We have all witnessed the amazing growth of the audiences for live play-by-play of the major sports on TV and in many cases on radio as well. There have been many reasons for it, including the onslaught of HD (and related) TV technology enhancing live telecasts, adults spending less time viewing typical prime-time TV fare, and enough big name players and teams to keep the seasons interesting.
Major League Baseball went into its All-Star break having every division race with at least one team closer than 5 games out of first place. That is a major plus, since it seems every year at least one team has a huge lead by this point.
I have to wonder if Baseball isn't alarmed about its viewership, however. The Washington Nationals have come from nowhere to being at or slightly above .500 for most of the past two months. That "nowhere" lasted several seasons. Yet, local TV ratings show that Nationals games shown on MASN (and MASN2) are down 24% vs. last season. It can't be that fans prefer to watch the Baltimore Orioles, which have struggled and been below .500 again this year.
The Tampa Bay Rays are coming off a post-season appearance and have a winning record, yet their local TV ratings are down a reported 37% thus far this season. The Florida Marlins, in part from a horrendous streak of losing 19 out of 20 games, have seen a 26% local TV audience drop as well.
This is not to say that local telecasts are sinking. Not the case. The Cleveland Indians' rise in the standings (or maybe that should read "rise TO the standings") reflects in their local telecasts being up almost 80% for this season. Pirates telecasts are up about 33% on Root Sports Pittsburgh.
In addition, local Reds, Brewers, and Royals telecasts are each up at least 24%, a more significant accomplishment for the Royals given their comparative distance from first place.
Why the concern? The All-Star Game on Tuesday (7/12) is being considered as the lowest rated of the prime-time telecasts of the Game, showing about a 9% decline from last season's game.
Again, MLB has every division race still in tact. Also, this game is the only MLB game available over a 3 day stretch. Every team has at least one All-Star player and managers (whether you agree or not) make an effort to get almost every player into the game.
Adding to this is the fact that we have no definite starts to the NFL or NBA seasons. The NHL doesn't start its regular season until October. Of the 4 "major" sports, this should be baseball's time to shine. And attract those millions of viewers hungry for live sports action.
You can't tell me that millions and millions of people knew about Joe Buck's voice problems and chose not to watch ahead of time. Everything should be in place for MLB to enjoy significant TV ratings, locally and nationally, over the next couple of months as 6 divisional races unfold. But execs should be alarmed if they are not.
Regarding Joe Buck, I can understand his wanting to handle the major assignment of describing another All-Star Game, and Fox wanting to have him there (whether you like his work or not). However, as he struggles with gaining full use of his voice, it was not fair for millions to have to be a part of that struggle. Sorry, but I saw no reason why a Thom Brennaman or Kenny Albert (among others) could not have been brought in to call a few innings and relieve Buck.
I'm not sure why Mitch Williams was a 'last minute' substitution on Fox Sports' regional telecast of the White Sox vs. Twins this past Saturday (7/9), as he filled in for Mark Grace. Williams did a very good job in a game analyst role, He also commented several times about managers' moves late in the game, often disagreeing with decisions just made. Whether you agreed with him or not, it is rare to see an analyst that "in to" the game at key moments to make and also explain the reasoning behind such comments.
TBS comes back from the break keeping on its New York / Boston approach. This Sunday (7/17) they show the Phillies at Mets, while the 24th brings us Seattle at Boston. Brian Anderson will call both games.
NEW YORK: One less assignment for the busy Mike Francesa, as he has decided to give up the WNBC-TV Sunday Night Sports wrapup (known as "Mike'd Up") show after nearly 7 years. He is expected to continue his Sunday morning radio show which is picked up by several stations around the country on NFL Sundays, if and when.
WNBC is expected to name a replacement very soon, with Bruce Beck considered a strong candidate based on his filling in for Francesa over the years.
Will Sacramento's loss be the Bay Area's gain? SportsRadio95.7, still only months into operation, has taken "The Rise Guys" program away from Sacramento's KHTK 1140, and will begin its new morning show on Monday Aug. 1st. The co-hosts will be Mark Kreidler and Kevin "Whitey" Gleason, who make the move to the Bay Area, along with Dan Dibley who is already with SportsRadio 95.7. Dibley is likely to serve as producer, which was his role while at KNBR.
SportsRadio 95.7 continues an aggressive approach to compete against KNBR.
MILWAUKEE: It didn't take Bill Michaels long to find his way back on the air in Milwaukee after his recent dismissal from market leader WTMJ. Looks as though the "non-compete" clause did not include a syndicated show. Michaels begins a midday show (11 AM to 2 PM) on Monday August 1st, perhaps in time for Packers training camp, on WSSP Sports Radio 1250. Oh, ya, needed to be a syndicated show. WNFL Green Bay and WHBL Sheboygan will also carry his show. On delay during afternoon drive the same day.
BALTIMORE: Still another TV station reducing its nightly sports segment, although WBFF-TV is not eliminating it. The station is dropping the "Sports Unlimited" segment which ran for up to 15 minutes between 10:45 and 11 PM. Instead, there will be shorter regular sports segment within the newcast itself.
WASHINGTON D.C.: If and when the NFL season arrives, Redskins Radio will continue with its same voices. In addition to Larry Michael and Doc Walker on play-by-play, the network will again have Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff as analysts. Sonny & Sam have been a part of the analyst team since 1981.
CINCINNATI: Brad Johansen may not be done describing Bengals games after all, following his 11 seasons as radio voice until being replaced by Dan Hoard for the eventual season. Johansen would call any exhibition games played this season, which become available locally, for Channel 12, for which he continues as Sports Director.
HOUSTON: Craig Roberts has returned to KBME 790 for a show some weeknights from 7 to 9 PM. He will be joined by his son Cody (a teacher and soccer coach). His show will also air on Sunday mornings during the football season.
LINCOLN: KLMS SportsRadio 1480 adds more local programming starting on July 25. The "Necessary Roughness" show with Stan Washington and Nick Gregath moves from weekends into the 3 - 4 PM spot, while "On the Bench" with Dick Janda moves up to a new 2 PM time. The regional "Huskers Illustrated Radio Show" will air from 4 to 6 PM on KLMS along with KJSK 900 Columbus.
This move coincides with the new KNTK 93.7 The Ticket to make its debut no later than August 1st. KLMS continues with ESPN programming, while KNTK will carry Fox Radio Sports.