Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - April 5th Update

Butler University and its incredible run to the NCAA Championship 2 seasons in a row did not translate into huge ratings for CBS. Maybe enough people "already saw that last year" from Butler, or even more people than last year gave up on brackets. Whatever the case, the Monday night championship telecast finished down about 17% compared with last year. And for the first time in years, the telecast did not conflict with MLB season opening games.

Nothing better demonstrates the lower national interest than the early numbers showing the top 3 markets in terms of local ratings being closest to the participating teams. Indianapolis (home of Butler), Hartford (home market of UConn), and Louisville (next market south of Butler U.) were the leaders. Then again, early indications are that the national ratings numbers will finish higher than they were for the 2009 championship game. However you look at it, the telecast lost overall to "Dancing With The Stars".

As long-time sportscaster Gary Bender prepares for retirement, it's great to see the Phoenix Suns plan to honor him during their game on Monday. Bender spent 18 seasons with the Suns. His 27 years at the network level included stints on NFL, NBA, and MLB telecasts. Bender also has the distinction of having done radio play-by-play for both sides of the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers rivalry, even if more than 20 years apart.

OAKLAND/SAN FRANCISCO: The Oakland A's managed to open the season on a real radio station after all. After last year's scramble to get on KTRB and then be asked to consider buying the radio station to get it out of receivership, the A's instead began a 4-year deal on KBWF 95.7. The country music station (otherwise) brings an immediate signal advantage to the northeast corner of the Bay Area (Berkeley, Oakland Hills, etc.).

The broadcast crew, led by Ken Korach, stays the same. Finally, the A's radio station will, at least for this and the following 3 seasons. This, while the Giants games have aired on KNBR going back to 1978.

The 49ers are not changing stations for their radio broadcasts. Just the analyst to work along with Ted Robinson. Former all-pro defensive back Eric Davis, who had served as analyst on local exhibition game telecasts for the prior two seasons, joins the radio crew. He replaces his former 49er teammate, Gary Plummer, in the new role. No word yet on who will take over the analyst role for local exhibition telecasts, but we still aren't sure there will be any this August. (NFL lockout)

CHICAGO: They call WSCR 670 "The Score", but lately have made it seem like "a score" for listeners to get information over the air. This past Friday (4/1), I happened to be driving in the Chicago area over an hour after both the White Sox and Cubs opening day games were over, with the White Sox opener having been broadcast on WSCR.

It was 6:30 PM, and "time for another scoreboard update" they said. For baseball, listeners got quick recaps of both the White Sox and Cubs opening games. But no out-of-town MLB scores, with final scores in and several games in progress at the time. And not even a mention of if or when listeners could or would get those scores. Then, on to the NBA where the Bulls game was just about to start. This we learn. But then nothing about the Celtics game that night, important to Bulls fans as they both battle for the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Then, onto an in-progress score of the NHL Blackhawks game. But zero mention about the teams in competition for a playoff spot and their games that night.

Not having "national" scores is bad enough. But not including scores of interest to the local teams is another. This was supposed to be a "scoreboard update". Instead, the reporter hurried through it, making me think maybe a manager of team official from one of the baseball teams was holding or something. But no. The update ends, and it's back to more phone calls with fans' opinions.

WSCR has some very good reporters and hosts, some of whom I know or have known. Yet, the Friday incident, while not the first time they have left me hanging like that, was not the only one.

On Saturday afternoon, it turned out that the White Sox at Cleveland broadcast aired on the 7-second delay used for their call-in shows. OK, it can happen for maybe an inning until somebody catches it. Not on Saturday. The entire game was delayed compared with the TV feed.

Sorry, but this is insane to me. It tells me no one monitors the telecast of the game to make sure this doesn't happen AGAIN. Years ago when I was producing live sports broadcasts for games which were also televised, I recall bringing my own portable TV into the studio so that I could keep an eye on the game in case of technical problems or if something significant happened during the game to discuss with listeners afterward.

But there was more to get upset about. Keep in mind this is a regular season MLB game, not spring training. With Darrin Jackson doing play-by-play in the middle 3 innings as usual, the Indians put in a new pitcher. Jackson, along with main play-by-play voice Ed Farmer, admitted that they did not have information about this pitcher other than his name.

That was bad enough, but even into the NEXT inning, they still didn't. Granted, this technically is not the fault of WSCR, but to me it is a representation. How neither broadcaster would get up and go over to the Indians' people in the press box or to the Cleveland TV or radio booth to get information is beyond me. But where was the flagship station staff? Was no one in the studio that could look up information about a current Major League pitcher?

In my years of teaching sports broadcasting in college and working with students of many ages, I have given a poor grade for a lot less than these offenses. But in today's era, I'll bet the station's response would be "the information I want is on the WSCR web site". It may well be. But when I was in the car, I couldn't access the web. Nor should I have to. An all-sports station is supposed to report the sports news, not tell me I have to go to another source to get it.

Do they really think I'll ever visit their web site again?

BOSTON: While Dave O'Brien continues as the primary voice of ESPN's Wednesday Night Baseball this season, the Red Sox and WEEI have extended his contract for 4 more seasons to remain on Red Sox radio along with Joe Castiglione. This, even though his ESPN duties could take him out of as many as 30 Red Sox broadcasts this season. This week he also was scheduled to call the NCAA Womens hoops championship game on Tuesday (4/5) and the Yankees vs. Twins Weds. Night Baseball game on ESPN, before getting to Cleveland for Thursday's Red Sox vs. Indians game. And he will know everybody that pitches for the Indians, too.

MINNEAPOLIS: Looks like WCCO continues to lose its local sports play-by-play. Word is (as of press time) that the NHL Wild will come off WCCO and move to KFAN starting for next season. The team is expected to buy the air time.

ATLANTA: 680 The Fan adds University of Georgia football and basketball to its impressive local play-by-play roster with a new multi-year deal. The Fan also carries the Braves, Hawks, and Thrashers broadcasts. The U. of Georgia deal also includes baseball broadcasts on (sister station) WFOM 1230 starting next month.

PHILADELPHIA: With Phillies fever (or should that be phever?) running high, the Phillies now have an HD Radio channel on HD4 of WOGL Oldies Radio. The channel will also carry each Phillies game live, and replay the previous day or night's game the following morning at 9 AM. The channel also plans original programming related to Phillies baseball during the day along with classic game replays.

KANSAS CITY: KCSP 610 has added Danny Parkins to its 9 to 11 AM midday show as of this week (Mon. 4/4). Parkins comes to K.C. from WSKO Syracuse, and replaces Shan Shariff, who left the market for Dallas's 105.3 The Fan and started there last week.

DENVER: The Broncos and KOA have given a 3-year contract extension to play-by-play voice Dave Logan. His analyst, at least for the 2011 season (if there is one) will again be former QB Brian Griese.

JACKSONVILLE: 1010XL Radio has moved its "Sports Final" show from morning drive to the 10 AM to 1 PM spot as of this week. The change was made to accommodate the Lex & Terry Show move to the 6 to 10 AM spot.

MUNCIE IN: WXFN 1340 wants to keep its local sports events and programming to the point of dropping ESPN Radio after 10 years. The station is working to pick up Fox Sports Radio programming in the near future.

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