Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - July 14th update

How about this? Opposing radio stations actually hustling to compete for listeners. This month. It's about time. Miami sports radio stations are gearing up for the upcoming NFL season whether the Dolphins are in contention or not.

We are waiting to learn what impact there may be as 790 The Ticket begins its extensive Dolphins coverage with play-by-play and an afternoon drive show dedicated to Dolphins and NFL coverage. Now rival Sports Talk WQAM 560 is bringing definitive football talk to the early afternoon. WQAM has reportedly signed Michael Irvin to host the local Noon to 3 PM slot beginning on July 26th and prior to the pre-season openers.

Many NFL fans may not realize that Irvin played high school football in South Florida and was a Miami U. Hurricane prior to his success with the NFL Dallas Cowboys. Thus the local ties in place.

Irvin's show appears to be an ideal fit. In addition to the local tie-in to draw Dolphins fans, his national scope figures to appeal to the large number of 'transplants' who follow other NFL teams but now reside in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area during at least some of the year.

Yet, what appeals to me the most about this is that WQAM is making the effort to compete against The Ticket for the NFL and Dolphins fans. This type of move is all too rare in local radio these days. In the markets with more than one sports stations, it seems like all these stations do is promote ratings victories over the other other station instead of breaking stories.

There is too much reporting what other media is reporting and spending hours and hours speculating about rumored trades and signings. Worse yet, I continue to hear "scoreboard updates" on sports stations which sometimes do not include scores in progress or finals of out of town games.

The Dolphins may not contend this season, but their fans will be among the best informed courtesy of the local sports stations.

Meanwhile, I'll admit that I am surprised by the two most watched sports programs over the past week. It goes to show how much the public has taken to live sports programming.

Even the LeBron James announcement finished among the 3 highest watched cable TV programs for the entire year, as fans not in those cities that had a chance to sign him watched as well. Those ratings speak for themselves.

I'll admit I was also surprised to see the large audience for ABC-TV and the World Cup final game this past Sunday (July 11). I was among the majority who had anticipated a large drop in audience after the USA was eliminated. After all of the "I suppose the over-under is 1 1/2 on these games" jokes about the lack of scoring that would seem to keep many casual observers from watching, the audience was there with a world championship on the line.

Getting back to the success of the LeBron James decision show. I must say that I was among the few who were fine with ESPN having the exclusive to the actual announcement. Maybe an hour looked to be overblown, but the audience response seems to say otherwise. ESPN has been and is a sports news organization, as well as a major partner in showcasing the NBA.

My personal hunch is that the LeBron decision show will prove to be the start of a new concept. I could see one of the NBA's television partners (ESPN, TNT, NBA-TV, etc.) hosting a one-hour showcase on July 8th (or whatever the first signing night will be) to let at least one major free agent announce where he will go. Granted, there won't be a LeBron James every year, but maybe there doesn't have to be. The audience for LeBron's decision from all over the USA tells me that people are going to watch even without direct local team impact. You read this here first.

Congrats to Chris Berman of ESPN on being awarded the Pete Rozelle Radio-Televison Award for "longtime exceptional contributions to radio and TV in pro football". Berman will go...........all............the...........way to Canton OH (the Pro Football Hall of Fame) to receive the award on August 6th. Believe it or not, Berman is about to begin his 25th season of hosting ESPN's Sunday NFL programming.

ESPN also continued its dominance in media news by announcing a new 12-year agreement for ACC telecasts, which takes effect for the 2011-12 seasons. This pact includes Raycom Sports handling regional distribution of Conference games not selected for ESPN or ABC.

While separate from the ACC contract, the College GameDay show will add another hour each Saturday morning. Starting September 4th, ESPNU will begin the show from 9 to 10 AM ET prior to its regular 2-hour airing on ESPN to set the scene for the day's and night's games. In addition, the entire 3-hours will also air on ESPN Radio.

During the games, Chris Fowler will host College Football Live on ESPN while John Saunders continues as ABC's pre-game, half-time, and postgame studio anchor.

NEW YORK: Add WFAN 660 to the list of sports stations holding contests for on-air positions. The Fan is holding auditions at 4 regional malls along with some locations of a sponsor of the promotion, while planning a live "finals" judging on August 27th. This is not new, even to WFAN, which found Joe Benigno (its current midday host) by a similar method back in 1995. Last week we reported on the sports station in Atlanta holding a contest to find a new program host.

In the Yankees' TV booth, John Flaherty, the former catcher, became more than an analyst when he happened to be working the telecast on Sunday (July 11). He displayed his catching skills when he caught a foul ball (on the fly) in the broadcast booth.

Speaking of timing, how about Fran Healy's "Game 365" series showing a series of interviews in tribute to George Steinbrenner this past Sunday on most of the Fox Sports regional TV networks? This scheduled installment in the series happened to air 2 days before Steinbrenner's passing.

NASHVILLE: Fox Sports Tennessee and SportsSouth have signed a new 4-year deal to televise the NHL Predators which takes effect for the coming season and increases the number of telecasts. 60 regular season games will be shown during the coming season, with the number increasing to 70 games during the 4th season. One benefit for Fox Sports, despite the increased rights fees, is getting SportsSouth added to Comcast's channel lineup in Nashville.

DENVER: Mark Schlereth, the former Broncos lineman, is set to join "D-Mac" and former Broncos teammate Alfred Williams on 104.3 The Fan for the 4 to 7 PM show starting August 2nd. The 3-time Super Bowl champ (2 with Denver) has done some part-time analyst work in the Denver market since 2004, and is expected to continue part-time on ESPN.

AUSTIN: The Horn 104.9 is losing its morning sports host, at least until November. For once, it is actually not due to cutbacks. Dan Neil claims he was "forced off the air" because he is currently running for the Texas House of Representatives in the November election. Neil claims that his opponent, Donna Howard, has forced him off the air because the station did not wish to give her (Howard) the daily air (equal) time she requested at no charge. Neil is a former University of Texas lineman and played for the NFL Denver Broncos. The lost income is expected to cost him about $3,000 per month. No word yet on a replacement.

NAPLES FL: Sports talk is coming off of the sister stations 1200 AM (Lee and Charlotte Counties) and 1460 AM (Collier County) at the end of July. Both stations will convert to an all-news format supporting the WINK-TV news department as of August 2nd. The stations will have sports news updates twice per hour when the revised format takes effect.

FARGO: Nice move by WDAY 970 to get NHL Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher as a live guest and taking phone calls on Wednesday (July 14) during its midday "Sports Talk" show. The team recently signed local (Fargo area) standout Matt Cullen. It is rare for an NHL GM (or major representative of an NHL team) to appear on an out-of-market station.

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