Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - June 14th Update

The vast majority of pro basketball fans had a definite reaction late Sunday night when Dallas defeated Miami in what many term an upset to win the NBA Championship. However, it was far from a "championship performance" at the local sports-talk level when that happened.

A check of Miami sports stations within an hour of the championship having been lost by the Heat revealed that none of them had a local show on the air. No immediate opportunity for Heat fans to express their frustration, disappointment, and/or aggravation at what had just happened. Just as incredible is how Dallas' sports radio stations were just as guilty. Nothing local and live.

I'm sure I'll get private responses from friends and others I don't know within the industry who will point out that this was late on Sunday night, was a minimal audience time slot, and that station management did not know for sure the NBA Finals would not be taken to a Game 7. I know those things, and they are true.

However, there is more involved here. Sports radio stations seem to place top priority on letting the listeners react to a breaking sports story. Sometimes to the point of too much priority over the players, coaches, and executives making the news. In Dallas and Miami (and you could even include Cleveland in the mix with LeBron James not winning the championship), this was a major moment in the sports history of that city. But local fans had no local radio station to call and celebrate or vent. Every one of them that tuned in to their favorite local sports station and heard national and in a couple of cases unrelated programming will remember that. They weren't going to 'hold that thought' until the next morning or afternoon and call in after the fact.

These stations should have been ready for this. Have a regular host in the studio or able to get there within minutes of the game ending to go on the air and have a special edition of NBA Finals discussion. They should have been on spurring fan reaction either way for at least an hour. And then spent much of the following day letting listeners know that they were letting listeners react right away with that 'special edition'.

Why? Credibility is the #1 reason. Having the midday guy saying "Did you hear that one guy blaming Dwayne Wade 20 minutes after the game was over?" and talking about the station doing a post-game call-in show tells the audience that they can depend on their favorite sports station for immediate reaction of a major story - no matter when it happens. And this story could have and should have been anticipated.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to cover a championship team's return home and literally went on the air live from the airport with updates at 3:30 in the morning. By the time I returned to the studios with interviews and to record a wrap-up, the morning man was already in. So we recorded a special wrap up for him to air during the morning, letting people know the station provided live coverage overnight, and letting me get to sleep. Even though it was not a large audience at 3:30 in the morning, being able to let the audience know we did it reminded listeners to tune in when something big happens.

Several times during the next day, mentions were made of how "our live coverage" continued up until nearly 4 AM "for those who stayed up to celebrate". These days, too many radio stations forget that sports fans have numerous choices to react and/or to get news and scores, including their phones, online, and multiple sports TV channels.

And this was not an all sports station I was working for. To think that stations dedicated to sports in these major cities ignored this opportunity is disappointing to say the least.

Meanwhile, congrats to NBA broadcaster Jim Durham on finally being selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame. Prior to calling national games for ESPN Radio along with an occasional TV assignment, Durham called Mavericks games from 1993 to 2001. He established himself as one of the best during his 18 seasons as radio voice of the Chicago Bulls, leaving after Michael Jordan's first championship season of 1990-91. Durham will be inducted on August 12th.

CBS Sports has signed former University of Michigan football head coach Rich Rodriguez to do both studio work and analysis on its college telecasts. He will work with play-by-play voice Dave Ryan during game telecasts.

The latest monthly radio ratings for May are coming out, with most of the Top 10 markets having been announced as of press time on Tuesday. In New York, WCBS-AM dropped .7 overall, but is 6th overall in the market with its Yankees broadcasts. WFAN finished only 17th overall with WEPN at #25, although both stations held steady compared with the prior month. In Chicago, WSCR The Score dropped since April and fell back into a tie with rival WMVP ESPN Radio, which held steady for the 3rd straight month. In Los Angeles, KSPN and KLAC both held steady, although their overall combined ratings still would not make the top 20 in the market.

In San Francisco, KNBR finishes at 6th overall this time. Even with a slight drop in total audience, they leave the other sports stations in the dust. In Philadelphia, WIP lost .5 overall from the month before, while WPEN held steady for the third month in a row. News station KYW is 2nd overall and continues with regular sports score and information updates.

Dallas and Houston continue to show different levels of interest in sports radio. KTCK The Ticket and KESN ESPN now rank only 17th and 18th overall, but both stations showed a .4 overall audience increase. KRLD-FM trails, but showed a .2 increase. Thus, the 3 sports stations combined for a one full point ratings increase. In Houston< KILT, KMBE, and KFNC each showed .1 increases overall. However, even combined they would barely dent the top 20 in the entire market. What makes the Houston numbers significant is that Houston is the largest market without a news station ranked in the top 12 overall.

Baseball fans around the country are practically needing to be reminded that there are other races in progress besides the Yankees and Red Sox. On Monday (6/13) and on Weds. (6/15) ESPN had or will have the Yankees on its Monday Night and Weds. Night Baseball telecasts. On Tuesday (6/14) and scheduled for Thursday (6/16), MLB Network did and will carry the Red Sox vs. Tampa. On Friday (6/17), MLB Network carries the Yankees at Chicago Cubs game in the afternoon, while the same matchup is a Fox regional game for Saturday. The series concludes on Sunday (6/19) on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. This left TBS with only one choice (or so it seems) for Sunday afternoon, as it will show the Brewers at Red Sox. Next Monday's ESPN Monday Night game? You guessed it. Yankees at Cincinnati. The TBS game for Sunday June 26th is scheduled to be Colorado at the Yankees.

St. LOUIS: WXOS ESPN 101.1 has hired Kent Sterling as its Program DIrector. Sterling had earlier programmed KFNI The Fan Indianapolis, and replaces Jason Barrett who joined recent San Francisco new sports talker KBWF 95.7.

TAMPA: Gene Deckerhoff will continue his busy weekends for a while. The long time football play-by-play voice signed a 2-season extension to call the Buccaneers games, as he has done since 1989. The 12 time FL Sportscaster of the Year also continues to call Florida State Seminoles football on Saturdays.

LUFKIN TX: The Lufkin High School Panthers will have a different radio station for their football and basketball broadcasts starting this fall. KYKS Kicks 105 will air the football games while KTBQ 107 will air the basketball, with Gary Ivins getting the play-by-play role. Why is this big news? Because those games will no longer air on KRBA 1340, on which they have aired since 1938 when the family owned station first signed on the air.

LINCOLN: KNTK The Ticket 93.7 is set to debut within the next few weeks as the new sports station. The station has now hired Adrian Fiala, previously an analyst on the Nebraska Husker Sports Network, and former KLKN-TV sportscaster John Gaskins, will be among the local show hosts. The station will also carry Fox Sports programming.

LAKE CHARLES LA: KEZM-AM from the nearby town of Sulphur may not survive this year. The sports station's ownership has until the end of the year to find a new transmitter site location, but reportedly lacks the finances to do so.

Finally, this blog takes a look at "top sports media scandals" of recent years:


Interesting to ponder, while we realize that the NHL season outlasted the NBA season, even though the Stanley Cup playoffs started a week sooner.

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