Monday, November 29, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - November 29 update

The Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest sports weekends of the entire year, yet some radio and TV stations clearly overlooked when scheduling programming for the sports fans. It's not that the personalities do not deserve some time off, but it is that we as sports fans deserve a realistic alternative instead of being kicked to the curb.

There I was on Thanksgiving morning turning on my TV. It was 3 hours before the first NFL game started. NBA news including Miami being on a losing streak. The night before in the NHL saw the first regular season meeting of Chicago and San Jose who met in the Western Conference finals in the spring. Plenty of college football to come over the next 2 days. College hoops tournaments going at all hours.

Silly me. I turned over to watch some of the Dan Patrick Show, now that it has recently gone to a TV simulcast on many of the Fox Sports and Comcast regional channels. A rare chance for me (and other sports fans) to watch the show for more than a few minutes.

What did I see? A "Best Of" show. Worse yet, for the sake of this column I tuned in on Friday morning as well, only to find a repeat of a show from earlier in the week.

On both mornings, ESPN was live with its "radio" shows on TV, as in Mike & Mike and The Herd, whether with substitute hosts or not.

Several of the sports radio stations across the country that I checked also had substitute hosts on, even on Friday morning. At least it was live programming with current sports, even if it wasn't with the regular name hosts.

But there is no excuse for The Dan Patrick Show to repeat and essentially blow off its audience. It has only been within the past few weeks that Patrick's show went to the TV simulcast, and that markets like Chicago were able to hear or watch the show live. And this is how sports fans are treated?

Here was a chance to show thousands of potential "new" viewers (and listeners) what the show is all about. Instead, we get repeats? Sorry, but Patrick could have, at the very least, recorded his predictions and thoughts about the upcoming Thursday NFL games. He could have had fresh interviews in the can. He could have had a guest host, maybe even a celebrity of sorts, host a live and current show and make Thanksgiving fun and special for his current and potential new audience.

What about Black Friday? Patrick and his show totally blew it again. A lot of sports fans had the day off, with millions of people spending more than usual amounts of time in the car with shopping or road travel. The chance to listen for an hour instead of 5 minutes. And all we get is a repeat?

I have liked Dan Patrick for years, but now consider myself offended that his show was not live on either day. Black Friday is not a legal holiday. Now I'm back to my normal schedule on Monday with little time to watch or listen. But now it doesn't matter in the future.

What a blow for the regional TV sports networks. They are trying to capture the sports fan audience during times when there are not any games being shown. And they lose a golden opportunity like that. I'm glad I'm not an advertiser, paying to reach an audience that had no reason to watch or listen.

Same for the sports radio stations with substitute hosts. With all of the events going on over the weekend, that was prime time for sports talk. I'm sure these hosts would criticize an NFL coach for playing his reserves in a game which did not sell out since fewer fans than usual were in attendance. But that's what these stations and programmers just did to us sports fans.

Even though ESPN has mostly substitute hosts, at least they kept it live and topical. They get some credit.

Note to station programmers. Fans want to hear and talk sports from the 'starting lineup' more often than only on working weekdays.

As you might expect, the holiday weekend had its share of TV viewers. The Dallas vs. New Orleans game was the best rated Thanksgiving game on Fox since 1995, while the New England vs. Detroit game was CBS' best on turkey day since its return to NFL coverage in the late 90's.

The Sunday Night Football game with San Diego beating Indy, even becoming a blowout in the 2nd half, was the top rated TV show for the 12th week in a row, and even drew a bigger audience than last year's Thanksgiving Sunday telecast which featured the Steelers.

Curiously, Norfolk, Richmond, and Albuquerque, were among the top 10 metered markets for the Sunday Night Football telecast.

CBS also scored well with Friday's Auburn vs. Alabama telecast, as the game is now the highest rated college football telecast of the season.

Too bad that fans had fewer radio and TV sports outlets and were reduced to substitute hosts to discuss all of these games over the weekend. But the hosts needed their time off, so screw the audience.

Meanwhile, Sports Byline USA Network has added a boxing show, hosted by Pedro Fernandez, and airing early Saturday afternoons.

SAN FRANCISCO: Somebody wasn't paying attention last Tuesday (11/23) during the CSN Bay Area "Chronicle Live" show. Nearly 5 minutes of a discussion segment was interrupted by camera shots with little or no sound from camera shots before the Oregon Ducks basketball game vs. Texas Southern, as indicated on graphics which came on the screen. Surprised viewers saw multiple camera angles showing one of the teams practicing, and another shot of the empty chairs with microphones for the announcers to eventually do the open for the game telecast.

Although it took nearly 5 minutes for viewers to be returned to the botched TV segment (which made no acknowledgement of the cutaway), CSN was lucky that no one at the nearly empty arena knew the cameras were on live TV. Boys will be boys, but in that instance they didn't know.

MIAMI: With all there is to talk about regarding the Heat's slow start, Dennis Rodman tried to do all he could to upstage that last Tuesday (11/23) morning. Rodman had called into Jorge Sedano's show on The Ticket 790 to comment on the Heat when a female voice became prominent along with an obviously distracted Rodman. Yet, instead of cutting the interview short, Sedano asked Rodman if he was "getting it on", and allowed Rodman to reply that she "was sucking something" on the air. You could say that the call wasn't for Rodman to talk about the Miami Heat. He wanted the world to know that he was "in heat".

WASHINGTON DC: Steve Czaban has been renewed for 2 more years on ESPN 980 as a result of his success upon joining the station earlier this year.

TOLEDO: Sorry that we overlooked this last week. The death of Frank Gilhooley in late November marked the end of an era in Toledo baseball. Not only did Gilhooley call Mud Hens baseball for more than 20 seasons from the mid-80's until 2007, but his 60 years on the air in the market included plenty more. His play-by-play went back to the 1950's and the then Toledo Sox of the American Association. He passed away at the age of 86.

AKRON: Akron Aeros baseball will remain on Fox Sports 1350 for the next 2 seasons, as the station will carry all 142 games. Jim Clark returns for his 19th season of play-by-play, while afternoon co-host Ken Carman will return to the booth for his 2nd season.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - November 21st update

It's time for the sports media to ease off on the rumors and speculation and return to reporting. As in being thorough on a story. Sports "news" is supposed to be "news", and not positive public relations. There were two major incidents over the past week which demonstrate the need for reporting to return.

These were the Donovan McNabb contract story, and the rules changes for the Northwestern vs. Illinois football game.

I should be reading about reporters being fired or reassigned after the McNabb story was botched so badly. On Monday, it became a huge story that Donovan McNabb was signed to an $80 million dollar contract. Discussion immediately began on practically every all-sports radio and TV outlet, and throughout work places around the country as to McNabb's real value to his team and the league, and how such a contract rates against other greats of the game. It seemed improbable to many football fans.

All of a sudden, less than 48 hours later, the very same media QUIETLY started reporting that this new contract could actually be valued at as (comparably) little as $3.5 million dollars, depending upon this season and each subsequent season.

While the more recently reported deal may seem more realistic to football fans, that is far from the point. Where is the outrage?

What about the hours and hours that experienced and "expert" reporters and sports analysts spent talking to fans about the supposed $80 million dollar deal?

If I were still the Sports Director of a radio station (or held an equally responsible media position), I would have been spending time and effort to track down the "reporter" and sources of the original story, and then try and find out why he or she was not disciplined. We, the fans, have been duped one way or the other, depending upon which "report" is accurate.

I'm not willing to accept the "ooops, just kidding" approach to this story that the sports media gave me. Those fans who spent hours talking about and listening to sports shows and reactions about the supposed $80 million dollar deal wasted their time.

Now, I can understand that every sports talk host and sports anchor has little to no reason to verify every national story. But I don't understand how it took more than a day to change this story. We, the sports fans who listen, watch, read, and support our favorite sports news and talk outlets, deserve better.

Then, there was the college football game (Northwestern vs. Illinois) played at Wrigley Field on Saturday (11/20). The hype was understandable in terms of that having been the first football game played in that baseball venue in 40 years.

However, it is not the sports media's job to hype the game to that extent. It was bad enough that Illinois lost to the University of Minnesota at home the week leading into the game and lost its momentum for the season. It should have been noted that if it wasn't for this game having been scheduled for Wrigley Field, very little attention would have been given to it.

Instead, fans, especially in the Chicago area, were subjected to extensive coverage of Wrigley Field being set up for football, including the very limited room at the end of the east end zone.

Then, on Thursday (11/18), just two days before the game and after literally weeks of preparation, suddenly the Big Ten Conference decides to alter the rules and have both teams drive toward the same end zone. The teams would switch bench positions for each half. And so on.

As a result, I became angry and disappointed with the sports media for the second time during the week. Where was the outrage?

For the benefit of sports anchors, show hosts, reporters, and writers everywhere, I'll list the questions which should have been raised by this:

What advantage goes to the team which wins the coin toss and would want the wind for the 4th quarter?

What about the fans who had tickets in and near the east end zone, who paid full price and not have an opportunity to see red zone action close up?

Why do the players have to adjust to their team's bench and coaching staff being in a different location from one half to the next?

If the one end zone was considered unsafe, why did it take several days to make this decision? What was different 2 days before the game from a week earlier when the field was considered to be ready?

Since the dimensions of a college football field do not change, how was the game allowed to be scheduled at Wrigley Field in the first place?

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Instead, what did we get from the media? We got the "Let's see how this works with special rules...." approach to continue to hype interest in the game. While I can understand ESPN and ESPN Radio taking that approach, since ESPNU had the telecast, it was not only ESPN that kept up the hype.

The Big Ten Conference made this last minute "decision". Or so the media reported. Does this mean that Northwestern, the Chicago Cubs, and every other organization associated with allowing this game was fine with college players playing under "unsafe" conditions?

THAT should have been the story to discuss and write about. This was an embarrassing story that went unreported as such.

So there I was hearing, seeing, and reading about how the Minnesota Vikings could fire coach Childress if they lost on Sunday. As if that is a sports "story". Whether you are Vikings fan or not, that is not exactly a positive sports story. (In fact, it's really speculation and not a story at all!)

Worse yet, it was INSTEAD of the real story about the McNabb contract and behind the troubled Northwestern vs. Illinois game.

At this rate, my personal sports news gathering each day will come from watching and listening to certain game broadcasts and telecasts, and from looking at the standings and transactions sections only. Hopefully those will continue to be accurate.

Meanwhile, just before changing the rules for one of its games, the Big Ten football championship game, which debuts on Dec. 3, 2011, will be televised on Fox Sports, which has the rights to do so through the 2016 season. Next year's game will be in Indianapolis. No word as to whether or not both end zones will be used.

BOSTON: Maybe it's because the Red Sox were out of the race by mid-September. Or maybe it is simply a fever pitch among Boston fans. Celtics ratings on CSN New England were up 27% after its first 9 telecasts of the season, while Bruins' ratings have risen by 33% on NESN. The Bruins telecast ratings include the 2 games from Prague at the start of the season which were shown live with late morning starts, not prime time like the other games.

Those who remember the early days of ESPN will remember Jimmy Myers from doing the sports updates during the week in between programs. Sorry to report that Myers is no longer doing his weekly show on WTKK-FM Boston, having done his final show on Halloween when the station did not renew his contract. It was his work in the 70's at WBZ-TV which helped Myers land the ESPN gig. Here's hoping he will join another outlet.

St. LOUIS: WXOS 101.1 continues its ratings success story, moving up to 14th overall in the market in the most recent ratings period after less than 2 years on the air. The male 25-54 age group reflects its success, as WXOS more than tripled the audience (in that demographic) of both KFNS and KSLG combined.

Fox Sports Midwest is expected to announce the new arrangements for its Cardinals TV announcers for next season, now that it will show as many as 150 games. Word is that the delay is because of the possibility that Rick Horton is under consideration for a spot in the Washington Nationals' TV booth.

HOUSTON: Brett Dolan, one of the voices of the Astros, will call the Nov. 27th college hoops game between Houston and TCU on radio, filling in for Tom Franklin.

BANGOR: WVII-TV 7 is now 2 weeks into the initial 13 week run of its The Sunday Sports Page show which airs at 11 AM. Co-hosted by Pat Spekhardt and Brian Sullivan, the show features highlights from recent local and regional sports along with interviews and round table discussions. If successful, the show would expand into a 52 week run.

LONGWOOD VA: WMLU 91.3 has received the Virginia Association of Broadcasters "Outstanding Sports Coverage Award" for a public or non-commercial station for the second year in a row. Keenan Crump (Sports Director) and Nate Epstein (Assistant Sports Director) accepted the award. The Longwood University campus radio station airs the school's basketball and baseball games.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - November 9 update.............

The speculation had been around for weeks, but the news made official that Jon Miller will not be back for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball still hits hard. There was no solid reason given for the change. Miller wasn't called out for saying anything controversial or considered not politically correct. I don't recall him issuing an apology for anything he said. Nor do I recall him missing any games he was scheduled to do. (Not doing a game because he was being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is different.)

More importantly, I don't recall hearing or reading a major complaint about his work, and that goes back 21 seasons on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Here we were one year ago with the media swamped with complaints about Chip Caray messing up on TBS' post-season coverage that led to his being replaced before this just completed season.

Yet, Jon Miller does his job well year in year out for 21 seasons. Shouldn't he be rewarded and not demoted?

Maybe it is the baseball purist in me that still yearns for the tradition of the game that vanishes even further every season. It's bad enough we have teams wearing different uniform tops every game, the constant changing of players, games shown and broadcast over different stations over the course of a week, and constant media speculation about personnel.

OK, so I didn't specifically tune in to Sunday Night Baseball because of Jon Miller, or even to hear Joe Morgan talk himself into and out of the same thought throughout the game. Yet, no matter who replaces Miller, it's going to be a bit harder to want to tune in on Sunday nights. Another constant has been taken away from us, and this time for no reason.

Meanwhile, the sports world lost another of its long time voices with the passing of Bob Fulton last week. The voice of the University of South Carolina football and basketball teams for 43 seasons died at the age of 89. It was fitting that his last football broadcast was the January 1995 win over Virginia in a bowl game, the school's first ever bowl win.

Maybe it's time to make the "I said it, but maybe I didn't mean it" statements a bigger issue. Saying something to make headlines and draw media attention shouldn't count. Actually, it shouldn't happen. Two examples within the past week bring this to mind.

Last Friday (11/5) Michael Kay had Isiah Thomas as a guest on his NYC show on ESPN 1050, and said on the air that Thomas "will become GM of the Knicks". There was nothing further said to back up this claim, which Isiah didn't even address. And, nothing further on any of the sports reports or columns since (as of press time). When you consider the sources that ESPN has, along with how many rumors ESPN "reports" (even if they are reported as rumors), you have to wonder about such a statement from Kay. Yet, the comment was picked up by a couple of NYC media members, and here I am bringing it up. It's as though people will forget about Kay's comment, assuming that Thomas will not get any such position with the Knicks, yet his show generated the additional publicity.

However, it's not just media personalities making a statement and eventually looking to get out from under. University of Washington Athletic Director Scott Woodward went on KJR-AM Seattle during the pre-game show on Saturday (11/6) and said on the air that rival University of Oregon has become "an embarassment" as an academic institution.

By the time I heard about this, Woodward had already issued an apology to anyone offended by the comments.

I can always understand when an apology is issued over something in print, since the context of a comment can easily be challenged when people are not able to hear exactly what was said. Woodward's comment was made on a radio show when potentially thousands of listeners heard it at the time. That makes an apology tougher to take.

Combined, these two incidents are examples of people on both sides of the microphone saying things over the air that shouldn't have been. Some credibility would be nice, especially with the number of sports outlets trying to stay on top of the competition.

MLB Network continues to provide fresh programming even as the off-season gets into full swing. On Monday (11/15) the Network will premier it's "Baseball's Seasons" with an episode recapping the entire 1990 season. Then on Nov. 29th they will premier the episode about the 1971 season.

Now if only MLB Network would put more effort into getting onto AT&T U-Verse, Dish Network, and other cable and satellite systems that don't offer it. All consumers deserve the same opportunities.

PITTSBURGH: WBGG 970 might be too excited about becoming an ESPN Radio affiliate and dumping Fox Radio Sports. Even though it doesn't make the change until Janury 1st, the station's web site is already promoting its lineup revisions and boasting about the change. This does give us confirmation that the (local) Joe Bendel show will continue from 4 to 7 PM. The station continues as the flagship station of the Steelers and Penguins, as well as being the West Virginia University football and basketball outlet (when no conflicts occur).

CHICAGO: The White Sox are on the way to becoming the first MLB team to be involved in their own HD Radio channel, most likely in time for the 2011 season. This is an addition to last week's announcement of a new 5-year deal to continue on WSCR The Score 670. One of the CBS FM station HD channels will be devoted to the White Sox.

Although this is not my marketing blog, the HD channel should really be all about marketing. In order to make this work, the team and station should be working to put HD Radios into the hands of White Sox fans. Give them out to full season ticket holders. Have them as prizes during station promotions and perhaps to selected callers throughout their sports talk days and nights. Offer significant discounts or free incentives from participating advertisers and retailers. Get HD radios into the hands of fans for nothing or pretty close to it.

This is the sort of thing which could make HD Radio worthwhile by offering a niche but mass appeal channel. To insist that fans spend $50 to $150 to purchase an HD Radio to hear it would only limit the audience. The ideal solution is to also stream the channel, which would benefit fans and advertisers the most, although it would not further HD Radio. Yet, if the idea is to have a constant vehicle of all things White Sox for the fan base, this will be something to keep an ear on.

BOSTON: The sports radio competition continues to thrive with WEEI and WBZ-FM, and smaller outlets and trying to get into the mix. This past Sunday (11/7) brought the "Upton & Lobel" to WXKS 1200 from 9 to 11 AM. The hosts are Bob Lobel (formerly of WBZ-TV 4) and Upton Bell.

WCRN 830 Worcester offers "The Henry Schwan Show" from 6 to 7 PM on Sunday nights, and currently has only one sponsor. On Halloween night, Schwan had plenty of time for personal reflection on the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins. It seems no one called in. Just think if he were on HD Radio.

Comcast SportsNet is adding Bill Walton to some of its Celtics coverage for this season. Walton, who has a part-time schedule on Sacramento Kings telecasts, will work with Mike Gorman on the team's 6 upcoming telecasts (on CSN) from the west coast, starting with a Portland and Phoenix swing in late January. Dave Cowens will add to the studio coverage on a few dates, including the Memphis game this coming Saturday (11/13).

HOUSTON: Calvin Murphy's recent work talking Rockets basketball with Rich Lord and Robert Henslee on KILT could well lead to a regular and bigger role with the station. Those of us who remember Murphy's excellent playing days might say that he could "reach new heights" with his radio career. (For those who don't remember, Murphy was 5' 9" as an NBA standout player.)

VANCOUVER: Market veteran Rick Dhaliwal has a new radio home. He has been added to CKWX 1130 as a sports anchor, in effect replacing Geoff Rohoman and Jason Benner in the process. Scott Russell continues handling afternoons.

WICHITA: Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall began his weekly radio show on Monday (11/8) on KNSS 1330, this season doing the 6 PM show live from a local sports bar and inviting fan participation.

VALPARAISO IN: The recent success of Valparaiso University's basketball team in the NCAA tourney has helped to expand the team's regional radio coverage for the upcoming season. In addition to local WAKE 1500 and WEFM 95.9 Michigan City IN, WJOB 1230 Hammond will start by carrying 14 games this season. WJOB's signal reaches part of the southern tip of Chicago and several southern suburbs.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - November 2 Update......

Another example of an NBA player using the media to make news took place within the past few days, but this is much different from the LeBron James signing which became a TV event instead of a news conference.

For all of the gossip and speculation that appears within sportscasts and on the sports pages these days, it is practially refreshing to see a pro athlete concerned about his comments enough to the point of taking to the media on his own.

Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat took matters into his owns hands. It seems that last Tuesday in Boston Bosh commented to a Toronto Sun reporter to the effect of "It's all about being on TV, and if a player has great statistics and you don't see it, it doesn't matter". (Not exact quote.) It seems those comments were taken by Raptors fans as a slap against the Raptors, for which Bosh had been the marquee player until joining LeBron and the Heat this summer.

Even though Bosh no longer plays for Toronto, he and his agent reportedly contacted Toronto's FAN 590 and Bosh went on the air last Thursday (Oct. 28) to explain the comments to host Doug Farraway. Bosh indicated that his comments were not intended to be a reflection on the fans and media coverage in Toronto.

Agree or not, it's interesting that Bosh chose radio over the newspapers, likely so that his voice could be heard addressing the situation. It is wonderful to see radio be able to use its edge over the print media, and in this instance, also TV, by being able to get live reaction first.

It is also interesting that this story got very little media coverage, considering what a major use of all-sports radio this was. Generally, the sports stations do not have nearly enough player interviews, especially from their local teams, considering their resources. Yet, this was a case of a player (technically no longer local) actually making news on a sports radio station.

The inevitable football vs. baseball on TV comparisons will be flying throughout this week, especially with the World Series' final 2 games both being directly up against NFL telecasts.

At press time, early numbers indicated that the Giants' clincher on Monday night on Fox-TV drew bigger ratings than Monday Night Football on ESPN. Yet, NBC beat Fox on Sunday night with Sunday Night Football, even though this is the first time that NBC went ahead and televised a game up against the Sunday World Series. (And you know there are some NBC execs counting lost revenue from past years after that move.)

Yet, it appears that while Fox-TV scored well vs. its overall competition for the World Series that this year's will come in as the 2nd least watched World Series in recent years.

For NBC-TV, the trend continues among the Top 10 metered markets for Sunday Night Football. Other than NFL markets and Las Vegas, the 2 markets making the top 10 for the night were Richmond and Norfolk, which have scored very well in this category throughout the season.

On the World Series side, it turned out that the San Francisco market had higher audience figures than the Dallas market for every game of the World Series. Regionally, Austin and San Antonio were among the Top 10 metered markets for the World Series.

As the World Series ended and free agent talk starts, we have to pause and wonder whether the Giants' Game 5 win would be the final one that Jon Miller described for ESPN. The voice of Sunday Night Baseball for the past 21 seasons and the lead ESPN Radio voice in recent years now has an expired contract. Same for analyst Joe Morgan. It seems odd that Miller would not be locked up for next season and beyond.

ESPN might have rubbed it in to Fox and to some extent to MLB on Tuesday night (Nov. 2). It's "Bottom Line" scroll just happened to "report" that the World Series ratings were down this season. How that was "breaking sports news" and was given equal billing to scores, hirings, and transactions is beyond me. Face it, if ESPN had shown the World Series, that "report" would not have appeared the night following its conclusion.

The latest radio ratings, this for the mid-September into mid-October period, are coming out this week, showing the impact of the division races and post-season baseball in the cities involved.

As mentioned last month, we focus on the overall audience ratings, rather than the 25-54 male focus that other reporters seem to treasure.

In New York, WFAN and WEPN combined for a .5 total increase in overall audience, with WFAN 660 finishing 11th overall in the market. WCBS 880 showed well, no doubt helped by its Yankees broadcasts along with the all-news format.

Los Angeles listeners continue to not pay much attention to sports radio. KSPN and KLAC each rose .1, but combined their ratings would not make the market's current top 20.

Chicago's ratings saw movement among the two sports stations, even though they would not make the top 10 if combined. WSCR The Score dropped .3 and finished only 18th overall, while rival WMVP ESPN rose .4.

One Giants step for San Francisco radio was taken by KNBR 680, which rose along with the Giants' run to the post-season. KNBR went from a 3.6 to a 5.2 overall and finished #2 overall in the market. KTCT-AM also rose .4, normally a nice increase but it seems pale in comparison to KNBR's. With the ratings period having ended before the NLCS finished and the Giants in the World Series, the sports numbers figure to remain strong.

In Dallas, the Rangers' post-season run along with the Cowboys doing anything had its impact on sports radio as well. KTCK The Ticket led the 3 stations and showed a .2 increase. Rival KRLD_FM went up .6, while KESN still trails but also rose .4.

Philadelphia listeners were talking Phillies and Eagles. WIP 610 showed a .7 increase to #9 overall, while WPEN rose .5, giving both sports talkers a combined rating which would be 4th in the market.

However, in Houston, even though KILT leads the pack of 4 sports stations and rose .4 overall, the 4 stations combined wouldn't have made the market's top 20 stations. If this keeps up, 25-54 will be the sports radio listener estimate instead of an audience demographic when it comes to Houston.

Elsewhere, CBSC, the CBS Sports college TV network, is giving a free "preview" via some systems this week in an attempt to attract more viewers and subscribers. Carrying this Saturday's (Nov. 6) Utah-TCU telecast won't hurt. Fans of both teams might be hurt, as the strength of this telecast and the ability to attract "new" viewers could be keeping CBS from showing this matchup to a wider audience.

HOUSTON: The announcement of a Comcast Sports Regional Network for the Houston area starting in 2 years may or may not spell the death of Fox Sports Houston. After being forced out by similar moves in Chicago and other cities, FSH has 2 years to try and hold its own and prepare for losing both the Astros and Rockets after 2 more seasons.

Whether national Fox Sports programming, Big 12 Football, and coverage of the University of Houston and Rice sports will carry the bulk remains to be seen. Surrounding coverage of the Texans will also likely be threatened (if not upstaged) by a Comcast Regional Network, as these provide expanded NFL post-game and weekly programming in their other existing markets.

This will mark the end of an era. Fox Sports Houston was originally HSE and has carried the majority of Astros telecasts since 1983 and had the Rockets games most of those years.

CHICAGO: The Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks are still winners in the young NHL season. Not in the standings but in the TV ratings column. Comcast SportsNet Chicago aired 10 regular season games during October and reports a 77% ratings increase over last October. Both its pre-game and post-game shows have doubled their audiences compared with the first month of last season.

DePaul University basketball will have most of its basketball games aired on WSCR 670 starting later this month, including all of their (Big East) Conference games and the majority of the non-conference games. Zach Zaidman and Laurence Holmes will broadcast every game, with those not airing on WSCR being streamed online.

CINCINNATI: With the Bengals hosting Pittsburgh for Monday Night Football on Monday (11/8), Mike & Mike will do their ESPN Radio and TV morning show from Cincinnati that morning. WCKY 1530 is giving away tickets to attend the broadcast at the West Club Lounge inside Paul Brown Stadium.

SACRAMENTO: A tough week for listeners to and employees of KHTK 1140 this week. As of this week, Kings play-by-play voice Grant Napear is now the only host (schedule permitting) of the 4 - 7 PM spot, as co-host Mike Lamb was let go, as was Program Director Mark Evans. Lamb and Napear were teamed for the past 6 years until this week.

CLEVELAND: Sports anchor Tony Rizzo will be out at Fox 8 as of December 31st after nearly 15 years there. As of now, his WKNR 850 "The Really Big Show" continues on weekday mornings.

WINNIPEG: The recently started Sports Radio 1290 is adding a Saturday morning hockey show starting this Saturday (11/6), as The Illegal Curve Show debuts from 10 AM to Noon. Plans include having current and former NHL players as guests as often as possible.