Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - September 28th Update.....

The Monday Night Football game between Chicago and Green Bay drew the highest viewership for Monday Night Football for this young season around the country.

Chicago area viewers proved once again that the Bears remain the big media draw on TV even as the Blackhawks prepare to defend their Stanley Cup championship. The Bears' last second win over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night (9/27) drew a rating of more than 38 even with some fans struggling to find the telecast.

WLS-TV Channel 7, owned by ABC/ESPN, originally had the rights to show this game (and retains for a later Monday game vs. Minnesota), but elected not to in order to show the series "Dancing With The Stars" live during the same evening. WLS-TV "sold" the game to WCIU-TV instead. WCIU, with a limited promotional budget and no sports staff, hired WGN-TV's sports team of Dan Roan and Rich King to host its local pre-game show. This while WLS-TV was able to use its #1 ranking in overall audience and late night news to promote the ESPN originated telecast.

The result made ABC/ESPN a bigger winner than the Bears. The ESPN version of the telecast outdrew the WCIU-TV simulcast by more than 10 rating points (reported to be 24.2 rating on ESPN compared with 14.1 for WCIU). At the same time, "Dancing..." drew a 17 rating, meaning that it technically had a larger audience than WCIU during that hour.

Thus, ABC/ESPN won big time. ESPN dominated the ratings over a local station's telecast, while "Dancing...." also killed in the ratings. Plus, they made money by selling the rights to WCIU-TV, which in turn spent for staff to get a pre-game show in the mix.

Then I took a look at the (early) Milwaukee ratings, and found that the market scored a 55 rating. (Not as many households as the Chicago area, but a higher percentage of sets in use.) Yet in the Milwaukee market, WISN-TV's simulcast scored a 38+ rating while ESPN came in with just under 17.

Let this underscore my recent point about how fans need to know where their games are being telecast and broadcast. With more and more pro teams going with "split" packages including different TV and radio stations throughout a given week, this should prove that teams need to do more to be sure they are in a consistent location. Viewers and listeners who can't find the games are less likely to purchase tickets and so on.

Back to the Bears vs. Packers game. A major "ooops" for the Packers Radio Network. During the 4th quarter, just prior to the Bears kicking a go-ahead field goal (not the game winner), a signal for a timeout was reversed. However, the Packers Radio Network had already cut away to a commercial. The Bears had already kicked the go-ahead field goal before the Packers' broadcast cut into the first commercial and came back on with the roar of the Chicago crowd still going to then inform listeners of what they had just missed.

Once again, they grow 'em big in Texas. This time it is a big ticket contract extension between Fox Sports Southwest and the Texas Rangers. The two announced a reported 20-year extension of their current deal that doesn't even start until the 2015 season and is worth at least $1 billion even with disputed reports of the total value.

The Rangers obviously benefit the most, knowing they will take in millions upon millions for years to come, regardless of the number of victories the team achieves each season.

This is really about Fox Sports taking steps to remain a force in the marketplace and not wanting to lose out on another top 10 market. Fox Sports already went through the pro teams partnering with Comcast in Chicago (among other cities) and having their local and regional network there disappear a few years ago. By sewing up a deal for more than 20 years, they put themselves in the game for the long run.

While this is understandable, a lot of consumers are panning this story, without realizing that this is the sort of thing that means continued inflated cable and satellite bills each month.

Fox Sports Radio has added an innovative show to its early Saturday morning lineup, at least for the next few weeks. "Stox 'n Jocks", which debuted this past Saturday (9/25) from 7 to 9 AM ET attempts to combine sports and investment topics. Brothers Jon and Pete Najarian (former NFL players turned traders) and Guy Adami co-host the show. This addition comes just after Chicago's WBBM-TV canceled an early morning TV show of the same nature (due to poor ratings), with co-host Mike North then signing to host some weekend shows on Fox Sports Radio.

DALLAS: KRLD has killed off some talk programming to become full-time all news, which includes sports updates at :15 and :45 as of this week. The station remains as the flagship station for Rangers baseball, including the upcoming post-season games. The Rangers have been one of the teams jumping around with its radio broadcasts due to programming conflicts, although it is not yet certain that every Rangers game for next season will be carried by one station.

The Ticket 1310 scored an impressive interview on Monday (9/27) morning when George Dunham and Craig Miller interviewed Rangers GM Jon Daniels. The hosts pulled no punches, getting Daniels to comment on topics such as possibly having post-season games without Josh Hamilton and the current state of the pitching staff.

CHICAGO: The Cubs radio booth could well be changed for the start of the 2011 season. Ron Santo's failing health prevented him from making the Cubs' final road trip to the west coast this week. There has been talk that Santo will be limited to home games plus "close" road games (Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati) at best for next season. Former pitcher Dave Otto is replacing Santo this week. Meanwhile, play-by-play voice Pat Hughes has yet to be re-signed for next season, although this is reported to be a formality. What is not certain is whether or not Hughes would get more help with actual play-by-play and if Santo would return as a third man in the booth for games he works.

BOSTON: WEEI has extended its radio partnership with the NBA Celtics by announcing a multi-year extension. Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell are about to return for their 10th season as the broadcast team. The station is also creating "Celtics Thursday", which will include Head Coach Doc Rivers appearing on the Dennis & Callahan Show, Danny Ainge (team President) on with Glenn Ordway and player appearances on the Dale & Holley Show. Certainly a much better approach than the station's adding more fan phone calls within its Red Sox programming. Hopefully they will get the distinction between team personnel on the air ahead of what some fan thinks the team should have done.

PITTSBURGH: While 1250 ESPN continues to phase out local programming between now and the end of the year, the station continues to carry Penn State football and some Steelers related programming including with linebackers James farrior, LaMarr Woodley, and Larry Foote. Sources expect ESPN Radio to be picked up by another station in the market come January.

BALTIMORE: Even with the Orioles playing better since changing managers, it might be too late for 105.7 FM. This is the final week of their radio contract with the team after 4 years. At this point, there aren't even any strong rumors about major interest in the contract, including previous rights holder WBAL 1090.

SAN DIEGO: Change continues on the San Diego sports radio scene. It won't seem like late afternoon anymore as Lee Hamilton shifts to middays on XX Sports starting on Monday (10/4). Darren Smith and Marty Caswell are taking over the 2 to 6 PM slot with Hamilton moving up to 10 AM to 2 PM. The Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith morning show moves back to 6 to 10 AM. Part of the reason for these changes is because XX Sports will no longer carry Jim Rome's show, which also starts next Monday on XTRA Sports 1360. Thus, the Hacksaw is being moved up to presumably keep listeners from following Jim Rome over.

XEPE-AM 1700 will begin carrying ESPN Radio in the San Diego area next Wednesday (10/6) from 2 PM until 9 AM on weekdays and the majority of weekend hours, including all ESPN Radio play-by-play. As a result, the station will air the entire baseball post-season, except for a couple of division playoff games which would start prior to 4 PM ET. The weekday 9 AM to 2 PM times will continue to air financial programming.

CINCINNATI: The area's fans love their local teams on TV, especially when they are doing well. This past Saturday (9/25), the baseball telecast on Fox between the Reds and Padres came in at #1 in the market as the Reds closed in on their first N.L. Central title in years scoring a 5.8 rating. This figure bested the Ohio State vs. Eastern Michigan telecast which scored a 3.2 rating, along with beating the Notre Dame telecast on NBC and Alabama vs. Arkansas on CBS.

Then, on Sunday (9/26) the Bengals' win over Carolina finished as the top rated TV show for all of Sunday in the market with a 60% audience share. By comparison, the local telecast of the CBS doubleheader game between Indianapolis and Denver finished with a 28% share.

The Fox Sports Ohio telecast of the Reds from San Diego (which coincidentally aired after the Bengals game had ended) also was the final "fill-in" broadcast assignment for George Grande, who came out of retirement to call some TV games for the Reds due to Thom Brennaman's football conflicts for Fox Sports.

MIAMI: WQAM 560 is ready for the NHL Panthers season with more surrounding programming than ever before. The station has planned a live special from a local sports bar for next Wednesday (10/6) and will debut the Coach Pete DeBoer Show each Thursday at 4:00 (with Sid Rosenberg). In addition. GM Dale Tallon will have a show with Joe Rose each Tuesday at 9 AM. Tallon's broadcast knack should make a nice fit, given his 15+ seasons as analyst with Pat Foley on Chicago Blackhawks telecasts in the 80's and 90's.

SEATTLE: KIXI 880 has added Washington State Cougar football as of this past Saturday (9/25). This adds signal coverage along with KKOL 1300, KRKO 1380, and KHHO 850 for the Seattle region. The school also streams its broadcasts this season on WSUCougars.com.

In Longview WA KEDO 1400 has gone all Fox Sports Radio from 6 PM to 6 AM on weekdays and starting at Noon on weekends. In addition, KEDO continues to air Seahawks football and Mark Morris and R.A. Long High School football and basketball games.

WINNIPEG: CFRW 1290 has launched an all-sports format including importing ESPN Radio in an attempt to compete with CJOB and its coverage of the Moose and Blue Bomber games. It will be interesting to see if the locals take to NFL broadcasts and coverage as well as Mike & Mike.

BEMIDJI MN: KBUN has added "College Hockey Tonight" to its schedule as of October 15th. The show, co-hosted by Scott Williams and Moose Richards, will air Fridays at 5 PM and be replayed Saturday mornings at 9, and will focus on Bemidji State hockey and the WCHA.

Meanwhile, next week begins the NHL regular season and the NBA pre-season. NBA-TV has announced a full slate of pre-season games, including the Miami Heat's pre-season opener on Oct. 5th vs. Detroit.

Here is the tentative NBA-TV pre-season schedule (ET):

Oct. 4 3 p.m. L.A. Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves at London, England
Oct. 5 7:30 p.m. Detroit at Miami
Oct. 6 2 p.m. New York Knicks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves at Paris
Oct. 7 7 p.m. Boston at New Jersey
Oct. 8 8:30 p.m. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat at Kansas City, Mo.
Oct. 9 7:00 p.m. Indiana Pacers at Houston Rockets
Oct. 10 6:00 p.m. New Orleans Hornets at Orlando Magic
Oct. 11 8:30 p.m. Cleveland Cavaliers at Dallas Mavericks
Oct. 12 7:00 p.m. Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers
Oct. 12 9:30 p.m. L.A. Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs at Mexico City
Oct. 13 8:00 a.m. New Jersey Nets vs. Houston Rockets at Beijing
Oct. 13 8:00 p.m. Miami Heat at New Orleans Hornets
Oct. 14 7:00 p.m. Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards
Oct. 15 8:00 p.m. Dallas Mavericks at Chicago Bulls
Oct. 16 7:30 a.m. Houston Rockets vs. New Jersey Nets at Guangzhou, China
Oct. 16 10:30 p.m. Denver Nuggets at L.A. Lakers
Oct. 17 10:30 p.m. Utah Jazz or L.A. Clippers at L.A. Lakers
Oct. 18 7:00 p.m. Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
Oct. 19 10:30 p.m. Sacramento Kings at L.A. Clippers
Oct. 20 7:00 p.m. Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic

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