Monday, March 29, 2010

Sports Media Report - March 29th update......

For couch potatoes who are sports fans, it is hours away from the greatest time of the year, as in April and May. This season, in addition to the flood of NBA and NHL playoff game telecasts, baseball joins the mix more than ever.

For the first time ever, the baseball season's first month just might be its most nationally televised month EVER, and that works for me. The only downer about the extended national schedule is that in most instances there are still blackout regions.

MLB needs to realize that fans pay for cable or satellite and are entitled to have a complete choice of programming which is offered.

At any rate, ESPN follows its season opening Sunday Night Baseball telecast of Yankees vs. Red Sox with 5 games on Monday April 5th:

ESPN - opening day (ET):
St. Louis at Cincinnati, 1 p.m. on ESPN HD and – Brent Musburger and Rick Sutcliffe;
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox, 2 p.m. on ESPN2 – Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone and Chris Singleton
Chicago Cubs at Atlanta, 4 p.m. on ESPN – Sean McDonough and Orel Hershiser;
San Francisco at Houston, 7 p.m. on ESPN2 – Jon Miller and Joe Morgan
Minnesota at Los Angeles Angels, 10 p.m. on ESPN2 – Steve Levy and Buck Showalter.

ESPN will also bring in new analyst Nomar Garciaparra on some of its Wednesday Night Baseball telecasts to work along with Rick Sutcliffe and play-by-play voice Dave O'Brien.

But this year, it doesn't stop there. The incredible MLB Network has announced it will showcase all 30 teams during the first 30 days of the regular season. It's hard to believe such an innovative network continues to come up with "wow" great ideas.

With all times Eastern, here is when they will feature each team at least once:

April 6, 7:00 p.m., Yankees @ Red Sox
April 6, 10:00 p.m., Twins @ Angels
April 7, 1:00 p.m., Rockies @ Brewers
April 8, 12:30 p.m., Dodgers @ Pirates
April 8, 3:30 p.m., Mariners @ Athletics
April 8, 7:00 p.m., Cubs @ Braves
April 9, 4:30 p.m., Braves at Giants
April 10, 9:00 p.m., Athletics @ Angels
April 12, 7:00 p.m., Reds @ Marlins
April 13, 1:00 p.m., Angels @ Yankees
April 13, 4:00 p.m., Diamondbacks @ Dodgers
April 14, 1:00 p.m., Red Sox @ Twins
April 15, 3:00 p.m., Nationals @ Phillies
April 15, 7:00 p.m., Angels @ Yankees
April 16, 2:15 p.m., Astros @ Cubs
April 17, 9:00 p.m., Tigers @ Mariners
April 19, 11:00 a.m., Rays @ Red Sox
April 20, 7:00 p.m., Phillies @ Braves
April 21, 12:30 p.m., Royals @ Blue Jays
April 22, 1:00 p.m., Indians @ Twins
April 22, 7:00 p.m., Dodgers @ Reds
April 23, 8:00 p.m., Tigers @ Rangers
April 24, 9:00 p.m., Cardinals @ Giants
April 27, 7:00 p.m., Dodgers @ Mets
April 28, 12:00 p.m., Padres @ Marlins
April 28, 3:30 p.m., Phillies @ Giants
April 29, 2:00 p.m., White Sox @ Rangers
April 29, 7:00 p.m., Yankees @ Orioles
April 30, 2:15 p.m., Diamondbacks @ Cubs
April 30, 7:00 p.m., Twins @ Indians

Most will be picking up one of the local telecasts, but the Network will begin its Thursday Night Baseball series of originating telecasts.

These telecasts will be in addition to ESPN telecasts on Sunday and Wednesday nights, along with most Mondays, the TBS Sunday afternoon telecasts, and Fox regional games on Saturday afternoons.

With the increase in ratings from the most recent NFL season and current NBA season, my hunch is that baseball TV ratings will benefit from this early season influx of games. In addition to fans enjoying HD telecasts and the like, this also gives fans early season looks at players on fantasy teams, and catches a lot of the north and east fans still at home more often before the weather improves.

Versus has added a couple of NHL regular season telecasts as the playoff races heat up over the last couple of weeks (ET):

March 31 - Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh, 7:30 pm

April 1 - Atlanta at Washington, 7:00 pm

April 5 - Boston at Washington, 7:00 pm

April 6 - Washington at Pittsburgh, 7:30 pm

April 6 - Colorado at Vancouver, 10:00 pm

I can't believe others haven't pointed out how absurd it is for CBS to include NCAA softball scores on the bottom of the screen during its basketball tournament telecasts. They can't tell me that anybody other than the friends and families of the players are awaiting those scores. Clearly this is one of the ways that CBS (like ESPN in some instances) are forced to suck up to the NCAA in order to have the rights to the events that people want to see. Yet, I don't recall seeing any NCAA softball score updates, results, or highlights during any other forum offered by CBS during the entire softball season. So why are games on basketball tournament games so important?

This falls in the same category as local TV sportscasts which on certain nights will show highlights of an out-of-town game because they have nothing else local to feature as if they cover national sports. Then, the very next night, they go back to not even giving ANY out of town scores, let alone showing highlights. Aren't sports directors supposed to oversee consistent coverage?

CHICAGO: Speaking of a lack of continuity, WGN Radio is doing just that with its 7 to 9 PM weeknight time. After more than 25 years, the station is dropping its "Sports Central" call-in and interview show, in favor of another general talk show.

What makes this decision odd is that it begins the week of April 12th, just as Cubs baseball has returned, pre-empting regular programming on many weeknights, as will Blackhawks hockey throughout their upcoming playoff run. During the winter, the station airs Northwestern basketball in addition to the Blackhawks. So much for listeners in the habit of tuning to WGN for sports programming during that time. Now, on the few nights when there are no game broadcasts, sports fans will be given the opportunity to sample either of the city's 2 sports stations. Yikes. Host David Kaplan will shift over to more Cubs related programming and reporting at other times, along with afternoon drive updates.

DALLAS: A powerful AM signal still makes a difference in certain situations. TCU football moves to 820 WBAP and its strong regional signal for the upcoming season, along with its KPMZ-FM simulcast. These broadcasts were on KESN, the ESPN affiliate.

Over at The Fan 105.3, Gavin Dawson moves into the 2 to 6 PM spot along with Gregg Henson as of this week.

SAN JOSE: The NHL Sharks have extended their radio agreement with 98.5 KUFX, giving K-Fox a multi-year extension which takes effect in the fall for next season. Dan Rusanowsky will then begin his 19th season of play-by-play. The station will add a Tuesday morning Sharks feature with players visiting the Greg Kihn Morning Show. First, there is this season, as the Sharks are currently in a battle for the most points and home advantage through the NHL Western Conference playoffs.

PITTSBURGH: FSN Pittsburgh and the Pirates have announced a contract extension resulting in 150 or more Pirates games to be televised each season. The Network also plans to increase its year-round Pirates programming. Now the trick is for the Pirates to become worth watching that often. Can't help but wonder about the demand for rights to the pro team with the longest active streak of non-winning seasons.

SAD NEWS: The sports media world lost 2 more members over the past few days.

Cleveland sports fans mourn last Thursday's (Mar. 25) passing of Geoff Sindelar of WKNR-AM throughout most of the 90's, and earlier of "3 W E" WWWE Cleveland. He was only 62.

Former KDWN Las Vegas host Lee Pete passed away in West Toledo OH that same day at the age of 85. Vegas and Southern California sports fans might recall his sports betting radio show which broadcast years ago from the Stardust and sometimes had guests from the entertainment industry. NFL legend Jim Brown was his co-host for a while on that show. Pete called University of Toledo football games back in Ohio many years ago.

MONTGOMERY AL: WTXK "The Ticket" begins on both 1210 AM and 107.5 FM with strong signals which do not entirely overlap. Owned by 35+ year market veteran Al Stroh, the stations give his outlets a stronger signal than WMSP 740. Stroh is reportedly pursuing local play-by-play, along with adding NFL and other national broadcasts to the mix.

ABILENE TX: KZQQ 1560 becomes another small market station to give up on ESPN, citing contract negotiations, and the market loses its sports station. Although Abilene High School sports and McMurry University sports will continue to air on the station, it has gone to a classic rock format. It remains to be seen how classic rock at 1560 on the AM dial will do instead of sports.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Never mind the lower sports radio ratings.....

Sports radio stations are helping to show the significance to current and potential radio advertisers of the monthly ratings reports compared to quarterly in past years. The latest monthly reports, covering early February into early March, are showing an across-the-board decrease for sports radio stations in the major markets. I only went as far as to see declining overall ratings in Chicago for WSCR and WMVP, NYC for both WFAN and WEPN, along with Dallas and Houston’s multiple sports competitors, to get the message.

However, I think it is important to explore several reasons for this. Part of the reason for the decline is the exact time of the year. Sports stations vary from month to month way more than from one quarter to the next. During the ratings period, the NFL season was over and done with. Baseball spring training was getting underway. Yet, as I commented about a few weeks ago, many of the sports stations continued to whip the dead horse known as the already concluded NFL season. Rumors of changes and rehashing the past season does not capture the fans’ interest, especially with the NFL Draft still weeks away.

College basketball was in the midst of its regular season, which becomes almost meaningless when you have 4 or more teams from one conference advancing to the NCAA. The NBA and NHL regular seasons were not in playoff drive mode, especially this year with the NHL season stopping for 2 weeks.

Some will argue that the Olympics were on during this time, but I don’t buy that one. Sorry, but I didn’t have any of the bobsledders or figure skaters on my fantasy teams. The hardcore sports fans don’t give a you-know-what about moose fishing or whatever some of those Olympic sports are, let alone want to discuss them on the radio. That’s for a different audience than those who frequent the radio sports stations. Simply put, in addition to many of the sports stations rehashing the NFL instead of looking ahead, that ratings period is simply not friendly to sports stations.

How does this benefit advertisers? This information could help them for years to come. Face it, stations such as WSCR in Chicago, among those showing a nice increase from the prior monthly ratings report, aren’t going to voluntarily reduce their advertising rates for the next month. They probably were raised. As a result, new advertisers paid higher prices to immediately reach a much lower audience. Now they might not come back, thinking they didn’t get enough return on their investment. Whereas, by waiting until April and May, when we have baseball in full swing, the NFL Draft, and the NBA and NHL playoffs, the sports radio audience will be back in full force.

Here’s hoping that management of these sports stations does not collectively over-react and make changes to their current content based on these newly released numbers.

Meanwhile, I am watching for reaction to the N.Y. Rangers’ showing of Wednesday (Mar. 24) night’s game in 3-D television. The Rangers were behind what is supposedly the first ever hockey game televised in 3-D, and invited some sports and show biz celebrities to be part of the audience in a theatre actually located in Madison Square Garden, where the game itself was also being played.

Yet, the cost for “fans” to have this experience was $20 per ticket. It scares me that there was no major outrage over this. That should be the cost to see the actual game from the stands. That cost is in addition to parking or transportation to get to the Garden. The New York Daily News reported a total crowd of about 2,000, but there is no breakdown as to how many actually forked over the big bucks for what is still a game on TV.

Frankly, criteria to get a ticket should have been along the lines of in exchange for a stub from a recent Rangers game, showing a cable or satellite bill proving that the fan subscribes (and pays extra) to receive MSG Network and gets the Rangers games, or a marketing promotion such as getting a ticket from an electronics retailer which sells HD and eventually 3D TV’s.

Teams and players seem to forget that millions of people who are not interested in sports are forking up dollars each month to cable and satellite companies because they have no choice. They expect fans to continue paying extremely high ticket prices, along with parking or transportation, and buy the overpriced food at the concessions, in support of their favorite team(s). Thus, the idea of charging a whopping $20 to watch a game on TV is appalling. However, so far all I have read is about this “historic event”. Keep this up and the spending money of sports fans is what will be “history”.

Meanwhile, here we go again with Tiger Woods lack of information. I cannot believe the attention given to Wednesday’s (March 24) announcement that Tiger will hold a press conference on April 5th. I suppose I can understand how CBS stations would make a big deal out of it, since CBS-TV televises the climax of the Masters and stands to gain from Tiger’s performance in the tourney. Yet, I heard it as either the lead story or a very prominent story on several “non-CBS” media outlets. That is unbelievable to me.

Sorry, but this “announcement” is not a news story. I should not know that Tiger Woods will “finally” answer questions until he answers them, if them. No way this “story” should have taken precedence over true sports news of the day. I even saw this as the lead story on a local TV sports network that night. I darn near switched to another channel, thinking that there was no sports news that day. Just in time, the network saved the day by moving to a true local sports story, restoring my faith in mankind.

The killer is that the only question sports fans have is seeing how Tiger’s golf game will go during the Masters, and not one word that he says without backing it up.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - March 23rd update.......

Now we are at the point where having 2 or more sports radio stations in a market is commonplace rather than being big news. When combined with the spread of local and regional sports TV networks (such as via Comcast and Fox Sports), every major league market and most medium markets now bring the fans hundreds of hours of local sports programming every week.

That doesn't include all of the national programming carried on these sports radio stations, along with the ESPN groups. Yet, when it comes to radio and TV, I still can't tell the players without a scorecard. Why is that?

Many sports shows and stations have their fair share of on-air guests. Over the past few months, especially, I have noticed something. The lack of guest spots by current players.

We hear from the coaches and managers, team officials, and probably too much from 'beat reporters' for our favorite local teams. It seems like we only hear or see player comments from after a game or as part of a reaction story to a roster move or news story. But it seems as though a current player is never a studio guest to take some calls and questions from their fans. Why not?

It's certainly not as if the players are working second jobs for extra income. For what they are getting paid, it shouldn't be out of line for teams to ask them to make some appearances in season and off season. Going on the radio to chat with fans is safer and easier than being at a store or other open public forum. But it doesn't seem to happen. At least not from current players.

Autograph shows and sessions are not the answer, especially when they are paid for. Players go along with rules about what they will and won't sign, and if they will personalize or not. That's another subject. But there is little to no time to interact, which is what radio (moreso than TV) provides.

C'mon, sports stations. Start inviting current players into the studio for an hour on open dates. It is a safe way to interact with fans. A smart programmer will eliminate the "I enjoy watching you play...." comments from every caller by having listeners call or e-mail with questions during the player's visit and letting the host(s) relay the best questions along.

This would be a way to make each off-season interesting. There is talk on most sports stations and shows about whether or not the NFL should tinker with the overtime rule. Yet, I can't think of hearing any opinions from current players about how they feel. Again, it's not like they are all working off-season jobs to make ends meet. I would like to think that a sports station reporter who covered the local NFL team could come up with 2 players who disagree about how to handle overtime, and could make for one heck of an interesting segment on the air. Way more interesting than what "Joe from the west side" thinks!

Just because there are more hours of sports talk than ever before doesn't guarantee it will all be interesting. But getting the current players involved would be a wonderful start.

CINCINNATI: For all of the complaining about TV stations and carrying certain games, it's good to see some decisions which actually favor the sports fan. Such is the case with WKRC-TV Cincinnati these 2 weeks during the NCAA Tournament.

Last week, when the opening games involving Ohio State and Louisville (the station serves Cincinnati and northern Kentucky) were overlapping, the TV station came up with a wonderful solution. The station used digital channel 12.2 to air a separate doubleheader, and thus was able to present both of those games live and entirely.

And it happens again this Thursday (March 25). The Xavier (located in Cincinnati) game against Kansas State is scheduled to begin at 9:37 PM, while the Kentucky vs. Cornell game is scheduled for 9:57 PM. Once again, WKRC-TV uses its digital capabilities and the Kentucky game will air entirely on Channel 12.2. Not only that, but the station is spreading the word locally well in advance. That's more like it.

BALTIMORE / D.C.: WJZ-FM 105.7 The Fan has moved Jeremy Conn from the evening "The Playmakers" show to afternoon drive and The Scott Garceau Show. The Conn man is expected to continue filling for morning man Ed Norris when needed, and in effect replaces Anita Marks in the afternoon role. Marks was let go earlier this quarter. Pete Medhurst and Joe Miller now handle 6 to 10 PM on weeknights without play-by-play along with Sunday afternoons. The station has also hired Jen Royle to be its Orioles beat reporter. She comes to Baltimore from YES Network in New York. The Fan is also being carried from D.C. via one of 105.7 FM's digital signals, for those few with HD radios.

Sorry to learn of the passing of Chick Lang at the age of 83 after a long illness. Lang was a fixture many moon ago on WBAL as their racing analyst and is best remembered for running Pimlico Race Course (home of The Preakness) for more than 25 years.

More Baltimore area listeners will be able to receive the Washington Nationals broadcasts starting this season, as the broadcasts have moved to WFED 1500, which has a stronger signal from D.C. into the Baltimore area. Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler return for their 5th season calling the games, with Phil Wood hosting "Nats Talk Live". No matter how many people can hear them, it remains to be seen if they'll want to listen to the Nationals.

Frank Herzog, the long time voice of the Redskins has announced that he will be retiring from his morning news anchor role on WTOP Radio. Over the years, Herzog anchored sports on both channels 7 and 9.

PHILADELPHIA: Comcast SportsNet has a new Phillies beat reporter, but she is hardly new to viewers. Leslie Gudel, who was the first female sports anchor in Philly and started more than 12 years ago, will move to her new beat from the anchor desk.

HOUSTON: Congrats to Ralph Cooper, who will be honored on Friday with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Houston Association of Black Journalists. He has been with KCOH 1430 since 1984 and now airs weekday afternoons at 5:00. In addition, he has been a guest commentator on KTRK Channel 13's Extra Points program since 1992. His most memorable local high school player interviews include Clyde Drexler and Eric Dickerson.

A good idea from KILT SportsRadio 610. Their web site has a podcast (as of press time) with host Kyle Kennedy doing his mock NFL Draft already up and running, and the draft isn't until late April. It is at . What makes this a good idea is that it is for something that will happen and thus remains timely. A nice change from most podcasts which are outdated within a few hours.

Thanks to those of you who commented about the NFL team radio data we wrote about last week. Many in Houston are baffled because of the finding that the Texans supposedly had more listeners to their radio broadcasts on KILT than the Cowboys broadcasts on KRLD-FM in Dallas. I suppose it is possible. After all, the new Cowboys stadium has a huge capacity and plenty of video for those in attendance. The result was thousands more fans able to be in attendance at the Cowboys games and not needing a radio to listen than is the case with the Texans.

MEMPHIS: The NBA Grizzlies having their most successful season ever (more impressive than it really is) is translating into TV ratings. Fox Sports Tennessee telecast ratings are up about 53% over last season and more than 75% from two seasons ago. The team's February win over the L.A. Lakers drew their highest cable rating ever. In the most amazing statistic, the March 8th game against New Jersey, with one of the all-time worst records in NBA history, drew higher ratings than most of the telecasts did for the two prior seasons.

RALEIGH: Adam Gold, host from 3 - 7 PM on The Fan 99.9 FM has been recognized as one of the "250 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts" by Talkers Magazine. No other local talent was selected for the list.

WICHITA: KMAN Sports Radio 1350 got into the act with Kansas State "Sweet 16 Fever" in full force. The station aired the pep rally sponsored by the Kansas State Alumni Association live on Monday (March 22) evening, as hosted by play-by-play voice Wyatt Thompson.

ALBANY: WOFX 980 will carry "The Chris Myers Interview" show on Saturdays from 9 AM to Noon. This moves Dan Moriarty and Derrick Deese from Noon to 4 and Mike Lamb and Sean Farnham from 4 to 8 PM.

Team radio networks continue to expand as we get within 2 weeks of opening day. The Baltimore Orioles Radio Network, which already now includes WTEM in Washington D.C. has also added Frederick’s WTHU, WTRI and WICO-FM in Pocomoke City, WCBX in Bassett VA, and WVSP in Norfolk VA.

The Cincinnati Reds Radio Network has added WCVL 1550 Crawfordsville to its list of stations.

On the NFL side, XS Sports 96.1 in Redding CA has added San Francisco 49ers broadcasts in a 2-year deal including non-conflicting pre-season games. The station also will carry Giants baseball.

Finally, sorry to also learn of the passing of Roy Steinfort in VA at the age of 88. I'm sure most sports fans have no idea who that is, and that's too bad. Steinfort sold his weekly newspaper in 1961 to join Associated Press as an executive. He is probably most responsible for building up AP Radio from a handful of stations to more than 1,000 affiliates across the country. He was there when AP Radio began to include sports coverage, and even laid the foundation for video feeds before he retired. We may not know his work directly, but long time sports fans often heard the benefits of his vision for sports coverage.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sports Media Report - March 16th update.....

You wouldn't think it would take more than one announcer for TBS to replace Chip Caray, but I suppose TBS means well with their new plan to rotate announcers for the MLB coverage starting next month. Most likely depending upon their schedules, Ernie Johnson, Dick Stockton, and Brian Anderson will take turns calling the Sunday afternoon and post-season telecasts.

Ernie Johnson will also call about 25 Braves games for Peachtree TV, having gained his baseball play-by-play experience working Braves TV with his father in the mid-90's. Johnson is best known for his studio hosting on TNT's and NBA-TV coverage of NBA games, along with hosting British Open golf coverage on TNT.

Stockton brings more than 35 years of baseball play-by-play to the booth, having already handled post-season assignments for TBS over the past couple of years along with NBA play-by-play for TNT.

Brian Anderson is also the TV voice of the Milwaukee Brewers and will work a few TBS assignments as his schedule permits, most likely early in the season when the NBA takes priority for Johnson and Stockton.

Game and studio analysts will include John Smoltz (who will also work Braves games for Peachtree TV), Ron Darling, Buck Martinez, Dennis Eckersley, and David Wells.

TBS has also confirmed its April and May telecasts, with Eastern time:

Sunday, April 11 1:30 p.m. New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays
Sunday, April 18 1:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox
Sunday, April 25 2 p.m. Chicago Cubs @ Milwaukee Brewers
Sunday, May 2 1 p.m. Chicago White Sox @ New York Yankees
Sunday, May 9 1:30 p.m. Atlanta Braves @ Philadelphia Phillies
Sunday, May 16 1 p.m. Minnesota Twins @ New York Yankees
Sunday, May 23 1:30 p.m. Boston Red Sox @ Philadelphia Phillies
Sunday, May 30 2:15 p.m. St. Louis Cardinals @ Chicago Cubs

SAN DIEGO: After months of my pointing out how many sports radio stations "report" stories taken from other media (online, newspapers, TV, etc.) when they are supposed to be on top of the news, along comes XX Sports 1090 and its morning show.

Hosts Billy Ray Smith and Scott Kaplan are off the air as of this week. Both the station and the pair have different versions as to what is taking place at the moment regarding the contract status.

In a wild coincidence, both sides have taken to the web to get the word out. First, XX Sports 1090 posted their side on the station web site in a message from CEO John Lynch (shown in part):

"We are very sorry to inform you that Scott and BR will not be on the air until a dispute is resolved. BCA is currently in a contractual dispute with Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith, as a result of Scott and BR's attempt to terminate their agreements prior to its scheduled expiration in 2012. BCA believes that its agreements with both Scott and BR remain in full force and effect, and that their attempted early termination is in violation of their agreements."

Kaplan and Smith responded, but on their web site, (in part):

"We are involved in a bitter contract dispute with 1090, as a result, we will not be on the air live Monday. Truth is, not sure we will ever be on 1090 again. However, we are very confident we will be on the radio in SD within the next few weeks."

With all of this keeping up with the station online, I wonder if the sports news hungry fans will still have time to listen.

LOS ANGELES: It continues as the "Myers-Hartman" program on KLAC 570 from Noon to 4 PM weekdays even though Chris Meyers is reducing his station workload. Looks as though Meyers will be heard primarily doing on-location reports and interview segments. In addition to his Fox Network assignments, Meyers will also be host of a NASCAR show on Showtime.

DALLAS: KRLD 105.3 welcomes Gavin Dawson to afternoon drive on March 29th. The 34-year old Dawson comes to Dallas by way of KXTG Portland where he has done mornings for nearly 2 years. Prior, Dawson was on KFXX 1080 The Fan, also in Portland. In his abscence, it is likely that KXTG will save a few dollars and go with Dwight Jaynes and Chad Doing as co-hosts.

BOSTON: Great to have Jerry Remy back in the Red Sox TV booth last weekend and in much better health. Remy missed most of last season due to his fight against cancer. Remy is expected to work with Don Orsillo for the entire season, and here's hoping that happens.

Sorry to see Channel 4 let go of Alice Cook after a 25 year run in the station's Sports Department. The station continues with Steve Burton and Dan Roche. Word is the station might ask her (Cook) to return on an assignment basis for Patriots coverage next season, but it remains to be seen if she would accept, or if she would still be available to accept.

INDIANAPOLIS: WFNI 1070 The Fan is breaking up its afternoon drive show after just over 2 years. Columnist Bob Kravitz is gone, after his Monday (March 15) co-hosting stint on "Kravitz & Eddie". The Indy Star claims that Kravitz' contract was not renewed, and that Kravitz may remain with the show as a contributor.

Eddie White will continue on as primary host of the afternoon show which scored well in the sports talk ratings. Also, host Dan Dakich will move into the 10 AM to Noon slot starting next month.

DETROIT: Fox Sports Detroit has just added former Piston and Michigan State alum Mateen Cleaves as studio analyst for selected games over the final month of the regular season. Cleaves was a key factor for MSU in its 2000 National Championship season. Not sure whether even he can make a Pistons telecast worth watching at this point, but it will be interesting to see if this leads to more TV work for him down the road.

BUFFALO: Kudos for WGR SportsRadio 550. Not only does the station have an interview with Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier at 5:30 PM before every Friday home game, but the interview is not your typical fluff piece for the team. Regier had just returned from the NHL General Managers meeting, when host Mike Schopp asked him about it. The GM went into detail about how the GM's are watching the NFL's handling of head injuries, along with addressing the lack of trades involving the team at the recent trade deadline.

Nice to see a scheduled guest appearance by a team official being made interesting and newsworthy.

KNOXVILLE: ESPN 1180 has begun a one-hour weekday show specific to the University of Tennessee sports scene. As of this past Monday (March 15), co-hosts James Bryant and Wes Rucker devote the 10 to 11 AM hour to the school's sports programs.

In a move designed to please UT's fan base not within proximity of Knoxville, the show will be included in the stream at Tony Basilio moves to the 11 AM to 1 PM spot, and Double Coverage with Terry Fair and Fred White from 1 to 3 PM.

SPOKANE: Washington State Cougars play-by-play voice Bud Nameck is now the host of the KXLY 920 Morning News. He has broadcast WSU sports since 1981.

OKLAHOMA CITY: The baseball minor league Oklahoma City Redhawks will again be on KTOK 1000 this season for night games. The station will carry 110 broadcasts, with the other 34 games, mostly afternoon and early evening, to air on sister station KEBC 1340. Each broadcast includes a 20 minute pre-game show. Jim Byers returns to the mic for his 11th season with the team.


NBC-TV has moved the N Y Rangers vs. Boston Bruins game to the national spotlight at 12:30 ET this Sunday (March 21). Although the network has not yet announced its March 28 telecast, Detroit vs. Philadelphia will be shown on April 4th. In another NHL schedule oddity, this will be the only regular season meeting between these teams, and it comes toward the end of the regular season.

Looking to the 2010 college football season, ESPN has announced 14 of its Big East Football telecasts, including four on Thursday nights.

Highlights include Pittsburgh vs. Miami on Sept. 23 (their first matchup since 2003), USF at West Virginia on Oct. 14, and West VA at Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving Friday. Also scheduled is Cincinnati at Louisville on Oct. 15 and against USF on Oct. 22.

The Big Ten Network is going full steam into showing Conference baseball games this season:

2010 Big Ten Network Baseball Schedule

April 9 - Purdue at Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., 7 PM - Big Ten Network
April 10 - Purdue at Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1 PM - Big Ten Network
April 11 - Purdue at Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., 12 PM - Big Ten Network
April 17 - Ohio State at Michigan State, East Lansing, 1 PM - Big Ten Network
April 23 - Indiana at Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., 7 PM - Big Ten Network
April 24 - Indiana at Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., 7 PM - Big Ten Network
April 25 - Indiana at Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., 2 PM - Big Ten Network
April 30 - Northwestern at Illinois, Champaign, Ill., 7 PM - Big Ten Network
May 1 - Northwestern at Illinois, Champaign, Ill., 4 PM - Big Ten Network
May 2 - Northwestern at Illinois, Champaign, Ill., 4 PM - Big Ten Network
May 4 - Louisville at Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio, 7 PM - Big Ten Network
May 7 - Iowa at Penn State, State College, Pa., 7 PM - Big Ten Network
May 8 - Iowa at Penn State, State College, Pa., 4 PM - Big Ten Network
May 9 - Iowa at Penn State, State College, Pa., 11 AM - Big Ten Network
May 14 - Indiana at Mich State, East Lansing, Mich., 2 PM - Big Ten Network
May 15 - Indiana at Mich State, East Lansing, Mich., 12 PM - Big Ten Network
May 15 - Purdue at Illinois, Champaign, Ill., 1 PM - Big Ten Network
May 16 - , Indiana at Michigan State, East Lansing, 1 PM - Big Ten Network
May 20 - Minnesota at Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio, 7 PM - Big Ten Network
May 21 - Minnesota at Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio, 7 PM - Big Ten Network
May 22 - Minnesota at Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio, 1 PM - Big Ten Network

Big Ten Baseball Tournament (Columbus, Ohio)
May 26 - Big Ten Tournament Game 1, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 26 - Big Ten Tournament Game 2, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 27 - Big Ten Tournament Game 3, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 27 - Big Ten Tournament Game 4, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 27 - Big Ten Tournament Game 5, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 28 - Big Ten Tournament Game 6, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 28 - Big Ten Tournament Game 7, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 28 - Big Ten Baseball Tournament Semifinals, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 29 - Big Ten Baseball Tournament Semifinals, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 29 - Big Ten Baseball Championship, TBD - Big Ten Network
May 30 - Big Ten Baseball Championship (if necessary), TBD - Big Ten Network

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sports Media Report - March 10 update.........

The NFL is making as much or more news in the media and marketing areas this week as its teams are with personnel moves. These news items reflect the growth of demand for NFL games around the country.

First, the NFL has announced a 4-year deal with a wireless provider that will result in Sunday and Thursday night games being streamed on certain mobile devices from the NBC-TV or NFL Network feeds. Incredible as it may seem, this deal is estimated to be valued at more than $100,000,000. In addition, this deal reportedly includes the NFL Network's Red Zone during the Sunday games.

This is another positive for the obviously football hungry fans, providing another means to have easy live progress of the NFL games. Yet, I have to believe that the TV networks may be strongly divided on their reaction to this news.

NBC-TV should be ecstatic about this. Their Sunday Night Football feed will now be available to thousands of subscribers to the participating wireless service who, if not able to watch on NBC-TV, can watch wherever they happen to be, needing only a mobile phone signal. Advertisers benefit with another means to penetrate their target audience.

However, Fox-TV and CBS-TV could suffer over this. Fans in markets not partial to an NFL team, along with fans in NFL markets when the "home" team isn't playing, may very well opt for the Red Zone feed on their phones over a CBS or Fox regional game which doesn't interest them as much. Now, instead of watching those games to keep tabs on the other games, it is quite possible that thousands of fans will opt for the Red Zone on their phones, and CBS and Fox could lose viewers over this. While fans may not care, I have to think that this will come up during the next TV rights negotiation. Yet, ESPN is, as of now, not effected either way by this new wireless contract.

That is what makes this such a potentially important media story. I don't remember the NFL doing a deal in the past which openly favors one network ahead of others which are participating.

The NFL brass also got more good news when Arbitron Sports released a report revealing specific listening trends based on PPM measurement for NFL games over the course of the recently concluded season. Based on estimates of "in-game listening" from 23 radio markets involving 25 of the NFL's teams, the report shows each NFL team averaging better than 100,000 listeners per local radio broadcast. The Chicago Bears have topped the team list showing an average game audience of more than 620,000 listeners.

Radio rights in Chicago have always been a hot issue. In the past 30 years, the Bears broadcasts have jumped between WGN Radio, WBBM Radio, and the former WMAQ Radio (now WSCR - The Score sports radio, a sister station to WBBM). These audience totals further justify the huge rights fees and extended negotiations which have gone on in Chicago. Even more incredible is that the Bears failed to make the playoffs for the 3rd straight season and were all but eliminated with 7 games to go - yet still managed strong radio ratings.

The N.Y. Giants were next with just over 450,000 listeners, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles. In the 25-54 males category, some of the NFL broadcasts drew 40+ shares, according to this report.

The ratings leader is expected to release a baseball audience report during the second quarter.

BOSTON: A lot of credit goes to WEEI Radio for its interview with Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Tuesday. Mr. Kraft, who usually does an interview with the station around Super Bowl time, waited until this week to be interviewed by Glenn Ordway, Steve DeOssie and Fred Smerlas.

To their credit, this was not a powder-puff chat. Kraft talked about very specific players and contract issues. He also defended the team's decision not to pursue free agents by stating that the team feels its talent "is the best available". Whether you agree with him or not, the fact that he openly addressed the fans' concerns in this manner is refreshing from a pro sports executive. WEEI added to the mix by involving more than one of its program hosts in order to show the priority of this interview. That's more like it.

BRISTOL: Glad to see the news that Chuck Wilson is returning to ESPN Radio, and it happens as of this coming weekend. Wilson was one of the original hosts when ESPN Raedio first started in January 1992, and went on to co-host "Game Night" from 1995 into 2005, when he went over to XM.

He will host the NCAA Tournament Selection Special (5:30 to 9 PM ET) this Sunday (March 14) evening, and will soon move to the radio version of "Baseball Tonight".

Chuck Wilson first made his mark on WEAN Providence when he began a sports talk show on the station in the early 80's, years before the birth of WFAN and full-time sports radio stations. This show brought out his excellent interview styles.

Good move by ESPN to bring him back.

BALTIMORE: MASN has decided to go with a pair of analysts to split the assignment working with play-by-play voice Gary Thorne. Jim Palmer will continue to be lead analyst, but former Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan has been named to the broadcast team. His first telecast will be against Oakland on April 15th. This will be Mike's third TV stint with the O's.

BOSTON: Boston College football broadcasts will remain on WEEI through the 2015 season as a result of a 5-year contract extension arranged by Fenway Sports Group. (Yes, Fenway Sports Group is owned by the Red Sox parent company.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sports Media Report - March 8th update........

Hopefully it's not 'too little too late' for HD Radio, but WJFK 106.7 The Fan in Washington DC is making the effort to make HD Radio appeal to area sports fans. As I suggested months ago, the station has added 2 out-of-area sports stations to its HD mix, along with nearby WJZ-FM from Baltimore. The Fan's HD3 channel now broadcasts WFAN from New York and its HD4 carries WIP from Philadelphia.

Sports fans in the DC area come out winners, at least those few that actually have HD radios. They add at least two more choices for sports talk and information at any given time, while WJFK helps to keep listeners from going to WTEM if they are not enjoying the currently airing topic or program.

Moves such as this, and a couple of pro teams going to HD channels specific to a team, such as the HD radio channel in Pittsburgh devoted to the Penguins, are excellent uses of the HD radio concept which allows for more targeted and niche programming.

Yet, I still contend that sports stations can increase their HD Radio presence with more local flavor. An HD channel programmed locally seems the perfect place to air local high school sports, with the ability to replay games the next day. Let the family of the guy that makes the game-winning shot and his entire family hear the description a couple of times more the next day! In addition, stations could use an HD channel to replay their local pro and college broadcasts. I have to believe that an overnight worker might enjoy hearing the entire broadcast of an hours old game without knowing the score ahead of time to help him or her get through an overnight shift.

This DC addition is a start. I would like to believe that CBS stations elsewhere around the country will also start picking up sports stations from around the country as well to provide more options. Maybe this is the idea that could jump start HD Radio sales and participation.

On another matter, this began as a private e-mail based on a previous commentary, but now deserves to be brought up for discussion. More and more I am hearing sports stations across the country promoting "additional" parts to stories they are covering and discussing on their station web sites.

I can certainly understand the sports stations wanting to increase traffic to the station web site. Depending on who you talk to, the purpose ranges from keeping the audience involved (and from tuning to a competitor) to driving potential customers to more revenue opportunities for the station.

Personally, I'm finding this new practice to be in the early stages of becoming another aggravation. Sorry, but shouldn't "have to" go to the station's web site to hear more about a story or more of an interview. This tells me that the station I have chosen isn't willing to provide me with as complete of coverage as they can.

My feeling is there is a huge difference between "If you missed any of this interview, you can hear it again at www....." and "for more on this story visit www.......".

If a station's web site gives me its coverage and "extra" from the radio station itself, then I now have more reason to ONLY visit the web site when I am online to get the "complete" coverage of those stories I want. It means I don't have to listen to 'partial' coverage of stories I'm interested in and full coverage of stories I am not interested in by taking the time to tune to the sports station in the first place.

Pardon me, but I still would like to think that radio stations are in business to attract listeners, and not to drive them to another media form which does not count toward their primary audience measurement source.

I have long wondered why radio stations which play music often promote how you can purchase what they play from the station's web site. While the station looks at it as another needed revenue source, I look at it as the station giving you fewer reasons to listen to their station. If I can buy just the songs I like and listen to them at my convenience, then I have fewer reasons to listen to that station. Same theory with the sports reports.

Unless the radio exec who disagreed with me via private e-mail is planning to work for a music web site sometime soon, I think he will soon find a declining audience for his station.

Meanwhile, it is a loss for the great MLB Network, but a gain for the L. A. Angels with the hiring of Victor Rojas to become their TV play-by-play voice effective immediately. The opening came about due to the sudden and untimely death of Rory Markas earlier this year. Rojas will work with Mark Gubicza on both FS West and Channel 13 telecasts. Ironically, the outside hiring of Rojas comes after the Angels' decision to reduce to one TV team after a couple years of more than one broadcast team just for television.

Rojas has previously done play-by-play for the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks, having left the Texas job last year to come to MLB Network. Angels radio continues with Terry Smith and Jose Mota on the call.

ESPN Radio is adjusting its daytime lineup as of baseball opening day. Starting on April 5th Scott Van Pelt expands to 3 hours from 1 to 4 PM ET, with Colin Cowherd moving back to its original 10 AM to 1 PM spot.

NASSAU: The Bahamas are about to get their first ever sports talk station, which will begin by the end of this year. Matt Sampsell, most recently with KRIV-TV Houston as a sports reporter until late 2008, has been named Program Director and is expected to hire local talent. The station could also debut in Nassau as the only full-time talk station there.

On the TV side, Versus is preparing to debut "The Daily Line" on April 5th. The nightly one-hour show is scheduled for 6 PM ET and will preview each night's upcoming sports action. What the network hopes will set this show apart is that they plan to include fan participation via phone calls, e-mails, and text messages. In many markets, this show will be on prior to the local or regional 30 minute sports reports which preview the local teams.

Before you dismiss this as Versus doing something to fill the time with sports during the NHL off-season, keep in mind that Comcast owns a stake in Versus. If Comcast allows Versus' "The Daily Line" to make use of the various regional Comcast SportsNet operations (such as SNY in New York and Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia and Chicago, for example), this actually could become a valuable commodity for early evening sports viewers. Liam McHugh, Jenn Sterger, Reese Waters and Rob DeAngelis will be the hosts.

LOS ANGELES: KSPN 710, the ESPN station, is also making a lineup change on April 5th. "In The Zone" with Brian Long and A. Martinez will broadcast from the ESPN studios at LA Live most weeknights from 6 to 9 PM, and will follow the local "Mason & Ireland" which airs from 2 to 6 PM. To its credit, the station plans to continue to air Mike & Mike live from 3 to 7 AM local time.

SAN DIEGO: Since Dick Enberg's college basketball commitments continue with CBS, Mark Neely will call most of the televised Padres exhibition games this month, with the first one being this coming Sunday (Mar. 14). Neely, who was the Padres' TV voice last season, will then replace Steve Quis on the TV pre and post-game shows when Enberg takes over.

On the radio side, the end of the Padres broadcast tradition may be coming after this season. Not only is Jerry Coleman now working a reduced number of games, but Ted Leitner is back for his 31st and possibly final season in the Padres' booth. For that matter, Andy Masur's contract is also up at the end of this season.

OAKLAND: The Oakland A's not only have a stronger signal this season with KTRB 860 now handling the broadcasts, but will have increased adjacent coverage. Chris Townsend, known for hosting "Sports Overnight America" on the Sports Byline Network, has been brought in to host a one-hour "A's Talk" post-game show. Ken Korach, Ray Fosse, and Vince Cotroneo continue to call the games. Townsend replaces Marty Lurie who recently went across the Bay to join the Giants broadcast team at KNBR.

HOUSTON: David Dalati joined KFNC 97.5 as sports update reporter during afternoon drive, and will provide a daily feature on the Carl Dukes Show. Dalati is well known among sports fans with his having been with KILT and KBME during his 25+ years in the Houston market.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sports Media Report - March 3rd update

The Miami Dolphins have turned the past season's high NFL television ratings into what appears to be a very successful new radio deal. Earlier this week, the team opted out of a possible 4th season of its contract with WQAM 560 and signed a fresh 6-year "partnership" with Clearance Channel. The team technically goes from one to two flagsh stations, as both WBGG Big 105.9 and WINZ 940 will air the games starting with the pre-season in August.

This deal reportedly includes WINZ airing a year-round Dolphins and NFL show weekdays from 5 to 7 PM.

What also makes this deal interesting is that the Dolphins are doing this without a rights fee, instead keeping the majority of the advertising revenue. I see some risks for the stations and the team from this new deal, but the local Dolphins fans will certainly come out the big winners on this.

Dolphins fans will continue to get extended pre and post-game programming (including choices), likely continuing to total 8 to 9 hours total on game days and nights. The year-round weekday show devoted to the Dolphins and NFL should be welcomed by the hardcore fans. It is also likely that the other Clearance Channel stations in the market will be active in Dolphins related promotions, adding more exposure for the fans via various radio formats.

The Dolphins front office takes a risk by taking the advertising revenue instead of probably $2 to $3 million per season for selling the broadcast rights. Why would the team do this?

Because they see it as a golden opportunity to package the radio time along with other team offerings the team has. Advertisers can get radio time "added" to buying stadium signage, game program space, game day suites, space on the Dolphins' web site, and on it goes. Or, they can get one or more of those perks when they purchase radio time. This COULD result in more revenue for the team compared with outright selling of the radio rights, but it is no guarantee. Again, the fans "win" because the team needs to be competitive to attract enough advertiser and sponsor response.

However, this aspect is where I see Clearance Channel taking a bigger risk than they realize. Their flagship stations will now, in effect, be selling time on their Dolphins and other sports related programming, offering time on the stations, and perhaps any other perks that Clearance Channel offers. The big spending advertisers seeking to reach the 25-52 male audience are much more likely to go with a package offered by the Dolphins for more than "just" the radio deal. They have reason to take advantage of reaching the target audience via radio spots, at the stadium, on the web site, and so on.

This will probably limit the radio stations (WINZ and WBGG) to attracting "lesser" advertisers (in terms of spending) to their own Dolphins and sports related programming. From a sales standpoint, that means more risk and more effort for the same or less revenue. It also continues to allow radio to be a lesser option for sponsors seeking to reach the pro sports audience.

I'm sure that a big reason for Clearance Channel to make this move is to get the game broadcasts away from rival WQAM. CC is hoping that this move will hurt WQAM's ratings, and ultimately their revenue.

Look again. WQAM has already announced that it will continue to provide its own pre and post-game programming for the Dolphins, including Dan Marino and Channing Crowder, along with other Dolphins related coverage and programming other than during Dolphins games.

Television ratings for the NFL were up in virtually every market this past season. It's not like the majority of fans are opting for radio coverage instead of watching the game on a big screen. Many of these fans have become used to tuning to WQAM before and after the games over the past 3 seasons.

Yet, now WQAM can provide their same programming, but without spending millions of dollars to the Dolphins for the broadcast rights, and retaining all of the ad revenue they sell. On those same game days, Clearance Channel's two stations are limited in revenue because of the chunk that will now go to the Dolphins. As a result, WQAM could "win" when it comes to billing.

Providing adjacent programming is not at all unprecedented. In Chicago, WGN Radio has not broadcast the Bears games for about five years now. Yet, the station kept going with up to 3 hours of pre and post-game call-ins and interviews on most Bears game days.

They have WBBM 780, which is the Bears' flagship station and is also the CBS Radio all-news outlet for Chicago, hyping the Bears to death all year round. To the point of having Jeff Joniak, the Bears' play-by-play voice on "reporting" on their sportscasts last week from the just concluded NFL Combine as the lead story. I'm serious. The Bears don't even have picks in the first 2 rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft, yet WBBM was leading sportscasts with reports about the coaches being at a scouting combine of college players.

In Miami, it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins are as competitive in the next 3 NFL seasons as the revenue battle between WQAM and Clearance Channel over the Dolphins contract.

Personally, I think radio stations are risking it with certain advertisers by doing these revenue share deals. Teams and stadiums are coming up with better options for the same advertisers.

NEW YORK: I realize that all-sports radio stations sometimes feel the need to stray away from sports for a few minutes here and there. But I was very disappointed in Mike Francesa's show last week on WFAN (and shown on YES TV) when he had Steve Phillips in studio for a full hour.

Phillips, you may recall, was let go by ESPN last year in a reported sex scandal. But here was the former GM of the local Mets in studio right as spring training camps are opening. I enjoyed Phillips' analysis over the years on ESPN and was interested to hear his thoughts looking ahead to the season.

Instead, the majority of the discussion with Francesa was about his sex addiction treatment and his personal life. Even to the point of taking several phone calls about his treatment. If this was not a sports show, I might have found the conversation interesting. But this is WFAN becoming WOR for an hour. That was the place to talk about the Mets and look ahead to the start of the baseball season. I'm still waiting.

SAN FRANCISCO: KNBR 680 is getting ready for baseball. As of this week they have moved F. P. Santangelo to the 7 to 10 PM slot or following Giants broadcasts. As a result, Damon Bruce has moved to Noon to 4 PM on sister station 1050 AM.

PHILADELPHIA: 76ers radio play-by-play voice Tom McGinnis missed a pair of game broadcasts last week due to "a personal matter". Jon Gurevitch, the former Sixers announcer now with Comcast, filled in for the broadcasts from Phoenix and Los Angeles.

CINCINNATI: Still another long-time newspaper writer will be picking up a microphone starting this week. Hal McCoy, who was forced into retirement at the end of the Reds 2009 season, has been hired by Fox Sports Ohio for its Reds game coverage. As a result, McCoy will get to cover the team for his 38th season. In addition to appearing on "Reds Live" pre and post-game shows, he will also contribute to the Fox Sports Ohio web site with stories and interviews.

CLEVELAND: SportsTime Ohio, the local cable TV network, has increased its spring training coverage this year. The 6-day a week "All Bets Are Off" talk show hosted by Bruce Drennan is airing all this week from the Indians' training camp in Goodyear AZ. The network will carry the team's exhibition opener this Friday but will be picking up the Reds' feed. Might be a bit tough on the Indians fans to have the other team's announcing, but if it helps to get the telecast on, it works for me.

PITTSBURGH: The Fan 93.7 KDKA-FM scored points with its audience when they got Pirates President Frank Coonelly to call in last week. A prominent local interview always helps. However, considering the number of qualified sportscasters looking for work, the station could also do better than Kalena Bell doing some of their sports updates. Not only don't NHL players "make" goals, but misprouncing the name Kent Tekulve in Pittsburgh doesn't help to endear the station to serious sports fans.

The Fan did add New York Vinnie (Vinnie Richichi) last week to co-host afternoon drive with columnist Ron Cook. Vinnie comes to Pittsburgh after several years in Seattle including a stint at KIRO.

HOUSTON: Astros fans with cable (or satellite which carries Fox Sports Houston) will feast this season. Fox Sports Houston will carry 152 games this season with KTXH-TV airing only 7 games. If Fox-TV stays with 3 Astros regional Saturday telecasts, fans could see literally every game on TV this season.

HAWAII: KUPA 1370 is back on the air, and is now a Fox Sports Radio affiliate. To their credit, much of the programming will air live, putting Jim Rome on during morning drive. Here is one instance where delaying Dan Patrick's show is justified. Rather than air live from 3 to 6 AM local time, it will air from 9 AM until Noon on weekdays. At least the games being previewed won't already have finished, such as happens in Chicago and some other markets airing Patrick on tape delay. However, as of now the station has yet to announce any local programming, and starts up against KKEA 1420 ESPN Radio, which does have some local shows.

ALABAMA: ESPN-TV is aware of the interest in University of Alabama football. The spring football game has drawn at least 80,000 fans over the past few years. As a result ESPN will televise the game, for the 2nd straight year, now scheduled for April 17th.

REDDING CA: Just after we carried the story last week that 96.1 FM will carry the San Francisco Giants broadcasts this season comes word that Fox Sports 1670 will carry the Oakland A's games. In addition, 1670 is picking up the NBA Sacramento Kings games starting March 16th when the Kings meet the Lakers, and continuing through the following season. A restriction by Comcast Cable prevents the Kings telecasts from being shown in Redding, thus the significance of the radio package. Then again, the way the Kings are going this season, they might do better to restrict telecasts anyway.

BILLINGS: Congrats to Joe Block for becoming the play-by-play voice of the baseball minor league Billings Mustangs starting this season. Much further south, Block handles the pre-game, halftime, and post-game for the New Orleans Hornets Radio Network, as well as handling play-by-play assignments for Comcast Sports Southeast and Cox Sports Television.

MARSHFIELD PA: WATD Sports Director Bill Wilhelm continues to recover from being in a coma for more than a day last week. He is a local icon who has broadcast more than 2,000 sports events over the past 30+ years. In a wonderful gesture, WATD has devoted a page on its web site for well wishers, and more than 100 comments were up within the first 12 hours.