Monday, October 11, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - October 12th Update

Sometimes it is better to not give enough information in order to keep your entire audience. A prime example took place during last week's Roy Halladay no-hitter in the Phillies vs. Reds NLDS opener.

In most time zones, this historical game climaxed during afternoon drive when a lot of baseball fans were on their commute home.

On WSCR The Score 670 Chicago, the anchor at the update desk informed listeners about the no-hitter through 8 innings. Under certain circumstances, there would be no problem with him doing this. However, the Phillies vs. Reds game happened to be carried on rival WMVP 1000, the ESPN station, and WSCR's chief competition. Therein lies the problem.

I heard about this from a long-time radio friend, who, of course, immediately switched over to the game broadcast on WMVP for the remainder of his drive home. He wasn't that interested in an opening playoff game with "out of market" teams, choosing WSCR instead. Suppose even a handful of people with PPM's reacted the same way and switched to the game broadcast. Essentially, the WSCR anchor likely helped the ratings of the competition.

From this corner, what he should have done was give the current score, that it was Philadelphia leading Cincinnati 4 to nothing in the 8th inning. We can be reasonably certain that hardly a baseball fan would be inclined to switch to the competing broadcast based on that information, given their choice to listen to the local call-in show instead.

What baffles me even more is that this same WSCR did not even give an in progress score during the 2 late nights I personally listened while the San Francisco vs. San Diego series was being played late in the regular season to help decide the N.L. West. The one time they SHOULD be giving in progress scores they didn't, and then they give "too much information" at a time they didn't have to. They would have kept their audience by waiting and talking about the no-hitter after the fact.

Years ago I worked for one Program Director at a music station who would not even allow the air personalities or news reporters to announce who the local teams would be playing that day. "We don't want to remind them to listen to or watch a game", he would tell us. A News Director I worked with at another station in a university town would tell us to promote every football and basketball telecast of the local school. His reason was that since the biggest competing station carried the games, we would rather steer the audience to TV and not the other station.

Sports stations not only talk about the competition among the teams and leagues they cover. They compete for the same audience. At least, they are supposed to.

Speaking of audience competition, I took a different approach to the latest batch of monthly ratings of the sports stations in the major cities. It is time to examine how prominent sports radio is, rather than one station vs. the other.

Admittedly, I have previously fallen into the trap and commented on the sports radio battles in Houston (with 4 sports stations) and Miami, among others. Looking at where the sports stations combine (since there are more than one sports radio stations in most markets now) sheds new light. In addition, I'm not sure that only focusing on the 25-54 males regarding sports radio is a true reflection. Teens and women are also sports fans, along with many males over the age of 55. They count, too.

In Houston, KILT remains ahead of KMBE and KFNC in overall audience figures. However, when you combine the overall audience totals for these 3 stations, the combined figure would NOT make the top 20 in overall listening.

In Los Angeles, it is the same story. KSPN 710 and KLAC 570 are within .1 of each other for overall audience. However, these stations do not combine to make the top 20 overall in the Los Angeles market. They are both getting swamped by more than 97% of the radio audience.

Plenty has been discussed about the competition in Miami, especially with the Dolphins switching stations. Again, there is more to life than males 25-54. WQAM, WAXY, and even WINZ combined would have been #20 in the market in terms of overall audience.

For Pittsburgh, relative newcomer KDKA-FM has done very well in just a few months as a sports station, leading the pack among sports stations. While faring better than Miami, Houston, and L.A. in total audience, KDKA-FM, WEAE, and WBGG combined would not make the top 10 in overall audience.

Yet, this is not reflective of the trend in sports radio in terms of overall audience. Look at many other "major league" markets and you then realize why there are so many markets with competing sports stations.

New York's WFAN triples the overall audience of WEPN, but if combined they would be #6 in overall listening in the market. In Philadelphia (for this ratings period from mid-August to mid-September and not including the Phillies clinching period) WIP has twice the overall audience of WPEN, and both stations increased over the ratings period, which would put them in the top 7 if combined.

Same story in Chicago where WSCR The Score doubles WMVP ESPN overall (and we shall see about the current ratings period!), but the 2 stations would combine to be in the top 7 in the market.

Even better for sports radio in Dallas. The Ticket continues to lead KRLD-FM and KESN, but sports radio stations would combine to be #2 overall right now, and these ratings only included the Cowboys' opening week.

In San Francisco, KNBR 680 is 7th in overall audience on its own, more than 4 times the combined audiences of KTCT and KTRB.

Boston listeners continue to support both WEEI-AM and WBZ-FM Sports Hub overall. While the Sports Hub edged up .3 and WEEI dropped .2 during the recent ratings period, these 2 stations combine for a top 4 placement.

WXYT continues to the The Ticket for ratings in Detroit. The nation's best example as the sports station claims its third consecutive month as #1 overall. Not to mention that WWJ News 950 rose to third overall and now provides sports updates at :15 and :45 each hour.

Minnesota Twins baseball moving over to KSTP-AM for the just concluded season paid big dividends in the ratings with the station up nearly one full point in overall audience during the past 3 ratings periods. KFAN The Fan, however, finished at 16th overall in the market.

In St. Louis, WXOS has better than 4 times the overall audience of KFNS and KSLG, but combined would hold a top 10 position in the market.

Kansas City's WHB is 13th overall in the latest ratings, but in this instance it should be noted that the sports station is actually 2nd overall in "non-music" stations. This market likes its music. Yet, when combined with KCSP's overall ratings, sports radio would be #3 overall.

Although these are the markets I examined, there is enough to make the point that some markets have much more of a demand for sports radio than others, and how this should be the measuring stick.

Yet, there are at least 2 markets where the sports demand is subject to interpretation. In both Cincinnati and Milwaukee, play-by-play seems to rule the roost, while talking about sports is further back.

WTMJ is a long-time solid #1 in the Milwaukee market, offering little actual sports talk but the majority of play-by-play. The station carries the majority of Brewers, Packers, Bucks, and University of Wisconsin football games (except when conflicts occur). Yet, neither of its sports stations, including one which offers extended Brewers post-game programming without the broadcasts, even register a 1 rating.

Same story in Cincinnati, where WLW dominates the ratings while carrying the Reds and most Bengals broadcasts with only occasional talk specific to sports. Even with WCKY showing more than 6 times the overall audience of WSAI, these 2 stations combined would not make the top 15.

While it's true you could make the same argument by combining various music stations and other formats and they would be #1 or #2, my point is the variation of interest in sports radio among major league cities. Looking only at the 25-54 males group does not show the whole story.

NBC-TV keeps racking up wins for Sunday night Football. There is a higher significance to the Philadelphia vs. San Francisco game winning on Sunday night (10/10), considering it was in competition with the Phillies playing Cincinnati for the NLDS, and followed the Giants' comeback win over Atlanta minutes prior.

In looking at the top metered markets for the night, I continue to be amazed that Richmond and Norfolk seem to show up in the top 10 markets most weeks, even though they are not NFL areas. It could be that the Washington Redskins have a bigger regional following than people realize. That would make sense, in that Skins' division rivals the Eagles and N.Y. Giants have been featured over the past couple of weeks.

Through the first 4 weeks (figures not available at press time for week 5), the Redskins' TV ratings were up 44% in the Washington D.C. area, which represents the 3rd biggest TV ratings increase among NFL teams locally. Houston Texans ratings were up 55% in the Houston market, followed by St. Louis at 51%. (Keep in mind this was before the Rams were destroyed by the Lions on week 5!)

On the NHL side, Versus got off to a great start with its first 2 nights of NHL games for the just underway regular season. The opening night telecast from the new Pittsburgh arena now ranks as Versus' most watched regular season game, including a #1 rating overall for the Pittsburgh market. Then, the late game telecast of defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago at Colorado set a record for most viewers for a "post 9 PM ET" start.

COOPERSTOWN: The finalists have been announced for the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rene Cardenas, Tom Cheek, Dizzy Dean, Jacques Doucet, Bill King , Ned Martin, Tim McCarver, Graham McNamee, Eric Nadel and Dave Van Horne.

The lone winner will be announced on December 7th during the Winter Meetings in Orlando. In this instance, it's too bad there will only be one. Tim McCarver is the most known based on 30 seasons in New York and at the network level. Cardenas helped to create the first ever Spanish broadcast back in the late 50's when the Dodgers moved to L.A. and worked for MLB teams for 38 years. Van Horne has just completed his 43rd season of broadcasting games, most for the Montreal Expos and now the Marlins since 2001.

What is puzzling is MLB announcing this to coincide with the playoffs in progress. These candidates deserve the spotlight to themselves. Here's hoping that in the future this announcement will come after the World Series when it can hold the spotlight.

BLOOMINGTON: As Dick Enberg comes off a tremendous season calling the Padres on TV and wanting to come back for more, he has an admirable off-season project to start on. Enberg will be doing a one-man play, "The Untold Story of College Basketball Legend Al McGuire". Enberg & McGuire were the NBC-TV #1 college basketball team for many years.

Enberg will be performing the play two times (afternoon and evening) at his alma mater, Indiana University on October 23. In a typical classy move, Enberg has already said he will engage the audience after each performance.

NEW YORK: Although the NHL is off to a good TV ratings start, it's not easy being an Islanders fan these days. If you want to hear their games. I suppose it's better than nothing, but Hofstra University's WRHU student run station is now the radio home of the Islanders. Sort of. Some of the game broadcasts will actually be a simulcast of the TV sound, while Chris King will call others. However, students will be handling the surrounding programming including intermissions and pre and post-game shows. At least they'll be on one station for this season. For the past 2 seasons, night games were on WMJC-FM while day games were on WHLI-AM, and were always the TV feed as a simulcast.

To put it politely, WRHU is something like 500 watts. Meanwhile, New Jersey Devils games air on 50,000 watt WFAN, while ESPN 1050 airs the Rangers games.

KANSAS CITY: Speaking of signal concerns, University of Missouri football fans in the K.C. area have more challenges than the team this season. KXTR 1690 is a classical music station with a limited signal that carries the day games. Their night games air on KMBZ 980, which is easier to get. The school hopes to (and needs) a better arrangement after this one expires at the end of the season. The previous arrangement with KCSP 610, which continues to carry the Royals and Kansas University, expired after last season.

BOSTON: Looks like the Red Sox fans gave up on the team long before their elimination from the post season. TV ratings for the NESN telecasts reportedly finished the season down more than 33% from the 2009 season. Thus, this is the first time since 2003 that NESN's Red Sox telecasts have not finished first among local telecast ratings.

HOUSTON: KGOW's morning show with John Granato and Lance Zierlein will be getting additional play starting this month. Comcast Sports Southwest will show the morning show's first hour (6 to 7 AM) live in the Houston area. The pair are expected to devote a couple minutes just to TV during longer radio breaks.

While the NBA Rockets play a couple of pre-season games in China this week which will be televised, it won't exactly be with the local flavor. It seems that Bill Worrell and Clyde Drexler will be calling the telecast off the monitors in a Houston studio. I would like to think that the main reason for televising these games is to share the experience of playing in China. Why couldn't they send Worrell? He could have talked with Drexler from Houston and shared what it was like. Under this setting, it may not be worth the effort to televise.

Then again San Antonio Spurs fans aren't getting any actual local telecasts of pre-season games. Spurs fans that can get Fox Sports Houston can likely pick up 2 of the pre-season telecasts done by the Rockets' crew. The Tuesday (Oct. 12) game between the Spurs and L.A. Clippers from Mexico City will be shown via NBA-TV.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Author John Feinstein made news with his appearance last week on WTEM 980, but not because of his comments. He was being interviewed live on the air when the car he was in was sideswiped and Feinstein let out an obscenity. Although the word and bleeped out over the air (though reportedly not online), the segment ended right then and there.

LOUISVILLE: NBC-TV has extended its right to cover the Kentucky Derby through 2015 with the new contract to include expanded coverage.

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