Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - August 11th update

Last week's report released by Arbitron about the listenership of Major League Baseball on radio for most of the first 3 months of the current season confirms my theory that radio audience preferences are not always consistent with those of TV audiences.

Out of 25 markets where PPM's are used for audience measurements (which includes 28 of the MLB teams), it was most interesting to see the Seattle Mariners broadcasts in the Top 10 of total audience (all demographics). The pre-season high expectations for the Mariners quickly faded after the first month of the season, while Seattle is not a top ten market in terms of total radio audience. Yet, the Mariners broadcasts (which moved to a different station for this season) came out with a larger audience than the Chicago White Sox, playing in a top 3 market and with the team still battling for first place in the A.L. Central.

Along those same lines, Seattle ranked 9th in the 25-54 Men age group across the country, with the lowly Kansas City Royals finishing 6th. Compare that to the Boston Red Sox finishing below both of those teams in this category.

At the same time, TV ratings for teams which are or leaped into contention have generally risen for this season, during the same period as this radio report. The Padres' surprising first place run has resulted in their highest TV ratings in almost 3 years, even though the radio report does not have the Padres among the top 15 in either overall or 25-54 men. Chicago Cubs radio ratings, compared with other teams, remain strong despite a poor start by the team, while the TV ratings have been slipping.

My theory is that the radio audience, especially at night, tends to consist of people who are listening for longer periods of time, seek a live and unique event vs. talk or music, and could be at work or where they do not have online access to keep up on the progress of other games. The sports fan with TV access is more likely to watch a "better" game when available if their favorite team isn't doing so well. Interesting to see the difference between the radio broadcast and telecast ratings, and I'll be anxious to see the end of season report.

NBA fans won't be disappointed in the schedule for the coming season just released, especially when it comes to televising games. It will again be a feast.

TNT will have 22 Thursdays of doubleheaders, plus 8 other game telecasts within what will be Turner Sports' 27th season of televising the NBA. Their marquee telecast is probably December 2 when LeBron James and the Heat play at Cleveland.

When the ESPN/ABC package is factored in, it means that the coming season will begin with 4 consecutive nights of doubleheaders for the fans, and that's before NBA-TV kicks in the first weekend.

On opening night, Tues. Oct. 26th, TNT has Miami at Boston and then Houston at Lakers, showcasing the finalists in their openers. On Weds. Oct. 27 ESPN has a doubleheader with the Chgo. Bulls at Oklahoma City (Well, it is Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant) and then the Clippers vs. Portland. (Ironic that the Bulls AND Vinny DelNegro will be featured in their respective openers.) TNT takes it back on Thursday Oct. 28th with Orlando vs. Washington (debut of #1 pick John Wall) and then Phoenix vs. Utah. On Friday Oct. 29, ESPN comes back with Miami's home opener vs. Orlando and then Phoenix against the Lakers. A definite edge to TNT with their opening week selections! On Saturday Oct. 30 NBA-TV kicks off its scheduled 96 games with Denver at Houston, and then Utah at OK City on Oct. 31.

From then on, ESPN / ABC will again combine to show 5 NBA games on Christmas Day, including the first Miami vs. Lakers matchup of the season.

NBA-TV will again do its Tuesday Fan Night where fans vote for the game to be shown, and will also carry the two games from London between Toronto and New Jersey on March 4 & 5, both at 3 PM ET.

Meanwhile, maybe ESPN and Fox will begin to realize that the entire nation of sports fans do not stop everything else every single time the Yankees play the Red Sox. This past Sunday night (Aug. 8) NBC's telecast of an opening NFL pre-season game more than doubled the audience of ESPN's Red Sox - Yankees game. It turned out to be the highest rated NFL pre-season game since 2004, even though not all of them are against national baseball telecasts. Ouch. This was a pre-season opener. The game where NFL teams play the most rookies and the least number of starters. And people still chose that. In ESPN's defense, of the ten TV markets with the highest ratings for the NFL game, only one hosts an American League, and that was Dallas. Understandable, since this was the Cowboys' exhibition opener.

NBC Sunday Night Football's studio crew will go on without Keith Olbermann, supposedly dropped to no longer take away from his MSNBC prime-time show. By my count, this reduces the studio crew to about 20 on-air hosts. (Not really, but it seems that way.)

The NFL Network welcomes the exhibition season in style, with a promise to show every game either live or on delay, starting this coming weekend. The live telecasts will be:

Bills at Redskins, Friday at 7:30 PM ET
Buccaneers at Dolphins, Saturday at 7:00 PM ET
Titans at Seahawks, Saturday at 10:00 PM ET
49ers at Colts, Sunday at 1:00 PM ET
Broncos at Bengals, Sunday at 7:00 PM ET

On the college scene, all of the TV rights activity in the past few months involving the SEC and ACC plus Big Ten expansion has not gone unnoticed by the Big East Conference. The Conference has reportedly hired former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a consultant with an eye toward developing its own cable network. Even with the New York City and Chicago markets involved, I don't see this getting off the ground and competing for channel space with the likes of YES, SNY, and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

SALT LAKE: Surprisingly little coverage of this beyond Salt Lake. This past Thursday (8/5) 1280 AM sports reporter Jan Jorgensen was asked to leave a University of Utah football practice after Head Coach Kyle Whittingham expressed concern. Jorgensen was there to join co-host Kyle Gunther (a former Ute) after joining the station for the daily "Red and Blue" program. However, Jorgensen is a former BYU defensive lineman.

Jorgensen returned to the studios while Gunther remained at the practice to continue with gathering interviews.

BOSTON: It has been well documented here and other places about the passion of the Boston area sports fan, the success of all of the pro teams, and the battle for the sports radio audience. In addition to WEEI and the Sports Hub, regional cable TV network NESN also provides sportscasts and interview based programs. Thus, it comes as a surprise to me that NESN's web site published a story about the local sports radio competition:


One hand has NESN promoting its web site to viewers "for more in-depth coverage" while the other hand lets the web site indirectly reminding those viewers about other 24 hour sources for news and information.

CHICAGO: Crain's Chicago Business reports that WSCR The Score 670 is close to a new multi-year deal to continue with White Sox broadcasts beyond this season. This will probably wind up being better for the White Sox than the station. There had been rumors that the White Sox would buy into an FM station and move the broadcasts there and lose a 50,000 watt strong AM signal covering the region.

Hopefully this will lead to some much needed improvements by WSCR. The station needs to eliminate their so-called "interactive" spring training broadcasts during which the station literally stops the play-by-play mid-game only to have the broadcasters take calls from listeners. As if White Sox fans would rather hear fan opinions about who should make the team ahead of how those very players are performing at that very moment.

In addition, after the games are over, the station needs to learn to get right into the next sports talk show right out of the White Sox post-game show. Currently, they end the post-game and air a several minute cluster of commercials prior to starting the next show. A poor use of a lead-in opportunity for surrounding programming. Worse yet, there have been some late nights when WSCR has failed to provide updates of west coast games in progress, merely providing earlier final scores on its "scoreboard updates".

FARGO: Excellent move by WDAY Radio. In the wake of the Minnesota Timberwolves President being fined last month by the NBA for comments made on a radio interview not in an NBA environment, WDAY was scheduled to have Twins President Dave St. Peter as a guest this past Friday (8/6) during its early afternoon show. Good to see a team executive continue to do an interview he doesn't need to do rather than say no because he could be fined.

HOUSTON: KILT 610 continues to prepare for football season, adding former Green Bay Packers and University of Arkansas lineman Greg Koch as an NFL analyst. Koch will start his studio work primarily on weekends.

SAN DIEGO: In a market where you would expect ESPN Radio to be more successful than most others, the possibility now exists that ESPN Radio would not have a local outlet as of September 1st. ESPN 98.9 is quietly dropping ESPN and the sports format at the end of August. The station, and AM 800 which carried ESPN in earlier years, was not one to go overboard in promoting its programming.

XX 1090 currently airs Sporting News Network overnights and on weekends, and the addition of ESPN instead would be a nice supplement to its Padres broadcasts and programming. With the number of transplanted sports fans in Southern California, ESPN would seem a great fit. XTRA Sports 1360 is less likely to look at ESPN, especially with KGTV's (Channel 10) Ben Higgins adding a Noon to 3 PM weekday show starting next Monday (8/16).

CINCINNATI: WXIX-TV Channel 19 will air a one hour special previewing the new Pete Rose documentary movie on Friday Aug. 20th. What makes this more interesting is that the NFL Bengals have a home exhibition game that night against Philadelphia which is to be televised nationally via Fox. However, the game has yet to sell out, and the NFL blackout rule would take effect, thus freeing up the local Fox affiliate to need other programming.

DENVER: Former NFL QB Brian Griese seems to have made one more successful pass in his career. He "passed" the audition. After being one of, count 'em, six analysts used on Broncos radio on KOA last year, Griese will officially join Dave Logan in the booth for this season. Well, almost all of it. Griese will continue with his ESPN schedule, which will cause him to miss the Broncos' 2 away exhibition games, as wel as Denver's Oct. 31 game vs. San Francisco to be played in London. David Treadwell will replace Griese for those broadcasts.

TAMPA: Buccaneers fans will be able to hear training camp coverage each Wednesday at 5 PM local time on Sports Radio 1010 with J.P. Peterson and Scott Reynolds. The show will then continue through the coming season, and will also be streamed on 1010SportsOnline.com.

VANCOUVER: Former NHL standout Ray Ferraro is adding to his busy TSN analyst schedule even before training camps open. Starting August 23rd, Ferraro will be the morning co-host on The Team 1040 from 6 to 10 AM along with Scott Rintoul. TSN will be the priority, with Rintoul hosting solo when necessary.

CHARLESTON: ESPN 1490 is now being simulcast on 104.5 FM as of this week. The stations are adding a local sports show from 4 to 6 PM, to be known as "The Drive" starting on August 23. Program Director Wes Ryan will co-host along with former Marshall and NFL player Carl Lee.

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