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.

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