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.

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