Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sports Media Report - Feb. 16th update

We have all heard the old expression, "Sometimes I don't know my own strength!", but Dallas SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket certainly has the radio version of that expression to deal with first hand.

The station's annual "Ticketstock" free fan festival this weekend proved to be too popular, especially with Barry Sanders as the headliner. It seems that the crowd that turned out hoping to be one of the lucky ones to score an autograph from the NFL legend was too much for police and security to handle. In years past, this event went smooth and was a tremendous promotion for the station and even the local teams, which send players and management each year to participate.

This past weekend, many fans left disappointed as the crowd became large and partially unruly. What was supposed to be another great promotion for Dallas' most established sports station had station officials huddled up by the end of the weekend and turned into a lesson in crisis management.

Here is the official statement issued by The Ticket on their web site:

"The Staff and Management of Sportsradio 1310 the Ticket is aware of many issues regarding the line up, camping out and policing of the Barry Sanders autograph tickets at Ticketstock this past weekend.

We apologize to anyone that feels slighted or that was left out in securing an autograph ticket for any of our guests after investing many hours waiting in line.

We also apologize to all of our listeners and fans who were disappointed in the way the autograph tickets were handed out. Tickets for all guests are limited, and based on individual agreements with each guest. There is no "standard" number.

Ticketstock is a free event that we have produced for the past 16 years. Over that time, we have been fortunate to have many big name celebrity athletes come out to meet P1s, sign autographs and go on the air— all for free. We charge no admission fee, we don’t charge for autographs like many memorabilia shows do. We are also fortunate that these athletes create such huge demand amongst the general public.

That being said, we unfortunately didn’t have the manpower in place to police the line for 24 hours during the event to prevent line jumpers, line place holders and the like. We have used the honor system in all pervious years with a good deal of success. Unfortunately this year, the honor system didn’t work and a few bad apples spoiled the whole bunch.

Ticket Management has already begun discussing and planning ways in which the autograph distribution will be handled next year and for all upcoming Ticketstock events to avoid these issues in the future. Once final decisions have been made about our changes in policy, that information will be prominently publicized well in advance to all of our listeners, to the general public and to all sports memorabilia dealers.

Thank you for your support of Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket, and of Ticketstock."

I give the station a lot of credit for directly addressing the matter with its listeners and fans, and for promising action so that it does not happen again. When I first heard what had happened, I would have bet the ranch that all we would hear about it would be a quiet cancelation announcement of this event from this point on. Frankly, this is a good lesson in crisis management and reaches above being a radio station.

MINNEAPOLIS: While local sports fans wait to see what will happen while the Twins and Vikings both try to overcome challenges to return to the post-season during 2010, the local sports radio competition could now prove just as interesting.

As the Twins prepare to begin play in a real baseball facility (new outdoor stadium) in just a few weeks, the team also begins the 4th and final year of its radio contract with 1500 KSTP. The station is making it obvious that it wants to retain the Twins for years to come. They did so by announcing that KSTP is prying ESPN Radio away from KFAN 1130, which could be effective by the end of April.

KFAN was the Twin Cities' first sports radio station, starting in 1991 and has had more than its share of success. Now it will face its biggest challenge to date. KSTP could even move long established personalities such as Patrick Reusse and Joe Soucheray, although as of press time there has not been anything further. KSTP has been struggling in recent ratings books, so even a parital format change is no surprise.

Yet, it will be interesting to see how the Twins fare this season, especially early, with weather and a real baseball facility now in play for home games. If the team does not get off to a fast start, retaining the radio rights might not be as hot of an item as it was the past few seasons.

CINCINNATI: In addition to Minneapolis, ESPN is also on the move in Cinci. As of this week (Monday Feb. 15), ESPN Radio has moved to 50,000 watt 1530 AM, including Mike & Mike. In addition to the stronger signal, the ESPN brand will be built around a lot of local and regional play-by-play.

In addition to the Cincinnati Bengals broadcasts, the station will also continue to carry University of Kentucky football and basketball, along with selected University of Louisville football and basketball games. When possible, the station plans to carry play-by-play of ESPN Radio games.

Personally, this sounds like a winner. A ton of local play-by-play, a nice selection of national game broadcasts, and a lot of sports related information shows to surround.

But what of WSAI 1360? It will remain sports, becoming Fox Sports 1360 and will now carry Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, etc. on that frequency.

Further up the dial, Andy Furman began his 5 to 7 PM "Real Talk" show last week (Feb. 8) on WQRT 1160. His first guest was none other than Pete Rose, who reportedly contacted Furman personally and offered to be his first guest.

DETROIT: Another honor for Ernie Harwell. The voice of the Tigers for 42 seasons will receive the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting in New York on May 5th. Word is that Al Kaline will attend the presentation. Harwell is only the 3rd receipient of the sports award, with the others being Scully himself and Dick Enberg. Here's hoping Ernie's health allows him to attend.

OREGON: The radio dial has never and still is not exactly filled to the rim with college baseball broadcasts. Yet, Oregon State baseball will be heard on as many as 8 stations on its baseball network starting in just a few days. KEJO 1240 Corvallis will air every game, with weekend games heard on KPAM 860 in the Portland area. Football and basketball voice Mike Parker will call the games.

FARGO: It is the end of an era, as WDAY-AM will no longer carry North Dakota State football and basketball broadcasts after 27 consecutive years and 43 of the past 46 years. The Fan 740 and The Flag 1100 are reportedly among the other stations now bidding for the package.

GENERAL: This past weekend and much of this week are a nightmare for sports radio stations. At least they make it seem that way. The NFL season ended with the Super Bowl and we didn't have the Pro Bowl to kick around the week after. The NBA All-Star Game took away 4 days of league action. Worse yet, the NHL season is on vacation until next month. The "casual" sports fan had no choice but to try the Olympics and/or NASCAR racing practically unopposed for TV viewing.

Yet, sports radio stations rarely if ever focus on either, at least in the larger markets. I understand that there are still hours and hours to fill, but I contend it doesn't have to be for the purpose of beating a dead horse.

I happened to travel to Philadelphia last week and got a rare chance to tune to Howard Eskin on WIP. I anticipated hearing how a respected and often controversial host would handle "the drought" of very little NBA and NHL action, with baseball still a few days off from training camp. I should have known. All I heard was nearly 2 hours worth of Donovan McNabb and Eagles talk. There was no news. The football season is over.

This is not to pick on Eskin. It was the same thing on other sports stations I sampled, including WSCR Chicago talking about Jay Cutler and the Bears, and WFAN talking about the Giants.

I'm not suggesting I would rather have heard people talking about bobsledding or the speed of the pit crew of their favorite drivers, but I would like to think there is something more exciting to talk about on sports stations when there is a lull.

Meanwhile, it's still mid-February, but ESPN is already starting to unveil its college football schedule for the fall. It kicks off on Labor Day with a pair of college games being played in nearby NFL stadiums. Maryland vs. Navy will meet in Baltimore with Boise State taking on Virginia Tech from D.C.

Here is what has been announced so far, with tons more to come:

Sat, Sep 4 TBD LSU vs. North Carolina (from Atlanta) ESPN
Mon, Sep 6 4 p.m. Navy vs. Maryland (from Baltimore) ESPN
8 p.m. Boise State vs. Virginia Tech (from Landover, Md.) ESPN
Thu, Sep 16 7:30 p.m. Cincinnati at North Carolina State ESPN
Thu, Sep 23 7:30 p.m. Miami at Pittsburgh ESPN
Thu, Oct 28 7:30 p.m. Florida State at North Carolina State ESPN
Thu, Nov 4 7:30 p.m. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech ESPN

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