It's rare that I give kudos to a TV or radio outlet for its use of social media, but Comcast SportsNet Chicago certainly earned them last week. Although I'm all for social media and the technology it has brought us, I still take the old school approach that a TV or radio station or network is supposed to emphasize what it does and not place such a high priority on secondary outlets.
Yet, last week during its Game 3 telecast of the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes game, CSN Chicago gave fans a treat by its use of social media. During the game, a controversial on-ice hit by Raffi Torres of Phoenix injured Chicago's Marian Hossa, forcing officials to take Hossa off the ice on a stretcher and delaying the game. (Torres was since suspended for 25 games over the incident.)
Blackhawks announcers Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk (yes, the Olcyzk who calls many games for NBC Sports) were immediately outraged over the hit. Yet, the Phoneix announcers, at first, gave their viewers a "It was a clean hit!" reaction. Fans outside of the Phoenix telecast had no way of knowing that. Legally, CSN Chicago could not "show" the Phoenix telecast on its airwaves.
In this instance, it did the next best thing. Facebook users were treated to the Phoenix announcers call of the same incident via video link within an hour of the incident occuring. Thus, Blackhawks fans were able to, by watching the game and then by checking the video link on Facebook, hear both sides call of the controversial play.
That was a great move to provide fans with the different perspectives on the same play, and something that would not have happened (at least that quickly) without social media to support it.
Doing this was a lot different from the usual telling fans who are watching TV or listening to a radio broadcast to go to a web site. Giving viewers/listeners even the slightest reason to tune away from or be distracted from a broadcast is never a good idea, no matter how many media sources continue to do so.
However, if and when doing so truly does add something (as in this case), it helps the fans' image of the station or network that pulled it off.
Meanwhile, the sports radio situation in New York City becomes more interesting with the Thursday (4/26) announcement that ESPN Radio is adding 98.7 FM to its 1050 AM channel starting next week. ESPN is technically "renting" the frequency via a local marketing agreement, but that doesn't matter to sports fans.
The timing is ideal for ESPN, which certainly notices the recent decline in rival WFAN's afternoon show with Mike Francesa along with other time slots. WFAN 660 just dropped to 16th overall, having dropped .7 since January of this year. WEPN 1050 came in 23rd, but station officials blame the weaker AM signal and not the WFAN lineup.
Perhaps more importantly, the Yankees radio contract on WCBS 880 (The Fan's sister station) and the Mets contract on WFAN are both up after this year, and many feel that WEPN's now improved signal penetration, along with their financial resources, could put WEPN in position to acquire one of those rights for next season. WEPN already has the Rangers, Knicks, and Jets broadcasts.
How will this play out? We won't know for a few months.
Elsewhere, the March sports radio ratings were looking better in a few of the larger cities. In Chicago, WSCR The Score 670 and WMVP ESPN 1000 were both up and finished with their strongest overall showings in quite some time. In Detroit, WXYT-FM The Ticket remained in the top 5 overall and has been within one-half of a ratings point all year.
In Boston, with the Celtics and Bruins then in playoff drives and Red Sox spring training underway, both stations tied for 11th overall (meaning that they hold a sizeable chunk of the radio audience), even though both were down slightly. WBZ-FM The Sports Hub has, however, suffered a more than one-third overall audience drop thus far in 2012. In Philly, WIP-FM dropped again slightly while WIP-AM held steady (with its already low ratings), while WPEN AM & FM both rose by only .1.
Los Angeles saw KSPN 710 show an increase for the 3rd straight ratings period, although KLAC (which now has the Dodgers) held at a mere .7 overall. KLAC's ratings path during the next few months figure to be perhaps the most interesting, given that the station now airs the Dodgers broadcasts and there is renewed interest under new ownership. Not to mention the team off to a great start.
It remains to be seen (or, as I should say, heard) whether or not enough fans will realize where the Dodgers games are heard, given that the station brings such a small audience into the season and that Vin Scully continues to do home games on the TV side.
Sports radio also faces another problem, as do many radio stations, in some large cities, as Arbitron is not reporting the audience size for certain stations and it significantly reduces the meaning of those ratings. For example, San Francisco (where sports 680 KNBR has been top 5 overall earlier this year) and Dallas are among those markets where we do not get the audience figures for sports stations. Same for Houston, which ironically has had a couple of its sports stations start to move up beyond a blip this year.
CHICAGO: Speaking of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the network will begin providing its sportscasters to handle the sports anchor duties for "sister" station WMAQ-TV, the local NBC owned & operated station. This includes former ESPN anchor Pat Boyle, who has been a lead anchor for CSN Chicago since 2004. WMAQ-TV has not had much of a sports presence over the past few years, although the sudden passing of anchor Daryl Hawks last year certainly hurt. This move will bring
WMAQ-TV its first significant sportscaster presence in years.
CINCINNATI: Sorry to learn of the passing of sportscaster Dom Valentino last week at the age of 83. Valentino got his pro sports "start" in Cinci when he called the Cincinnnati Royals of the NBA during the 1960's and into the 70's when the team moved to Kansas City. Later, he returned to his native New York City, calling Yankees games for one season with Phil Rizzuto and Bill White, as well as Dr. J. and the N.Y. Nets of the ABA, and the Islanders.
WKRC-TV 12 has extended its agreement to televise the Cincinnati Bengals' exhibition games (not picked up by a network) for an unannounced period. The station's press release points out that the Bengals games have been the #1 rated program each week they apear on Channel 12 going back more than 100 weeks over the years. Sports Director Brad Johansen will continue with play-by-play and former Bengal Anthony Munoz as analyst. The station also plans to continue taping an extended pre-game show on Wednesday nights (before games it televises) at a local restaurant with fans in attendance able to participate.
CLEVELAND: If only it were that simple for WKYC-TV 3, which televises the Browns' exhibition games not picked up by a network. It seems that the Browns open their preseason on Saturday Aug. 11 vs. Detroit. However, the station must show the Olympics that night instead due to its NBC Network obligations. As a result, the WKYC-TV production of the game will air on WOIO-TV 19 that night, where chances are it will trounce the Olympics ratings on its own station. At least the fans have the choice of the game and the Olympics live, so it could have been worse.
ATLANTA: The Zone 790 is making changes to its lineup starting next week, including adding another hour to its morning show which will air from 6 to 11 AM. Barnhart and Dunham are expected to continue in the revised 11 AM to 2 PM slot, although noting definite has been announced (as of press time). It's worthwhile to note that Mike Bell and David Archer move up to 2 to 6 PM, meaning that "2 Live Stews" currently do not have a regular shift. These moves are designed to counter The Fan 680 and its stronger afternoon show (compared with The Zone) with Chuck Oliver and Matt Chernoff.
TAMPA: WHPT-FM 102.5 has become a talk station and has picked up The Nick & Artie Show live on weeknights from 10 PM to 1 AM, on which comedians Nick DiPaolo and Artie Lange discuss sports.
FARGO: The Fan 740 has picked up some ESPN Radio programming after KQWB 1660 dropped ESPN Radio to become a music station last week. KQWB will, hoever, continue to air some high school sports.
HELENA MT: KFBB-TV has added Jerry Riles as a sports anchor. Riles comes from Chicago where we worked for WVON Radio and CLTV (cable TV news).