Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sports Media Update - Jan. 27th

Sports radio and the Super Bowl. For this column, these are both the "big game" over the next 10 days. We may actually find out how "big".

The game itself is always a huge audience draw capping off a day which is really more of a national holiday than some of the true national holidays. Over the last few years, especially, many of the local sports stations in larger markets, including some without NFL teams, set up shop for the week leading into the game on press row covering the Super Bowl. Members of the participating teams, along with players and coaches from NFL teams past and present also attend and go up and down the rows of station tables.

Over the years, unless my favorite team is in the game, I have personally reduced the amount of time I spend listening and watching sportcasts during the days leading in to the Super Bowl. I don't like being tired of hearing about the game long before it happens. And from talking with others around the country, I'm definitely not alone in feeling that way.

Why is this year different? I'm sure it's not, at least as far as the sports stations staffing radio row in Miami. But this year we have many of the NFL markets being measured monthly with the PPM system. We have seen steady growth among many of the sports stations, including some markets with more than one sports radio station increase their audience in recent months.

I, for one, will be curious to see if or how the ratings are impacted for the sports stations emphasizing the Super Bowl during the last week of January. The ones not in Indiana or Louisiana, that is.

If the out-of-market sports stations with a table at Super Bowl week show an audience drop after months of increase, maybe we will finally see the end of the hour after hour about the Super Bowl by next year. But if the increase continues, well, then I guess I'll continue my tradition of not listening and watching the endless Super Bowl hype for years to come. But now we will know. The ratings information is distributed every month, rather than every quarter so we will benefit with more specific audience information.

Then again, the TV ratings for the AFC and NFC Championship telecasts were sensational. But that is game action, and not a talk show. Early reports show that Fox had the biggest audience for the NFC game than any TV program (sports or not) other than a Super Bowl since 1998, and that was the Seinfeld finale.

The Colts vs. Jets game was the highest rated AFC Championship game in 24 years.

Now we'll see if those viewers prefer to wait until the Super Bowl game itself, or if they really want to talk about it day after day.

NBA-TV is making more strides this season, its first on some of the larger cable systems. I am looking forward to a new show the network is producing called "Making the Call". The show will focus on rules and regulations. The debut show premieres on Wednesday (Jan. 27) with Ronnie Nunn, the NBA Director of Officiating, as the primary guest. I'm sure there a few head coaches who would have liked to have done the questioning!

The network will be showing plenty of games over the next few days, picking up local telecasts:

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 27 Los Angeles Lakers @ Indiana Pacers
FRIDAY, JAN. 29 Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks
SATURDAY, JAN. 30 Atlanta Hawks @ Orlando Magic
SUNDAY, JAN. 31 Phoenix Suns @ Houston Rockets

It will be interesting to see if the true basketball fans prevail over the big market casual fans for next Tuesday (Feb. 2), when NBA-TV presents its "Fan Night" game. One of the choices is Detroit at New Jersey. That game is only news because one of the those teams will probably win a game. Yet, those are both huge TV markets. The logical choice is Atlanta vs. Oklahoma City in a battle of 2 hot teams making strong playoff runs.

On the baseball side, ESPN has announced some of its upcoming Sunday Night Baseball matchups:

April 4 Opening Night: New York Yankees at Boston
April 11 St. Louis at Milwaukee
April 18 New York Mets at St. Louis
April 25 Atlanta at N.Y. Mets
May 2 N.Y. Mets at Philadelphia
May 9 N.Y. Yankees at Boston
May 16 Philadelphia at Milwaukee
May 23 N.Y. Yankees at N.Y. Mets
May 30 Texas at Minnesota
July 4 Kansas City at L.A. Angels
July 11 Chicago Cubs at L.A. Dodgers
July 18 Philadelphia at Chicago Cubs

Yes, 2 of the first 6 weeks are Yankees vs. Red Sox. As if that is a surprise.

Spring training games could be abundant this season more than ever. No official word yet from MLB Network, which picked up about 30 telecasts last March. ESPN has announced it will televise 10 exhibition games from March 22 through Friday April 2, during the last 2 weeks of exhibition play.

ESPN will kick off the regular season with 5 games on Monday April 5 (making it 6 opening games counting the April 4 Yankees vs. Red Sox telecast). American League fans will enjoy Cleveland at Chicago White Sox and Minnesota at L A Angels. National League fans will enjoy St. Louis at Cincinnati, Chicago Cubs at Atlanta, and San Francisco at Houston.

In addition to its Saturday Game of the Week, Fox-TV might be moving 2 of its telecasts into prime time. USA Today reports that one would be in May and the other in June. As good as that sounds for baseball fans, that seems too early in the season to offer a compelling matchup for prime time.

BOSTON: Baseball fans in the Boston area get an interesting opportunity this Thursday (Jan. 28) evening. The Cambridge Center for Adult Education begins its "Homerun in Harvard Square" seminar series at 6 PM. The guest will be none other than Peter Gammons, now with MLB Network. Upcoming confirmed guests are Tom DiBenedetto, Red Sox partner; Jed Lowrie, Red Sox infielder; and Larry Silverstein, attorney/special counsel to the LA Dodgers. Details at www.ccae.org.

CINCINNATI: Great idea from Fox Sports Ohio to promote the upcoming Reds season. The Network has taken a group of telecasts of significant Reds games from the past 40 years and synced the audio of the radio broadcasts with Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall.

Included in the Monday night series will be Game 4 of the 1970 World Series, Tom Browning's perfect game, the clinching 1976 NLCS game vs. Philadelphia, Tom Seaver's no-hitter vs. St. Louis from 1978, the 1985 game in which Pete Rose breaks the all-time hit record, and Game 7 of the memorable 1975 World Series.

It's too bad that the rest of the country can't enjoy these, especially with the hometown flavor of "Marty and Joe on Reds radio". Here is a regional network producing this, while the nationally available ESPN Classic sticks us with poker, bowling, boxing, and probably tiddly winks in prime time.

BALTIMORE: Anita Marks is no longer a part of afternoon drive on The Fan 105.7, and also shown on MASN, after nearly 4 years. She had been co-hosting the show with Scott Garceau.

SAN FRANCISCO: Extra Sports 860 will no longer be living up to its name as of next week. KTRB will begin running the syndicated Michael Savage show from 3 to 6 PM as of Monday (Feb. 1). No other changes have been announced as of press time, but it seems odd to only take out the afternoon drive sports show.

KANSAS CITY: Former Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff continues to make good progress recovering from the infection which took him away from the majority of Royals telecasts last season. He recently joined Dave Armstrong and Jon Sundvold on a Kansas University basketball broadcast, and plans to join them again for a game or two during February. The number of Royals games Splittorff will work during the upcoming season has yet to be finalized.

LINCOLN: Former Nebraska University linebacker Adrian Fiala will no longer be a part of the Nebraska football broadcast team, which he had been a part of since 1996. He worked with current play-by-play voice Greg Sharpe, as well as Jim Rose and Warren Swain. Sharpe and Matt Davison will handle the call for the 2010 season.

Lincoln's KLMS 1480 AM has officially dumped ESPN Radio and its sports programming after 12 years as a sports station. Whether temporary or not, the station has gone oldies.

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