The July radio ratings are starting to come out, and based on the top 3 markets (released as of press time), it means that we'll see what impact the return of the NFL will have on the sports radio audience.
In New York, WFAN held steady while WEPN dropped .2 overall. The result is that The Fan now has literally 4 times the overall audience (all ages) that WEPN has. In Chicago, WSCR is only 19th overall, but did rise .2 compared with the June numbers. That's impressive given the lackluster season the White Sox are having, and WSCR is the team's flagship station. However, WMVP ESPN 1000 dropped .3 overall. The two stations had been close together in the ratings for the past couple of years but now WSCR has opened a gap.
In Los Angeles, where is no NFL team, it's tough to be polite in reporting. KSPN dropped again and has now lost half of its overall audience since the May numbers. And while KLAC held steady, neither station made the top 30 ranked stations in overall audience for the July ratings. Yikes!
While fans await the start of the NFL exhibition season within the week, the sports media around the country begins to benefit from the financial frenzy the NFL costs us all along getting their share of the audiences of football fans.
After all, the end of the lockout enables millions of people who are not even NFL fans to help subsidize the league and its thorough media coverage along with the millions who are fans. A big part of the reason that cable/satellite TV bills continue to rise across the country is due to ESPN/ABC being the most expensive programming package for most cable and satellite companies to carry. The cable and satellite companies "must" carry ESPN due to consumer demand. However, the high cost of this programming is, of course, passed along to customers, whether they are NFL fans or not.
Then, Comcast has filed a lawsuit against DirecTV regarding the market of its Sunday Ticket package, specifically regarding the methods that DirecTV uses to make the package an incentive for new subscribers. This is because Comcast also competes for sports fans to subscribe. No matter how this lawsuit turns out, it shows how much money is at stake just so that fans can watch the NFL games on TV. The number of TV viewers and subscribers is more important to NFL revenue than tickets sold, since millions of fans are paying more because of these telecasts.
Meanwhile, some of the sports radio stations are finding ways to provide information beneficial for NFL fans. ESPN Radio Chicago, WMVP 1000, is involved in a Fantasy Football Convention to be held in the Chicago area on August 27th. Two of the stations' hosts will lead the convention, which features a panel including Mike Ditka and others providing information and analysis for putting together an NFL fantasy team. As part of the day's convention, attendees will be able to break out into 10 team fantasy leagues and draft their players on location for a 13-week competition for prizes. Although this will be a paid ticket event, I like the idea of a radio station being involved with fantasy leagues to this extent, and providing football fans with information and presumably more reasons to listen to the station.
My point here is to bring across the idea of how many millions of dollars change hands because of fans' interesting in following NFL games, without factoring in ticket prices and betting, and why so much media competition for the audience exists. If only it wasn't so expensive whether consumers are interested or not.
Westwood One Radio has determined its announcing teams for the coming season, including Kevin Harlan calling its Monday Night Football broadcasts while Howard David will continue to call one of the network's Sunday afternoon games. Harlan will have either Boomer Esiason or Dan Fouts as analyst on Monday nights. Dave Sims and James Lofton will call the radio broadcasts of Sunday Night Football, while Kevin Kugler will call the Sunday afternoon game which Howard David does not. Westwood One will also air the Thursday Night Football games, assigning Ian Eagle and Trent Green to those.
On the baseball side, ESPN is taking an interest in Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals during August. The network has announced that the Cardinals will appear on 2 more Sunday Night Baseball telecasts, making it 3 times within 5 weeks. Just after Fox announced that it was dropping the Cardinals vs. Colorado game from its Saturday Aug. 13th regional game (in favor of picking up the Pirates game despite their recent losing streak) comes word that ESPN will show St. Louis vs. Colorado on Sunday night August 14. Then for Sunday August 21st, ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball again shows the Cardinals hosting the Cubs, the same matchup it featured on July 31st (but from St. Louis this time).
NEW YORK: Now that the recent DWI incident has passed, the N.Y. Knicks went ahead with the hiring of former L.A. Lakers voice Spero Dedes as their radio play-by-play voice beginning with the coming season (whenever that may be). Dedes will handle selected Knicks TV games when Mike Breen has conflicts with his ESPN/ABC responsibilities.
CLEVELAND: WKNR 850 will have competition by the end of this month. CBS Radio will enter the sports radio scene in Cleveland by starting "The Fan" on 92.3, replacing modern rock WKRK. The new station has already teamed Chuck Booms and Kevin Kiley for "Kiley & Booms" for the 6 to 10 AM weekday spot starting August 29th.. The station will shoot The Bull in afternoon drive, as "Adam The Bull", formerly of WFAN in New York, will host the 3 to 7 PM slot. In addition, the station plans to go football heavy by carrying Big Ten football and Westwood One's NFL lineup on weekends.
The Cavaliers have not announced who their new radio play-by-play voice will be (after Joe Tait), although it is probably due to the NBA lockout. If and when the lockout ends, most observers expect that WTAM 1100 Sports Director Mike Snyder, who filled in for Tait most of last season, to be named to the position.
MINNEAPOLIS: ESPN 1500 is reportedly planning to go local with its late morning weekday slot as the station tries to make inroads against Paul Allen on rival KFAN. The station wants to increase its Vikings talk instead of continuing with Colin Cowherd, whose show has a considerable audience drop following Mike & Mike's morning show.
MILWAUKEE: While it's a problem the local sports fans enjoy having, WTMJ 620 appears to be flexible when it comes to scheduling for its play-by-play conflicts. The Brewers' success in leading the National League Central puts more importance into their games over the next few weeks, which includes games scheduled at the same time as the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers exhibition and regular season games. Usually, WTMJ gives priority to the Packers broadcasts, but the Brewers aren't usually in serious contention.
Word is that WTMJ will go with the "most important" game during conflicts, and will move the other broadcast over to WLWK 94.5 FM. It is likely that 94.5 will carry University of Wisconsin football broadcasts until the Brewers season is over when Saturday conflicts occur.
It's good to see that this will be a week-to-week decision, since WTMJ's signal covers a wider area and the station is the #1 rated station in the market.
CINCINNATI: The Bengals continue to expand their radio coverage, while WLW also increases its team related program on Sundays for the coming season. Alan Cuter, also the Sports Director of WLEX-TV Lexington KY, has been brought back to handle the "Countdown to Kickoff" show starting 90 minutes before kickoff, as well as halftime and the "Locker Room Report" for approximately 90 minutes after each game. Cutler was studio host for Bengals broadcasts until 2009. Ken Broo, who hosted the radio post-game for the past two seasons, will host "Sunday Sports Talk" on WLW starting at 9 AM and then return for "Bengals Feedback" following the post-game show and continue until 8 PM.
WLW will again broadcast those Bengals games which do not conflict with its Reds baseball broadcasts, while all Bengals games will air on WCKY 1510 and WEBN 102.7. The new radio broadcast team of Dan Hoard with Dave Lapham begins on Friday (8/14) with the exhibition opener vs. Detroit, while Brad Johansen and Anthony Munoz call the game on Channel 12.
INDIANAPOLIS: WNDE 1260 is changing its afternoon drive show in an effort to gain on WFNI 1070. Mark Patrick is out and former WXLW host Derek Schultz and IMS Radio Network's Jake Query will team up from 3 to 7 PM starting on August 15th.
OKLAHOMA CITY / TULSA: Cox Communications will be providing extensive high school football coverage this season, announcing a total of 17 telecasts on Friday nights, not to mention replays on Satudays, serving both the Oklahoma City and Tulsa regions. Steve Marshall will call the games shown in the OK City area, while Mike Wolfe will handle the games shown in Tulsa. Plans include one game from both region to be shown on Sept. 16 and 30th.