Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - February 9th Update

Somehow this story has slipped under the national sports radar. The Capital OTB cable TV channel in Albany, New York begins a sports talk show this Thursday (2/10). "Capital OTB Sports" will air live for either 2 or 3 hours starting at 9 AM weekday mornings and will be hosted by Anthony Mormino.

The information release says that there will be guests and that the focus will be on local college and high school teams. In addition to the TV channel, this show will be streamed on CapitalOTB.com.

Yes, Capital OTB is the off-track betting facility, and the vast majority of this channel's programming deals with horse racing. That's betting, which is off limits to high school students. College students are just of the age which is able to bet on racing.

It will be interesting to see if local high school coaches will collectively cooperate with this show. Or if local college and coaches will cooperate or be put under any restrictions. On one hand, this is media as a local cable TV outlet. On the other hand, the purpose of this channel is to increase gambling revenue, even though much of the revenue generated is distributed to cities.

The announcement also mentioned that horse racing news will be included within the show, along with national pro and college sports news and opinion. There are no major league pro teams in Albany, while the college sports scene includes Siena College and the University of Albany.

If this show in Albany becomes successful in terms of increasing the channel's audience (and ultimately betting on racing) and/or generating significant advertising revenue, chances are that other regions with horse racing channels would explore doing something similar. Especially with non-racing time during several daytime hours.

When you consider the steps the professional leagues have taken to stay away from any type of association with gambling, it could be worth monitoring whether "Capital OTB Sports" will win or place in the near future.

Meanwhile, Sports Business Journal shared some interesting findings with their examination of the local telecast ratings for NBA and NHL teams throughout the recently concluded first half of each league's current season.

It seems that one city managed to show up in the top 5 in popularity for both. That city is Boston, which coincidentally finished #5 in local viewership among both NBA and NHL teams. The Celtics games air on Comcast SportsNet New England while the Bruins air on NESN. Not only are there nights when both teams' telecasts overlap in part or in full, but the first half of both teams' seasons were during the Patriots successful regular season.

The SBJ findings were more surprising on the NBA side for most watched local telecasts. LeBron James and the Miami Heat did not crack the top 2, although that is probably because of the number of Heat games carried on ESPN, TNT, ABC, and NBA Network. The top local market is San Antonio, no surprise based on the Spurs' great start, with Utah next. Miami is #3, followed closely by the L.A. Lakers and then the Celtics telecasts finished 5th.

On the NHL side, 3 of the top 5 local telecast audiences are for teams in cities which do not have an NHL franchise. The Pittsburgh Penguins top the list, with Buffalo 2nd. Detroit is #3 (understandable given the Red Wings status in first place for most of the season while the NBA Pistons continue to struggle), and St. Louis is 4th, ahead of the Bruins. The report notes that St. Louis and Boston show the biggest increases when compared with last season.

Compass Media feels strongly enough that the Dallas Cowboys are "America's Team" to the point of signing a 5-year deal for national radio broadcasts of Cowboys regular season games beginning with the upcoming (or should we say "next") season. Incredibly, the package also includes pre-season games, and this is for the remainder of the country beyond the scope of the Cowboys' 65 station radio network.

This is in addition to the network's package of NFL broadcasts, while Compass will continue to also handle Oakland Raiders radio. The difference with the Oakland deal is that Compass also handles the local broadcasts and the Raiders Network.

MINNEAPOLIS: While the Twins may or may not get back to the post-season this year, fans will have one more season of John Gordon on the call. After originally planning on retiring after the 2010 season, Gordon has decided to return for his 25th season calling Twins games. The 70-year old Gordon will cut back to about 90 broadcasts, eliminating the long road trips.

St. LOUIS: Cardinals fans, already ecstatic about the return of the broadcasts to KMOX this year, will have the same broadcast team in place. John Rooney has signed a 5-year extension, while Mike Shannon begins his 40th season in the radio booth with the first of 3 more seasons. (It will also be his 54th season in the Cardinals organization if you include his playing days.) Mike Claiborne begins his 4th season in the booth, primarily handling the pre-game and post-game programming. He will fill in when Rooney or Shannon are off. The three will also take turns on the post-game "Live At Shannon's" show after Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday home games.

CINCINNATI: By coincidence, ESPN created a conflict for college basketball fans on Tuesday (2/8). At exactly the same time, 7 PM ET, the family of networks was showing three games which targeted the Cincinnati area.

ESPN2 was showing the University of Cincinnati at DePaul, while ESPNU was showing Xavier (also located in Cincinnati, just a few miles from U. of Cincinnati) at Georgia. Meanwhile, ESPN's primary game was Indiana University at Purdue. IU is located about 2 hours from Cincinnati and has a lot of alum in that area. Not only did all 3 teams play at the same time on an ESPN network, but all 3 were on the road.

HOUSTON: KTRH begins the task of getting Astros fans ready for the coming season on Wednesday (2/9) when Craig Biggio will be the live guest on the Astroline show at 7 PM CT. Milo Hamilton will host the live broadcast from a local restaurant, which will also be streamed on Astros.com.

BUFFALO: A good move by WGR SportsRadio 550. The station's new phone app allows listeners to listen to the station live via phone. In addition, this reportedly includes the Sabres broadcasts and game highlights. The app also allows fans to get sports news and recently aired segments.

With satellite and some internet radio channels also available by phone, this is a good move by a local station to be available via this method. Radio stations seem to forget that people rarely if ever use portable radios anymore. It will be interesting to see if the NHL continues to allow the streaming of Sabres broadcasts. Fans of opposing teams in other areas, as well as fans of division rivals, could also take advantage of this feature.

SALT LAKE: The Zone 1280 Sports is now simulcast on 104.7, which is significant to sports fans at night. KZNS 1280 has to reduce its signal from 50,000 watts to less than 1,000 at night, when the FM availability figures to be a big factor. The FM station dropped modern rock.

SACRAMENTO: This is really more of a cross-promotion than adding another sports voice. Rob & Arnie, the morning team on rock station KRXQ 98.5 will begin a weekly sports show on KCTC ESPN 1320. The show will air only on Fridays as a weekend sports preview.

Elsewhere, the increase of college baseball on radio and TV continues as the season opens within the next couple of weeks. University of Arkansas baseball will have its games broadcast on Fayetteville's KQSM 92.1 with 20 other affiliate stations in the region carrying many of the broadcasts. Chuck Barrett begins his 20th season of play-by-play, although Phil Elson and Kyle Kellams will fill in when Barrett has to call Razorback basketball games. ArkansasRazorbacks.com will also stream the baseball broadcasts.

Kansas State will have every baseball game (56 regular season) on either KMAN SportsRadio 1350 Manhattan or at KStateSports.com (when basketball pre-empts on KMAN). Fox Sports Kansas City will televise at least 2 games this season.

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