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 http://www.sportsradio610.com/pages/5535348.php?poll74326ViewResults=1 . 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.

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