Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Play-By-Play of Sports Radio

As the baseball post-season continues to unfold, it has been interesting to note that 3 midwest markets each experienced baseball - football TV doubleheaders each involving local teams over a 2-day stretch (Oct. 9 & 10).

On Sunday (10/9), Milwaukee fans had the Brewers in the NLCS opener vs. St. Louis in the late afternoon spot on Fox followed by the Packers at Atlanta on NBC. The Brewers telecast, which was a home game, showed a 31 rating and about 53% of local TV sets tuned in, while the Packers game (on the road) had an overnight rating of 51.2 with about 66% of sets tuned in.

There are a number of theories about why the Packers telecast had the higher local ratings, including that the Packers game was scheduled long before the baseball game, which wasn't scheduled until late last Friday night, that the Brewers game was a home game and therefore at least 40,000 who attended did not need to watch on TV, or that "football seems more popular than baseball". Or perhaps some combination of those three.

Also, on Sunday St. Louis fans had the Rams vs. Redskins as an early regional game on Fox, and then TBS showed the Cardinals NLCS opener from Milwaukee in the late afternoon time slot. Then, on Monday (10/10), Detroit fans had the Tigers vs. Rangers game late afternoon on Fox (postponed from Sunday night) which went extra innings and ended early in the ESPN Monday Night Football telecast of the Lions vs. the Bears.

In Milwaukee, Sunday will wind up having been a banner day for WTMJ 620 Radio, which was able to carry both the Brewers and Packers broadcasts live. The mid-August to mid-September ratings for WTMJ show the station a solid #1 overall, up 3 ratings points since July, undoubtedly helped by the Brewers division title, the world champion Packers, and a strong start by the University of Wisconsin Badgers. The station carries play-by-play for all 3 teams.

In St. Louis, KMOX continued with strong overall ratings and got a slight boost from having the Cardinals back this season, with the Cards' post-season run sure to help for the next ratings period.

While the local teams' play-by-play spells success on the radio side (as well as TV) in Milwaukee and St. Louis, it still does not reflect from sports talk radio. In St. Louis, KMOX, with Cardinals play-by-play and sports talk as only a part of its night and 'off hour' schedule, dominates over KXOS and the other sports talk stations in the ratings.

This is the case to a bigger extent in Milwaukee. WTMJ has some sports talk within its otherwise news/talk format and is a solid #1 in the market. Yet, sports radio stations WAUK and WSSP had less than 10% of WTMJ's overall audience COMBINED during the same ratings period. While local fans are clearly watching and listening to the games, those same fans are not listening to chatter about the teams on the other stations. Again, this should be a reason for concern among sports radio stations in certain markets.

Yet, this is not an "across the board" trend as I thought earlier this year. The Ticket in Detroit bounced back to become #1 overall in the market, while, as mentioned last week, Dallas sports stations each showed increases. In Nashville, WGFX went from a 4.5 overall to an 8.2 in one month to take over as #1 overall in the market as the Titans' NFL season got underway.

This all seems to be a factor in the increase in radio rights deals for play-by-play of late.

On the TV side, the local viewership was not kind in 2 markets in particular for the just concluded regular season, with those being Baltimore/D.C. and Los Angeles.

Even with an improved record and some signs of a pulse this season, the Washington Nationals' local telecast ratings for the season were down nearly 5% from the 2009 disappointing season. However, it wasn't because fans switched over to the Orioles' local telecasts either, as the Orioles and the Oakland A's finished in a virtual tie for lowest average TV audience in the American League.

What makes this interesting is that the Nationals' average rating for the entire season was actually better than either the L.A. Dodgers or Angels. (Because of the much larger population, the L.A. teams actually had more viewers than the Nationals.) Yikes. Even with Vin Scully, who obviously won't be around too much longer doing the home and West Division road telecasts, and an Angels team which was in contention into late September.

The Phillies' runaway toward the N.L. East Division title helped to reduce TV audiences within the Division, as Atlanta, the N.Y. Mets, and Florida Marlins' telecasts all showed "double digit" local audience declines from the 2011 regular season.

Back to radio rights. In Houston, KILT AM & FM announced a 10-year extension of their contract to air the Texans play-by-play plus additional team related programming. This announcement came on top of sports radio KILT-AM more than doubling its overall audience within the past 3 months' ratings. One very interesting addition comes out of this new contract. KILT-AM will air a one-hour extended play-by-play recap of the just past weekend's Texans game each Tuesday night throughout the seasons, with all other Tuesday nights featuring a Texans specific talk show. Marc Vandermeer and Andre Ware will remain as the play-by-play voice and analyst, with Vandermeer likely to continue hosting mornings on KILT-AM. This move is significant not only in terms of the dollars commitment from KILT, but since its AM station ratings are on the rise in a market which has seen poor overall audience performance of late from its other 3 stations in the sports talk arena.

LOS ANGELES: Pleased to report that KCBS-TV 2 and/or the NFL actually have responded to viewer complaints after all. After my comments last week about how KCBS-TV could be put in the position of having to leave the Raiders vs. Texans telecast prior to conclusion on Sunday (10/9) merely to show the start of the San Diego vs. Denver game, it didn't happen. The station stayed with the final 4 minutes of the thrilling Raiders vs. Texans telecast, which went down to the very last second of play, alerting viewers on a screen scroll that the Chargers game would be "joined in progress". Thus, the station missed the first 11 1/2 minutes of the Chargers vs. Broncos game. The NFL considers Los Angeles to be a "secondary market" for Chargers' telecasts. Or at least they did on Sept. 18th when KCBS left the Raiders vs. Bills telecast with :27 left and the outcome in doubt to join the Chargers vs. Patriots telecast in time for kickoff. That's more like it!

St. LOUIS: Dan McLaughlin will not be seen on either University of Missouri or regional Missouri Valley Conference basketball telecasts for at least the upcoming season. Following McLaughlin's second arrest in 13 months on a drunk driving charge, McLaughlin is being replaced in both roles. Chris Gervino, also Sports Director at KOMU-TV Columbia, will handle all of the Missouri telecasts, after handling games when McLaughlin had a schedule conflict. The Missouri Valley telecasts will all be handled by Mitch Holthaus as primary voice, with Kevin Kugler also expected to see an increase in play-by-play assignments over last season. No word yet regarding McLaughlin's status as the Cardinals' primary TV voice.

JACKSONVILLE: WJXL 1010 has moved "Sports Final Radio" into the 6 to 10 AM weekday position, replacing the syndicated Lex & Terry Show, which had been its only non-sports show until this week.

No comments: