We know that the NBA and NHL post-seasons are generating significant ratings on both the national and (most) local levels, including local viewing records set in both Boston and Chicago this month.
But many will be heavily anticipating the audience ratings for the NFL Draft later this week, with ESPN and NFL Network, as well as satellite radio, devoting hour after hour of coverage. With the NFL player lockout looming (rulings and appeals as of press time), the Draft coverage is one way to determine the interest level and perhaps the mindset of NFL fans.
Elsewhere, KMOX St. Louis had quite the predicament this past Friday (4/22) night when the severe storm and tornado damaged the St. Louis International Airport and several other locations within the metro area. After a lengthy delay, the Cardinals decided to play their home game vs. Cincinnati. KMOX wanted to stick with its local service by providing continuous coverage of the storm. As a result, they moved the Cardinals broadcast to music station KYKY 98.1. A solid decision under the circumstances.
Following up from our comments last week about the state of sports radio, we now have the March ratings for Boston and Detroit, among other key markets. Sure enough, those markets did show an overall increase in listenership to help buck the trend in some others.
While WEEI has lost more than 20% of its overall audience since January, rival WBZ-FM showed an audience increase and finished only 2 spots below WEEI this time around. This set of results even touched off a "radio war" between the two morning teams. Dennis & Callhan on WEEI and Toucher & Rich on WBZ-FM both claimed "victory" on the air. I'm not sure the listeners to either care as much as they each seemed to. They should all be pleased that Boston sports radio still has a good-sized audience compared to some other markets.
WXYT-FM The Ticket showed a slight increase from February, and if WXYT-AM didn't air different sports programming at times and both stations counted as one, The Ticket would have been 4th overall in the market. However, The Ticket finished first overall for a time last year.
A couple of other markets showed some increase, while still not making a major overall audience impact. Cincinnati's WCKY and WSAI-AM both showed increases of at least .3 in the ratings since February, but even if combined would not have made the top 10 overall. In Miami, the 3 sports stations combined to increase the overall audience since January, but combined would not have made the top 20 in the market.
San Diego and Milwaukee's sports stations battle held steady. The 3 San Diego sports stations showed no increase from January on, and combined would not make the overall top 20. Milwaukee's WAUK 540 held steady, while WSSP lost slightly. The 2 Chicago sports stations again showed up in the Milwaukee book, with both remaining the same as recent months.
While most of the comments I received from last week's column about the decline of sports radio audience this year were private, there were a handfull that disagree with me. Some of those think that football is the dominant sport to talk year-round, and that the NFL lockout is the main reason for this decline. All the more reason to watch for audience ratings for this week's draft. But it seems to me that the NFL has been talked about as much as usual for this time of the year, with the only difference being the "if there is a season" within most comments.
We'll keep watching this over the next few months, but I'm still going with the reasoning that fans are more interested in watching the games (and increasing the record TV ratings) than merely hearing too many "non-expert" opinions from other fans.
There may be "no crying" in baseball, but there was on SportsCenter. This past Friday (4/22) anchor Josh Elliot, doing his final show on ESPN before heading off to ABC-TV and Good Morning America, teared up during his farewell signoff.
MIAMI: Sad news with the announcement that Dolphins broadcaster, and former Dolphins standout Jim Mandich passed away on Tuesday (4/26) at age 62 from cancer. Mandich has been the Dolphins' radio analyst from 1992 through 2004 and had rejoined the role since 2007. His playing days may be best remembered for his role with the 1972 Dolphins that finished the season undefeated.
CHICAGO: It's much deserved praise for Comcast SportsNet Chicago for its handling of having 3 games to show on the same night and keeping its viewing audience happy. Both last Thursday (4/21) and this Tuesday (4/26), the Chicago area regional cable network carried both the NHL Blackhawks and NBA Bulls in playoff battles, as well as having White Sox baseball on the docket. Using its primary channel and "Comcast SportsNet Plus", plus adding a third channel, the network managed to have at least one channel for all 3 games. It took moving around of some of the pre and post-game shows for those viewers partial to one of the games, but this added to the thorough job they did.
The network also did an excellent job of alerting viewers with the bottom graphics as to where each game was being shown in its entirety and where post-game programming could be seen.
DALLAS: As of this writing, KDAF-TV will find itself without a sportscaster after this week for its nightly newscasts. Word is that Dave Crome, who had been with KDAF for more than 10 years, is out after this week. This follows the recent departures of Desmond Purnell and Candice Crawford. It looks like the station will significantly reduce, or possibily eliminate, a sports segment starting next week. More and more TV stations are looking to cut back their sports segments, not wanting to compete against the regional and national networks in-depth nightly shows. Yet, by not offering sports, they risk losing even more of a shrinking male audience.
SACRAMENTO: KHTK 1140 has regained the Oakland Raiders broadcasts. This announcement comes after the team has a new San Francisco deal with KRFR 1550 and Live 105 FM in the Bay Area.
A nice local touch by ESPN 1320 last Saturday (4/23). Mike Finnerty devoted some of his SureWest Sports morning show to prep sports, specifically focusing on the recent untimely death of a Davis H.S. assistant baseball coach and how the team responded with an impressive 3-game winning streak on a big road trip right after. It was one of those times when it is about more than sports, and when fan reaction takes on more meaning.
PORTLAND: KPAM 860 introduced Northwest Sports Tonight" into the early evening this week (started Monday 4/25), hosted by Ron Callan. The only local sports show within its time period is also expected to devote more coverage to Oregon State University sports, since KPAM remains OSU's flagship station.
OMAHA: KXSP ESPN Radio adds a new co-host to its 2 to 6 PM show starting May 16th. Michael Grey joins the station from a morning co-hosting gig on WBBL Grand Rapids. Grey will host along with Pete McIntyre, and the show is expected to continue its focus on Nebraska, Iowa, and Creighton University sports.
Ft. WAYNE: ESPN 1380 (and WOWO 1190) will have a new Operations Manager starting next week. Gregg Henson brings his KRLD-FM 105.3 Dallas sports talk experience to the smaller market. No word yet as to whether or not Henson will perform any hosting duties on ESPN 1380.