Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - April 14th Update........

We're about to go through still another April 15th of "Jackie Robinson" day for Major League Baseball. Perhaps the worst day for fans watching any of the action on TV. Sorry, but MLB and its teams have done enough over the years to honor Robinson for all he accomplished. This need to have every player wear number 42 is a significant distraction for fans watching on TV. The local stations and sports networks showing highlights lose impact when every player has the same number on. Any great plays, clutch hits, or pitching performances worthy of making highlight features for the week, month, or even the season become tarnished because the player(s) featured are not wearing their regular numbers.

Elsewhere, some cable systems continue to find even more ways of getting out of hand with expecting their customers to cough up still more dollars for sports packages. As MLB teams continue to have more and more of their games on local or regional cable networks, the teams and cable providers seem to think that adding more telecasts should translate into extra money. One system in the Minneapolis area has "negotiated" to be able to include about 20 "additional" Twins telecasts this season for the subscribers.

Now comes a story out of Asheville that Charter TV will carry 45 "additional" Atlanta Braves telecasts, bringing the package from 109 to 154 games for the current season. This because of additional negotiations with Fox Sports South, which supposedly may be charging Charter an additional fee for these additional games. Can somebody tell me (and, more importantly, us as consumers) how part of a package of games would cost even more? Sorry, but if the regional networks can't make enough money, why are they spending all of this money to get the rights to show all of these games? Why should customers, even those who don't care about sports, be "forced" to pay even more because of this?

While some baseball fans are tired of seemingly every Yankees vs. Red Sox game being shown on national TV, ESPN did very well with its Sunday Night Baseball telecast of this matchup last week (4/10). The initial ratings report showed that telecast to be ESPN's highest rated Sunday night since August of 2009, and this was just the second week of the young season. And the August '09 telecast with almost as high of a rating was - you guessed it - Yankees vs. Red Sox. As an exclusive telecast in both the Boston and New York markets, it is interesting that the audience ratings in the Boston market were more than double the audience ratings for the New York market. Keep in mind the miserable start of the Red Sox this young season.

The big bucks going to college conferences continues stronger than ever. The Pac-10 Conference figures to be next. The Conference is waiting on bids for national coverage, now with the addition of Colorado and Utah to the Conference. Word is that Fox and CBS Sports will battle it out for rights to the football and basketball games.

The Big 12 Conference has just announced a 13 year deal with Fox Sports to include about 40 football games each season. A separate arrangement with Fox will allow ESPN and ABC to show selected Big 12 football and basketball games for next season. This deal brings millions and millions more to the Conference. However, it is the thousands of cable subscribers who are socked for increased costs whether or not they follow sports at all or wish to financially support the schools in these conferences.

LOS ANGELES: Multiple local sources report that the Lakers will have a new TV play-by-play voice to work with Stu Lantz starting next season. Although all of the Lakers' radio and TV announcer contracts are set to expire at the end of the team's playoff run, it appears the team will not seek to renew Joel Meyers, who has handled the TV side since 2003.

The Lakers continue their TV deals for one more season with Fox Sports and KCAL-TV before their gazillion dollar cable deal begins in the 2012-13 season. Spero Dedes is a likely choice to move from the radio booth over to the TV side, although his work for CBS Sports on NFL football and college basketball would create several conflicts. Bill MacDonald, after 25 years with Prime Ticket and Fox Sports, is also considered a candidate for either the radio or TV play-by-play spot.

PITTSBURGH: Congrats to Billy Hillgrove from "Billy Hillgrove Day" in Pittsburgh last Friday (4/8). The legendary play-by-play voice was honored in ceremonies. Hillgrove was chosen by the Rooney family to replace the then retired Jack Fleming in 1994 to become the voice of the Steelers, and has not missed even one game since.

In addition, the 70-year old Hillgrove has been the voice of University of Pittsburgh football for 37 seasons (during which he has missed only 2 games, with those being due to Steelers conflicts) and Pitt basketball for 42 years.

A prime example of his dedication came in January 2009 when the Steelers hosted San Diego in a 4:00 PM playoff game. Of course, he did the broadcast, but did so without his usual pre-game preparation routine. The reason? He called the Pitt basketball home game which started at Noon that day before heading over to the football game.

CHICAGO: Mike Murphy, who was on WSCR The Score for its first 17 years, has joined WMVP ESPN 1000 to co-host a Sunday morning basebal oriented show starting this Sunday (4/17) from 9 AM to 1 PM.

BOSTON: The Red Sox aren't the only team generating significant local TV ratings. The Bruins' ratings on NESN were reportedly up more than 40% from last season to the just concluded regular season. Both pre-game and post-game programming also showed double digit increases in viewers. NESN has already expanded its pre-game shows for the first round playoff series vs. Montreal to a full hour.

On the radio side, WEEI has moved Mike Adams to "The Big Show" in the afternoon along with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley as of this week. The move coincides with Adams' evening show having fewer hours due to Red Sox broadcasts.

DALLAS: It's always good when a sports talk station gets a major guest, and SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket scored an excellent live segment with Rangers Manager Ron Washington last Friday (4/8). Washington was on live with Norm Hitzges.

RALEIGH/DURHAM: The Buzz 620 has added The Dan Patrick Show, airing it live from 9 AM to Noon, as of this week.

TORONTO: TSN Radio 1050 has added Bryan Hayes as a weekday host from 10 AM to Noon as of this week. Hayes comes over from 640 AM. The station, meanwhile, has begun streaming on

Down the dial, The Score Radio has brought back local personality Stormin' Norman Rumack to host late nights.

ENGLAND: BBC 5 is again airing a live MLB broadcast of a Sunday afternoon game. This past Sunday, the weekly broadcast was the Braves vs. Phillies game. Due to the time difference, the broadcasts are heard during evening prime time in the UK.

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