Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - June 30th update

Baseball makes broadcast history this Sunday, even if it will be in England. BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra plans to broadcast the Tampa Bay at Minnesota game live this coming Sunday (July 4). Due to the significant time zone difference, this will air live late Sunday night.

Although they will pick up one of the team local feeds (and we're not certain as to which one), BBC plans to have local commentary during appropriate breaks in the action. This will be first time a MLB game will air live in England. This is reportedly a one-time arrangement, but this doesn't mean it won't lead to more.

Meanwhile, the NFL will have its own "first" for interested TV viewers on September 26th. The league is allowing Telemundo to air the Dolphins vs. Jets game (a Sunday night game to air nationally on NBC) on its stations in South Florida and the NYC area. In addition, Telemundo's Los Angeles outlet will also show the game live. Now I wonder if, since it is a Sunday Night telecast, Telemundo will have about 20 different announcers involved in the telecast in order to compete with NBC.

For us U.S. baseball fans, this Sunday will include the All-Star Game team announcements being shown on TBS at Noon ET, prior to its 1:00 PM ET telecast of the Yannkees vs. Blue Jays. Due to Sunday being a holiday, the usual Sunday Night Baseball restriction does not apply. Sunday night games, such as the Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers, will be shown on the regular local team outlets against ESPN's Kansas City vs. L.A. Angeles telecast.

TBS will show the Mets vs. Atlanta on July 11th at 1 PM ET, and then the Yankees vs. Tampa Bay on July 18 at 1 PM ET. Heck, I haven't looked to see which NY team has the more attractive game scheduled for July 25th, so we'll see what TBS chooses for that "national" telecast.

A few key broadcast assignments have been announced over the past couple of days. Kevin Harlan has been chosen as the play-by-play voice for Westwood One Radio on Monday Night Football starting this coming season. Harlan will become the sixth MNF radio play-by-play man in the nearly 40 years of the games being on radio. The joke used to be that Howard Cosell did more for the success of MNF on the radio than any of them. (Many did not like Cosell on ABC-TV and thus began the practice of turning down the TV sound in favor of the radio broadcast.)

If you are wondering, the previous radio voices on MNF were Lindsey Nelson, Jack Buck, Don Criqui, Howard David, and Marv Albert. Boomer Esiason continues as analyst.

On the NBA side, Steve Kerr has been hired back by TNT (and NBA-TV) to resume analyst duties for NBA telecasts and related programming starting with the coming season. Kerr in effect replaces Doug Collins who left to coach the 76ers.

Meanwhile, sorry to learn of the death of sportscaster Lorn Brown late last week at the age of 71. Brown had 2 play-by-play stints with the Chicago White Sox between 1976 and 1988, with the first one including TV and radio. In between he worked Mets TV on WOR-TV, but failed to catch on in New York when he relaxed his style for television. His basketball experience on TV included the (then) Washington Bullets, Notre Dame, DePaul University, and several Big Ten and ACC conference games. Lorn even called some hockey in Chicago for the old WHA Chicago Cougars in the mid-70's.

He was a hard worker, coming up with endless statistics and player information years before the internet and the information age. I had the privilege of knowing and even helping him in the booth on several occasions. It hurts to lose him so soon.

Fox Sports Prime Ticket did a solid job of televising the public Memorial Service for Johnny Wooden this past Saturday (June 26). It was nice to see the broadcast world so well represented at the tribute. In addition to Al Michaels as host, attendees (at Pauley Pavillion, of course) and viewers also heard from Dick Enberg and Vin Scully along with a host of players. People forget that Enberg was once the lead voice for NBC-TV's college basketball telecasts during the Wooden coaching era. I still find it hard to believe that there was only a local telecast in the L.A. area and for those around the country who receive Prime Ticket. This was truly an event national in scope.

SACRAMENTO: Long time radio host Don Geronimo, known nationally from his morning shows over the years, has resurfaced on the air. This time hosting a sports talk show. Geronimo now hosts Noon to 4 PM PT on KHTK Radio, and plans to relocate to the Sacramento area within the next 5 months. For now, he does the show from his Ocean City MD home. His show is now being streamed at KHTK.CBSLocal.com.

TAMPA: Congrats to Rays TV voice DeWayne Staats on calling his 5,000th baseball game late last week. Staats has previously done play-by-play for the Astros and Cubs, among others, following his stint back the in 70's as Sports Director at KPLR-TV in St. Louis.


The NFL has allowed the Baltimore Ravens games to be broadcast on a Washington station, as WFED 1500 will also air the games it can. When WFED has a play-by-play conflict, 1050 AM will carry the Ravens games, including pre-season.

On the TV side, MASN is bringing back the John Riggins (radio) Show to its afternoon lineup, simulcasting with WTOP 103.5 HD2. Starting within the next 3 weeks, Riggins is expected to air from 4 until 6:30 PM, with MASN continuing to carry Scott Garceau's show from 105.7 WJZ-FM from 2 until 4 PM. Riggins' "Triple X Sports" show aired on MASN from 2006 until 2008.

MIAMI: Even though we are just over a month away from the start of the NFL pre-season, the Miami Dolphins' broadcast booths are not yet finalized. Nothing has been made official yet regarding the radio calls, although Jimmy Cefalo, Jim Mandich, and Joe Rose are strong possibilities to return. On the TV side, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald is among those speculating that the Dolphins' pre-season telecasts will have Dick Stockton on play-by-play. Lesley Visser, Stockton's wife, will again contribute to the telecasts, and the couple has a home in Boca Raton. WFOR-TV will have all 4 pre-season telecasts since none of the networks will show the Dolphins nationally. Craig Bolerjack, who had been commuting from Salt Lake City for the past four years, is not expected to return to the pre-season play-by-play role. Bob Griese and Nat Moore are already scheduled to be analysts.

WACO TX: Smoak on the water. KRZI 1660 Sports Talk has hired David Smoak as its station manager and a host. He comes from ESPN Radio Dallas where he hosted "SportsCenter Saturday", and replaces Tom Barfield, who leaves radio after 28 years in local broadcasting.

RALEIGH/DURHAM: WDNC 620 The Bull has added Bomani Jones to its midday lineup in addition to Sports Saturday on 850 The Buzz. Nearby WFAY 1230 Fayetteville had also added its afternoon "Nick Sekkas Show" to sister station WFBX 1450 serving the Spring Lake area.

SCHEDULE: The Steven Strasburg run of national telecasts continues this Saturday (July 3rd) as Fox has switched regional games and added the Nationals hosting the Mets to its lineup. Strasburg is scheduled to be the starting pitcher in that game as of press time. There is plenty of room for the networks to add games that he pitches to the schedule. It's not as if there had been any demand for Nationals games until he was brought up to the majors, so there is no danger of using up the maximum number of appearances.

The Fox-TV Saturday baseball regional schedule, as of now:

Saturday, July 3
New York Mets at Washington Nationals
Tampa Bay Rays at Minnesota Twins
Florida Marlins at Atlanta Braves

Saturday, July 10
Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers
Atlanta Braves at New York Mets
Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers

Saturday, July 17
Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

Saturday, July 24
New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers
Colorado Rockies at Philadelphia Phillies
Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles

Saturday, July 31
Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
Seattle Mariners at Minnesota Twins

Saturday, Aug. 7
Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
San Francisco Giants at Atlanta Braves

Saturday, Aug. 14
Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants
Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays

Saturday, Aug. 21
Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota Twins
Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles

Saturday, Aug. 28
Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres
Minnesota Twins at Seattle Mariners
Florida Marlins at Atlanta Braves

Saturday, Sept. 4
New York Mets at Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Angels at Oakland A’s
Texas Rangers at Minnesota Twins

Saturday, Sept. 11
Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves
Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels

Saturday, Sept. 18
Atlanta Braves at New York Mets
Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox
Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers

On the college basketball scene, CBS-TV has chosen the Duke at North Carolina game for next March 5th as a prime-time telecast on the network.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - June 23rd update

The May ratings were also good for many sports radio stations. In Detroit, WXYT-FM The Ticket finished on top in the market with an overall audience increase. The most recent ratings period coincided with the Red Wings having been in the NHL Playoffs and the Tigers getting off to a winning start. WFAN New York finished first in its key demographic, 25-54 males.

In Cincinnati, the unexpected great start by the Reds undoubtedly played a part in a nearly 1 share increase from the prior month for WLW 700. The longtime Reds flagship station (even though not all sports) has now finished first during every ratings period going back more than 10 years.

PHILADELPHIA: Congrats to "Big Al" who has been named to receive the Board of Governors Award from the NATAS Mid-Atlantic Chapter. Al Meltzer will receive the honor on September 25th in celebration of his 50 years on television. His Philadelphia legend began on WPHL-TV back in 1964 and later included a 20-year stint on WCAU-TV 10. In addition, Meltzer handled play-by-play for the Buffalo Bills from 1971-77.

HOUSTON: The Westwood One NFL package comes to KILT 610 for the coming season. And it is "coming". We are now about one month away from the pre-season Hall of Fame Game opener.

Southland Conference Football comes to some TV sets, as KHOU-TV's digital channel 11.2 will carry games, including Sept. 25, Oct. 16, and Oct. 23, with two of those telecasts involving Sam Houston State.

CHICAGO: Dave Otto is filling in as radio commentator on WGN Radio's broadcasts of the Cubs at Seattle series through Thursday (June 24). Otto fills in for Ron Santo, who stayed back in Chicago, rather than visit his hometown for a very rare Cubs appearance there, due to health concerns. The 70-year old Santo may be reducing his travel no later than next season. Santo is handling a pre-game radio segment live by phone.

It was extra innings radio style for WSCR The Score's Les Grobstein last Thursday (June 17). The station usually fills time overnight by running the Dan Patrick Show from the previous morning from roughly 1 to 3:45 AM. However, the show did not air that night. Plus, the station's White Sox broadcast and post-game show ended about 9:45, giving Les an early start. Without the Dan Patrick airing, Grobstein was on doing his live call-in show, plus his own scoreboard updates, straight until 5 AM. Makes you wonder when you hear some of these sports stations with two hosts handling a mere two-hour shift.

LOS ANGELES: The Oakland Raiders broadcasts into the L.A. market are moving back to the AM dial, but not always at the same place. While it is fine that KLAA 830 and KSPN 710 work together, now the Raiders broadcasts enter the confusion. First, you need a scorecard to find the Angels broadcasts as the two stations share those. Now, it seems that the Raiders will air on KLAA unless KLAA has an Angels game. In that event, the Radiers move to KSPN.

CINCINNATI: WQRT 1160 wants to increase its sports presence beyond the afternoon Andy Furman Show. However, none of the major local teams are available at the moment. Seems like a reach, but the station actually issued a press release because it is adding Northern Kentucky University basketball starting with the coming season.

BOSTON: With all of the recent attention to the Boston sports market and the relative success of its "big four" sports teams (Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, Red Sox), it's nice to see a niche sports show dedicated to the local high school scene draw some attention.

Dominic Damiano and Del Lane now host the "Four Deep Sports Talk" show on Saturdays. The show, which features a review of the local high school top 20 and interviews one of the area coaches each week, airs each Saturday from 11 AM to Noon on WVBF 1570. The two also stream the show on FourDeepSportsTalk.com.

TORONTO: No more free lunch for Leafs fans. Sort of. Even with some degree of success with its "Leafs Lunch" from Noon to 1 PM on weekdays, AM 640 decided to stick with syndicated talk during the day and canceled the show - at least until September. At that time, however, it would compete directly with The Fan 590's "Hockey Central" show which airs in hockey season from Noon to 2 PM.

On the hoops side, Rogers SportsNet is reportedly close to a new deal to bring back some NBA Raptors telecasts as quickly as the coming season. While TSN will carry up to 47 games, as many as 35 games could come to Rogers instead of CBC, which will no longer carry any Raptors games.

INDIANAPOLIS: Still another pro team's broadcasts are moving from the AM dial to FM. Few of those moves are odder than this one. The Fan 1070, the highest rated all sports station in the market, will no longer carry the broadcasts. Instead, they move to WIBC-FM 93.1, which is news-talk. The long-time broadcast team stays in place, with Mark Boyle and Bob Leonard on the call for their 23rd season working together.

Other than the Indy Colts, the Pacers are the only other 'major league' team in the Indy area. I can't believe that losing those broadcasts at night will result in any audience increase for the all-sports station. But I also have another gripe about pro teams moving from strong-signal AM stations to FM. At night, many people listen to the game because they don't have access to TV, and much of that listening is done in cars or at work. Fans can pick up the game further out of town on the AM side, but the coverage map of most FM's is more limited. Over the past couple of years, I have found too many instances while on driving trips where supposed "radio affiliates" of pro teams do not carry all of the games, leaving more fans without easy access than most teams realize.

Then again, I'm not sure that fans would make a big effort just to hear the Pacers these days.

FRESNO: KFIG 1430 AM and its Paul Swearengin Morning Show is now simulcast on TV as of this week. KJEO-TV (channel 32.1 digital and available on most area cable systems) now picks up a TV simulcast from the radio studio starting at 7 AM. The surrounding cable coverage already extends the coverage area beyond the radio signal for the show.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - June 15th update

Here it is the month of June, yet it is the heavy viewership and ratings for the "winter sports" of basketball and hockey which dominate the sports media news.

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs concluded with record TV audiences for NBC, Versus, and local and regional networks covering teams which were involved until the Chicago Blackhawks' clinching win in overtime of Game 6.

Making it even more interesting is the record ratings coming from cities such as Kansas City, New Orleans, and Memphis, which do not have and are not within proximity of NHL teams.

On the NBA side, Game 5 between the Lakers and Celtics won the night in TV ratings and showed more than a 35% increase from last year's Game 5 between the Lakers and Orlando. This looks to be the highest rated NBA Finals series since L.A. vs. Detroit in 2004.

Why have sports on TV caught on so much within the past couple of years? My feeling is that the onslaught of big screen TV's along with HD and the increase in technology, combined with ticket costs pricing out the 'average' fan, have given us very strong reasons to watch on TV instead of going.

The increase in technology includes the amount of information about the game shown on the screen. Fans attending the games don't have access to the mountain of statistics we see on TV, along with the ability to see the score and game status (i.e. game clock, inning, etc.) along with the action without having to look away. Fans can also be online for even more statistics and updates on their game of interest as well as out of town games when watching on TV, whereas at the game they do not have nearly as much of this information available.

Plus, you don't have to pay $25 and up to be parked when watching on TV.

Then again, if this continues, sports on TV will wind up costing us even more than game tickets and the costs associated with it. The higher the ratings, the more money the TV networks will need to spend to retain the telecast rights. And the more money they spend, the higher our cable or satellite bills will be.

Speaking of TV, it's time to step back and realize how television is the real force behind college teams turning free agent on their conferences and jumping around as if they have agents and can up and leave when their time comes.

The University of Texas appears to be staying in the Big 12 (as of press time on Tuesday afternoon), which appears to mean that the Conference will live past this week and keep most of its other current member schools. The reason?

It appears to be TV. Reports have surfaced that U. of Texas is preparing to begin its own TV network, and that would be a first. Not a Conference network, such as The Big Ten Network, but one just for the school. Since TV revenue is such a driving force behind schools jumping around, the conferences wooing U of T would not allow Texas to do this. But the stakes are high enough for the Big 12 that the time may well have come.

If it comes to pass that U of T implements its own TV network, it might not be the plus the school and Big 12 think. Without football, there wouldn't be nearly as much interest in the other sports, with the possible exception of basketball. However, Texas would need to play 'lesser' schools in order to televise the games itself. Games against the larger conferences would be shown on ESPN/ABC, Fox Sports, or larger regional networks with exclusive contracts for selected games. Yet, if Texas starts playing schools without TV commitments, then their schedule and caliber of play is weakened.

Elsewhere, it appears that there will not be a national telecast of the public memorial service for Coach John Wooden. How can this be?

The service will take place, appropriately, at UCLA's Pauley Pavillion on Saturday June 26 at 11 AM PT, and is already expected to last about 90 minutes. UCLA is opening the doors at 9 AM and is already planning to put up video boards at Drake Stadium in the event of an overflow crowd.

The service is now scheduled to be streamed at UCLA.edu, and will be televised locally on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Televised locally?

What about the rest of the country? ESPN/ABC, CBS, Fox Sports, and several regional networks spend millions of dollars for college basketball telecasts. We just had Turner Sports and CBS commiting millions and millions more for NCAA tourney telecasts in the years to come.

Yet, none of them has stepped forward to help millions of basketball fans remember perhaps its greatest coach ever? Wooden almost made it to his 100th birthday, so it's not as though his passing was tragic or unexpected. This is a service for his many fans to honor him.

Where are these networks now? Sorry, but I'll be disappointed if at least one of the national networks doesn't donate to a Wooden fund of some sort in order to be able to televise some or all of this memorial. What better way to be tied in with college basketball?

Elsewhere, who would have ever guessed that the TBS national telecast on June 13 would have been Washington at Cleveland? Even TBS didn't, until days before when they made the choice of switching from the originally scheduled Philly vs. Boston game. Steven Strasburg not only has command on the mound, but already has command with the TV networks. It will be interesting to see how long this continues.

His next start will come either Friday or Saturday (as of press time) in D.C. against the Chicago White Sox. MLB Network has already scheduled to pick up the Friday night game, an obvious move. Just in case the start is Saturday, Fox has moved the game from its original 7:05 start to a 4:10 ET start to include it among its telecasts. This is a rare instance of flex scheduling for Fox in June. Yet, one of those networks will not have Strasburg, instead sticking a regional or national audience with the Nationals.

TBS has the Mets at Yankees this Sunday (June 20) at 1:00 ET, and has chosen Detroit at Atlanta for June 27th at 1:30 PM ET. Granted, TBS does not have the ability to set start times for its Sunday series, but I still contend that TBS is hurt by the staggered start times each week. There will be fans tuning in on June 27th between 1 and 1:30 PM ET who then will not find a game on (after the past 2+ Sundays) and will tune elsewhere and miss out. There is no easy solution to this, although perhaps TBS doing an extended baseball pre-game show each week would help to maintain a consistent audience.

CHICAGO: Another instance of media promoting other media disguised as a sports story. This past Friday (June 11), a story came out that Cubs Manager Lou Pinella disagreed with comments made by TV and radio analyst Steve Stone about the use of one of his players. Even worse is how this played out in the local media.

Stone currently is the analyst on White Sox TV, but also does weekly segments on Comcast SportsNet Chicago (which airs most of the White Sox games) and is the baseball analyst for WSCR The Score 670.

Pinella chose a pre-game media gathering to disagree with some of Stone's comments. So what?

Comcast SportsNet actually put that "story" as the lead AHEAD of game reports, even though the White Sox vs. Cubs series is highly anticipated in Chicago. That is offensive to the fans, but I dismissed it because CSN employs Stone and wanted to make it a bigger deal than it should have been.

Worse yet, the "story" was picked up by other TV and radio stations in the market. Why would they give Steve Stone the publicity? The TV stations seemed to forget that they are, in effect, competing for sportscast viewers against CSN every night, while the radio stations gave publicity to an analyst for another station they compete against in the ratings.

Call me "old school" on this one, but once upon a time I would have been scolded big time for airing such a story. Wait. No I wouldn't. No way I would have put this story on the air, unless I was working for one of the same stations as Stone. And then, it would have come well after the game story.

Would you believe "Dancing With The Stars" beats the Bears vs. Packers next fall, according to WLS-TV? The ABC owned station was all set to carry the local version of ESPN Monday Night Football on September 27th when the NFL's biggest rivalry is renewed between the Bears and Packers. Until execs realized that a live "Dancing With The Stars" is scheduled for that same night on ABC Network.

Believe it or not, the station has moved the Bears vs. Packers game over to WCIU-TV. Here's hoping that Chicago fans view the game on ESPN that night. I don't have to hope for a ratings win for the football game. I'm counting on it.

That also means that at least one Bears game will be seen on 6 different Chicago TV stations next season. WFLD-TV (Fox) will have several, WBBM-TV (CBS) will have a couple, and a Sunday Night Football appearance on WMAQ-TV is one for NBC. A December 20 game is scheduled for Monday Night Football, and unless ABC-TV has a live program, WLS-TV will show that one. WGN-TV (local, not WGN America) will show a Thursday night game from NFL Network. And now WCIU-TV picks up the Monday Night Football game vs. Green Bay. Yikes.

SAN FRANCISCO: Ken Korach continues to do a respectable job calling the Oakland A's games on radio over the past few years. However, it seems way too soon for Korach to appear on the list of nominees this year for the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame. Especially when you learn that Jon Miller and Hal Ramey are among other nominees who have yet to be inducted. Yes, that's the Jon Miller who has done Giants games as well as ESPN Sunday Night Baseball for just over 20 years.

Since the public decides, this may not be an issue. Voting online is underway through July 17th at www.barhof.com.

St. LOUIS: While rumors persist that Cardinals baseball could return to KMOX and its dominant signal next season, KMOX will keep the St. Louis Blues NHL broadcasts for what is estimated to be a five-year renewal. The Blues have been back on KMOX for the past three seasons. With the new deal, the Blues actually buy the air time and sell their own advertising.

As a sports fan, I like this type of arrangement because it puts more pressure on the team to perform well so that there will be enough audience interest to keep generating happy advertisers. Fox Sports Midwest continues its TV deal.

NASHVILLE: Here's a good idea. Predators play-by-play voice Tom Callahan will host and welcome fans to the team's own NHL Draft party scheduled for a Nashville sports bar on June 25th.

SCHENECTADY NY: What ever happened to "joined in progress"? WTMM-FM 104.5 was scheduled to carry the Yankees broadcast this past Saturday (June 12) against Houston starting at 1:00. They could also carry the ESPN Radio broadcast of the U.S. vs. England World Cup Soccer match, which started at 2:30 PM.

Their decision? They dropped the Yankees broadcast (and I don't know that the game aired anywhere in the market) and carried the entire soccer broadcast.

It wasn't my decision, but that is absolutely NOT how I would have handled that. I think WTMM should have carried the Yankees broadcast as usual, and then joined the soccer in progress at the conclusion. A studio host could have given updates on the soccer game between innings of the Yankees broadcast. What do fans miss if they don't hear every minute of a soccer game on radio?

These events were not head-to-head, and the baseball game ended before the soccer match. I would back off on this under one condition, which would be if the fans had a say. I don't know for certain that it was a station decision to do it this way, but I would apologize if it turns out that listeners voted the soccer match as a priority.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - June 8th update

There are a couple of separate stories from the past few days both worthy of comment. In their own ways, they could impact local sports reporting.

First, the story reported exclusively by Michael Starr in the N.Y. Post on Tuesday (June 8). He reports that cable channel SNY (owned by Comcast) is in discussions with 2 of the NYC TV stations about providing sports reports for their respective newscasts. Presumably, this would mean these TV stations significantly reducing if not eliminating their sports departments.

From a business standpoint, I would understand the move, since it would save the TV stations salary money, yet continue to provide credible sports coverage. But from a fan standpoint, I still wouldn't like it, because it would provide fewer "reporters" covering the scene, and thus fewer sources of information.

Suppose this goes into effect, and SNY is beaten by WFAN on an important local sports story. This would give the CBS stations (of which WFAN is part) an even bigger scoop, since now SNY and perhaps 2 of the TV stations would be scooped. Fewer TV sports reporters means fewer breaking stories, less "scoops" and a lot less digging for information trying to be first.

Yet, that isn't my biggest concern. Frankly, I'm not too pleased with the recent trend in long form TV sportscasts to jump around like they do. I would like to think I'm not "old school" on this one, but I don't like how ESPN and now some of the others jump around from sport to sport constantly.

This bit of doing a baseball story, then a hockey story, then a basketball story, and then back to baseball highlights is starting to drive me nuts. I realized just the other day how little I watch SportsCenter now. It gets tough to follow the important sports when they are every 3rd or 4th story.

Since ESPN has been doing this for a while, now I'm seeing some of the long form sports shows on local Comcast networks and some Fox Sports regional networks doing the same thing.

I suppose they think they will keep the fans watching longer if they have to watch an entire half hour or hour to see all of the baseball or basketball highlights. Not with me. It loses continuity to jump around like that.

Years ago when radio was the dominant source of sports news, the general consensus was that if you lead with a basketball story, then include the rest of the major basketball news before moving on to baseball or whatever category was going to come next.

Now, SportsCenter (and some other shows of a similar nature) treat us as if we WANT a mish-mash of scores, stories, and highlights. I understand when ESPN goes to an update of a game in progress, no matter the sport, but this trend has expanded to pre-planned highlights, interviews, and analysis. Sorry, but I shouldn't have to wait 20 minutes to get more reaction to a big story. If it's that important, then it merits coverage all at once.

It's also getting worse on some of the sports radio stations. I have heard several during local programming doing night and weekend updates and failing to provide the entire out-of-town scoreboards. It has gotten to the point that I'm going more and more to the web to get scores and updates. And not to the sites operated by the stations, channels, and networks that aren't giving me the information I want concisely or at all. If they don't deliver for me on the air, why would I count on their web sites?

The other story of note happened in Toronto last week with The Fan 590 and its decision to suspend reporter Mike Wilner. According to witnesses and sources such as the National Post, Wilner questioned in-game pitching decisions made by Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston during the interview session, but did so without swearing, ridiculing, or confronting Gaston.

Supposedly Gaston did not answer directly, only asking Wilner if he had "seen the stats". Yet, The Fan 'suspended' Wilner for the 3 games the Blue Jays played vs. the Yankees this past weekend. Keep in mind that Rogers Communications owns The Fan, as well as other radio stsations, as well as Rogers SportsNet and other cable channels. Wilner is a 'beat reporter' covering the Jays for the station, and was trying to get a story about the team he is assigned to.

Speculation has it that there must have been a complaint from the Blue Jays, whether from Gaston or a higher up. I personally did not hear the exchange between Wilner and Gaston, so it's hard to comment any further. But from all accounts, there does not appear to be any intent with Wilner's line of questioning. But if a team can exercise that kind of control over a large media group like that, it's not good.

Thus my conclusion that these top 2 stories relate, and it can lead to lesser coverage for us as sports fans.

Monday Night Football will have a new radio play-by-play voice for the coming season. On Friday (June 4), Marv Albert announced that we is foregoing the final year of his current contract. Too soon to tell if this due to another football related position, wanting to reduce a busy broadcast schedule, or the start of looking at retirement. As of now, Marv is still slated to call at least 75 NBA games next season for TNT and YES Network (New Jersey Nets).

MIAMI: Nothing further than a reprimand by WQAM 560 management for Sid Rosenberg following last week's comments about Utah being "gorgeous, but a horrible place to live" during an on-air chat with Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer. Rosenberg followed up by asking, "But those Mormon people are crazy, aren't they?", later claiming he was joking around after Boozer came to their defense in his answer.

HOUSTON: KILT 610 will officially enter their option year next season for Rockets broadcasts, which they have hosted since 2002. Word is the station will add more player features or shows during the season.

DENVER: The Fan 104.3 is bringing Jim Rome to Denver to host his June 21st show live from a downtown restaurant. Due to limited seating, the station is going to be giving away tickets to listeners. Two sides to that idea.

On one hand, instead of knowing in advance that the restaurant has limited capacity, the station could put Rome in a larger venue and accomodate as many listeners as it can. On the other hand, having fewer fans who made an effort to win the tickets will likely make for a better broadcast and a more positive experience for those who do attend.

CHARLOTTESVILLE: Another sports radio station is going away. WKTR ESPN 840 will be on the air only through this month. At least it isn't due to ratings. The station has been sold to a religous broadcaster which plans to change the format as of June 30th. The station has already dropped all local sports programming.

FISHKILL NY: Good luck to 23 year-old Nick Gagalis, who begins his first season as a play-by-play voice on WBNR 1260 calling the Hudson Valley Renegades of the Class A NY Penn League. The Boston University graduate called Cape Cod summer league games for the past 3 seasons. The broadcasts will also stream on HVRenegades.com.

CLARKSVILLE TN: No need to take the last train to catch this. Since ESPN 540 canceled its "Afternoon Blitz" local call-in show, the local newspaper decided to start an online only Monday through Friday show for at least one hour each afternoon at 3:00. The "Sports and More with the Big Dog" show, hosted by James Horne, started on Monday (June 7th). So 3 separate times I logged on to Leaf-Chronicle.com to listen in, and the site wouldn't let me in either time. Must have already had a listener.


TBS Sunday baseball goes interleague the next 2 Sundays. This Sunday (June 13th) they carry the Phillies at Red Sox at 1:30 ET, and on June 20th the Mets at Yankees at 1:00 ET. I still contend that TBS not having control over starting times does not help the ratings. Again, not consistent starting times. If fans don't know when to tune in, they have more opportunities to find games or other programming elsewhere and not have the need to return to TBS. Dick Stockton will handle play-by-play of both of these telecasts.

CBS-TV continues to work on its college football telecast schedule for the coming season. As of now, they will have Florida vs. Tennessee on Sept. 18th, as well as Notre Dame-Navy on Oct. 23, Georgia-Florida on Oct. 30 and Army-Navy on Dec. 11.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - June 3rd update

The NFL is responding to the increase in its audience ratings from the past season in a positive way for the fans. By making even more NFL action available.

Many fans attending games at NFL stadiums will have the ability to see the NFL Red Zone including highlights and updated statistics from other games. The league reportedly wants to get the Red Zone into each stadium, and to this point the Patriots, Ravens, and Bears are among the teams confirming their part in making this happen. This looks to be an especially valuable service to fans coming to see games which are doubleheader games, enabling them to track the progress of division and possible playoff rivals late in their games while waiting the in-person kickoff.

Personally, this is a great response to my comments over the years about how fans attending NFL games get the least amount of what I call "in-game benefits" of any sport. The other pro sports generally offer more replays and more information about other games and teams in the league than is generally seen at NFL games. Adding the Red Zone at the stadiums puts the NFL up there with the other sports in this regard.

The Tribune Company has stepped up with the NFL and secured the local package of the NFL Thursday night regular season games for the local markets served by Tribune owned TV stations.

The full schedule includes Chicago (WGN) at Miami (WSFL) on Nov. 18; Cincinnati at the New York Jets (WPIX) on Nov. 25; Houston (KIAH) at Philadelphia (WPHL) on Dec. 2; Indianapolis (WXIN) at Tennessee on Dec. 9; San Francisco at San Diego (KSWB) on Dec. 16; and Dallas (KDAF) at Arizona on Dec. 25.

In addition, these Tribune stations will also provide additional local pre and post-game programming in support. However, the games on WGN-TV and WPIX will only be available in the local markets, and not on WGN America or outside markets served by WPIX.

On the NHL side, NBC enjoyed the best 2-game combined ratings for Stanley Cup Final telecasts from its Game 1 and Game 2 telecasts on Memorial Day weekend since 1999. Even more interesting is that among the Top 10 markets for audience ratings those two nights (Saturday May 29 and Monday 31) were Indianapolis at #4, Seattle at #7 and Ft. Myers at #9. None of those 3 markets has an NHL team.

By the way, can anyone explain why it is officially shown as the "Stanley Cup Final" and the "NBA Finals"?

Meanwhile, baseball analyst Steve Phillips now has some TV work lined up. The former ESPN analyst will be a part of "The Real Score" a syndicated Sunday morning TV sports show which will debut September 12th. Jennifer Gilbert of WBFF Baltimore will be the primary host. The show is signed up in 30 markets and will air each Sunday prior to NFL programming. Jerry Rice and Vince Dooley are among the football contributors, while former NBA General Managers Pat Williams and Stan Kasten will help with basketball features. Strong lineup for a new show. Might be worth keeping an eye on.

HOUSTON: Rice University football and basketball games will continue on KFNC 97.5 for the coming seasons.

PITTSBURGH: Another sports station moves from AM to FM. KSEK ESPN will be moving from 1340 AM to 99.1 FM. In this instance, it will be for a better signal and more area coverage. They will have some additional local flavor. Very local. The station will carry Fort Scott Community College football and basketball, noting that they have an "exclusive" agreement for those broadcasts. I hadn't heard that any other stations were interested in carrying a community college's games.

FT. MYERS: Fox Sports 1200 gave up the local fight during afternoon drive, canceling "The Red Zone" (the local name, not the NFL Network), leaving hosts Clayton Ferraro and Adam Mendelson to each continue with their positions at WINK-TV. The syndicated "Hartman and Friends" replaces it. Therefore, ESPN 770 and its Miller & Moulton" show is now the only local sports show each afternoon. While I normally don't like to see a local show get taken off, given that Ft. Myers/Naples is heavy with sports "transplants", this is one time when a national show just might make sense as competition.

ALBANY: While WOFX 980 and WTMM The Team 104.5 compete for the local sports audience, neither station finished in the upper half of the overall ratings for the market, although The Team has a much stronger audience than WOFX. Probably a victim of no pro teams in the market, and the off-season for college hoops or football. Not a lot to debate.

GOLF: Golfers and pro golf tour fans continue to get more options for listening via internet. The Fan 97.1 Columbus now podcasts its weekly golf show at:

Niche shows such as that one which are still fresh make sense to be available online, helping to serve a niche audience as part of what a sports station has to offer.

In addition, the Metro Golf Show on WVOX 1460 from New Rochelle NY will have Anikka Sorenstam as a guest this Saturday (June 5) at 8 AM ET, and has Tom Watson scheduled for the following Saturday. That show streams on wvox.com.


Pitcher Stephen Stasburg becomes the most televised rookie pitcher in recent memory. After Versus stepped to the plate and televised his minor league start on Thursday (June 3) live (followed by a prime time replay), MLB Network is scheduled to air his big league debut on Tuesday (June 8) when the Washington Nationals host Pittsburgh. Even though it will be on Tuesday, the Network will originate the telecast with Bob Costas on play-by-play.

Speaking of Versus, the network will televise the NHL's second outdoor hockey game of next season. Next Feb. 20th, Versus will show the Calgary Flames hosting Montreal from McMahon Stadium, which is the home stadium of the CFL's Calgary Stampeders. NBC-TV continues its New Year's Day telecasts of the Winter Classic on January 1st with the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting Washington in the stadium used by the Steelers.

ESPN and ABC have announced some selections for Big 12 Conference football telecasts next fall:

ESPN & Big 12 football:
Sat, Sep 11 3:30 p.m. No. 16 Florida State at No. 12 Oklahoma ** ABC and ESPN2
Sat, Sep 18 8 p.m. No. 4 Texas at Texas Tech ** ABC and ESPN2
Sat, Sep 25 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. UCLA at No. 4 Texas ABC
Fri, Nov 26 3:30 p.m. Colorado at No. 7 Nebraska ABC
Sat, Nov 27 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. No. 12 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State ABC
Sat, Dec 4 8 p.m. Big 12 Championship (from Cowboys Stadium) ABC

In addition, Kansas and Kansas State have moved their scheduled game from October 16th ahead to Thursday night Oct. 14. That game will be shown on Fox Sports Net.