoping that local legend John Elway can come through in the clutch for them. Elway will join Channel 4 anchors Vic Lombardi and Gary Miller each Monday morning at 8:00 local time right through the morning after the Super Bowl. They also have former Bronco receiver Ed McCaffery scheduled to join their morning show each Tuesday morning for still more analysis.

ATLANTA + ATHENS: Former University of Georgia defensive end David Pollack will be an analyst on "SEC Gridiron Live" on Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southwest beginning this week, with the first run of the show at 10:00 PM ET on Wednesdays. Former NFL standout and analyst Randy Cross is also on this show.

PHILADELPHIA: As mentioned earlier, Bob Salmi will not return to the 76ers telecasts for the coming NBA season. The announcement has been made official that Ed Pinckney will replace Salmi on the Comcast SportsNet telecasts working along with Marc Zumoff.

ORLANDO: Talk about an impact player! Dwight Howard has emerged as a force in the NBA and the upcoming season reflects that. Yet, the Orlando Magic Radio Network will actually benefit more on the financial side than the TV side. The national or regional network TV schedules announced by ABC, ESPN, and TNT already have 24 games of the Magic scheduled. The scheduled 10 appearances on TNT and 5 on ABC are exclusive telecasts, which means that Sun Sports or Fox Sports Florida cannot show those games. Thus, fewer revenue opportunities from TV advertising whereas the Radio Network does every game.

Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida are splitting up every game which can be shown. David Steele returns for play-by-play and former Magic coach Matt Goukas will again provide commentary on.

DALLAS: The Fan 103.5 has just added Richie Whitt as official co-host for middays along with Nevy Scruggs. This means no more rotating with Richard Durrett.

ALLENTOWN: The Fox 1470 adds a local sports show from 9:00 to 11:00 AM beginning this Saturday (9/5). Keith Groller will host "Calling All Sports", with the local newspaper columnist focusing on Penn State and Philadelphia Eagles football along with Phillies baseball and local happenings.