Monday, August 1, 2011

Broadcast Booth - August 1st Update....

August just arrived and already it signals change in sports media. Normally a change of name without a change in the "product" is overrated. But certainly not in the case of Sporting News Radio making way to be known as Yahoo Sports. This one is a surprise, at least to the "over 40" generations.

Once upon a time, and a land that is still here but at times seems so far away, The Sporting News was as important to sports fans as the internet is today. Years ago, long before cable TV and the internet, TSN was our link to sports teams beyond our local teams' coverage area. Fans would practically wait at the mailbox for the new issue for the weekly sports newspaper to arrive. It had every box score of every MLB game, reports on each team, and excellent columnists. More importantly, it had credibility among sports fans.

In later years, the onslaught of ESPN, regional cable sports networks, and even newspapers such as (the former) The National and USA Today came along and took away from the impact of The Sporting News as a magazine. Yet, the brand name held up as TSN moved more to radio and other ways of being an information source.

As a result, those in the "over 40" age range most likely consider The Sporting News to have more credibility as a sports news and information source than Yahoo, which has come along within the past 15 years, and is not solely a sports reporting entity. Sure, it's merely a name change, as the Yahoo Sports Radio Network will have the same content. But to the "over 40" range, this takes away from the Sporting News credibility. It's as if this should be the other way around, with Yahoo Sports movin' on up to become a part of TSN's stable.

Yet, to those under the age of 40, they are seeing this as a growth of Yahoo Sports, and see it as taking over for "some newspaper" or a source they never had the opportunity to worship.

Yahoo Sports Radio will continue with the same shows and content, and continue to broadcast from the network's Houston studios. It's nothing more than still another name change for this network, which was known as "One on One Sports Network" in the 90's before The Sporting News purchased it. To me, it's the same content with a "lesser" name behind it.

On the other hand, NBC is upgrading its brand by finally eliminating the Versus name from the sports TV scene at the end of this year. There will be little to no impact on the cable network's programming. This, too, is just a name change. It took until the past 12 to 18 months for the audience to find this network, and that was due to NHL fans finally finding where most of the games are televised. Sports fans rarely, if ever, use the term "Versus", and the name never caught on. Once it becomes known as NBC Sports Network, it should make a difference, given NBC's presence with the NFL and NHL.

It will be interesting to see how NBC Sports Network works to increase their presence starting in 2012. Perhaps they will look to supplement Sunday Night Football with expanded pre and post-game coverage only on the cable channel, and more NFL related programming during the week. I'm sure that TNT and ESPN/ABC are now pleased they have longer term deals with the NBA, since you would think NBC will start bidding for other major sports once again.

Meanwhile, there must be a logical explanation for the big audience that NFL Network received last week for its coverage of the start of the free agent and trading period which began as the lockout was settled. NFL Network jumped in with 12+ hours per day of live "coverage" of the signing and trading period, which resulted in an audience increase of more than 200% over the same time period last year. One explanation is that fantasy players have less time to track the players before their drafts.

On the baseball side, we have the Red Sox vs. Yankees coming up this weekend (Aug. 5 - 7). At times, it seems as though the networks expect the rest of MLB to shut down completely so that the entire nation can focus on nothing but the Yankees - Red Sox series. It's as if it's in the national contracts that these two teams can't play a game not shown nationally or regionally.

This Friday's game will be on MLB Network, Saturday on Fox, and Sunday night, of course, on ESPN. What makes this weekend "different" is that this time around it really is the best series in baseball as the two teams are in a battle for first place (at press time). For once, the hype for this series is legit. Let's see how the audiences respond. Many are so used to the overhype of this matchup that it might take an adjustment to get more people to tune in this time around.

Of course, this means that TBS gets shut out from showing either team this Sunday on its supposed "national" package. Oh my! So, TBS will show the NY Mets hosting Atlanta on Sunday Aug. 7th. Not to worry. On Aug. 14 TBS shows the Yankees hosting Tampa. (This past Sunday 7/31 it was Boston at Chicago.)

In some ways it's the end of an era in southeast Michigan. A month away from the start of the college football season, and (as of press time) the University of Michigan still does not have a radio deal finalized for the Detroit area. WOMC 104.3 still has not renewed its deal for football, nor has WWJ 950 for the school's basketball games. WJR 760 continues with Michigan State football. Yikes.

DALLAS: The Fan 105.3 will have a major presence for fans attending Cowboys games at Cowboys Stadium for this new season. Roger Emrich is taking over as the new Public Address announcer at the stadium. In addition, the station's Armen Williams will act as "In-Game Emcee". This is expected to include fan interaction, contests, and probably commercials. Seems to be a growing trend in the Dallas market, as Jim Knox has been doing this during Rangers games. Here's hoping that Williams' role doesn't get overbearing and acts as a quick promo for the station rather than becoming an annoyance to fans who spend a ton of money on game tickets.

St. LOUIS: Now that the NFL exhibition season is upon us, KTVI-TV 2 is preparing to televise all four of the Rams' exhibition games, since none were picked up by national networks. The new play-by-play crew consists of Andrew Siciliano (an NFL Network host) on play-by-play with former Rams all-pro Marshall Faulk hired as the analyst. Their opening telecast will be the Rams vs. Indianapolis Colts on August 13th.

ALBANY: With the growth of the NFL on TV, it might not matter as much, but it seems that area radio listeners will not have as many choices for the upcoming season. The NY Giants broadcasts will again by on WPYX 106.5, and the NY Jets will air on WTMM 104.5 when there are no Yankees baseball conflicts. WOFX 980 is able to air the Westwood One NFL doubleheaders, but airs Mets baseball as a priority. And, WQBK 103.9 has chosen not to carry the Buffalo Bills broadcasts. Thus, on September Sundays when both the Mets and Yankees are playing, local NFL on radio choices will be very limited.

BRYAN TX: KZNE 1150 The Zone will begin airing a 2-hour weekday show dedicated to Texas A & M sports starting Aug. 22. Gabe Bock will host the show, which will air from 9 to 11 AM Monday through Friday.

LUBBOCK TX: Sorry to learn of the passing of former Texas Tech football and basketball play-by-play voice Jack Dale. He lost his battle with cancer at the age of 79 this past Friday (7/29). Dale actually began his broadcast career in Lubbock in 1952, and was hosting a morning sports show on 1340 AM until he was hospitalized a few weeks ago.

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