Thursday, May 31, 2012

Not Much Stock in Stockton Anymore

Several readers who watched the Fox regional telecast of last Saturday's (5/25) Rays at Red Sox telecast were complaining about the increasing number of mistakes that Dick Stockton made during the telecast. Interesting that Stockton was in the unique position of calling the game for Fox on Saturday (to about 25% of the country) and then for TBS on Sunday afternoon. Rare that the same announcer works for competing networks within 24 hours on the same event when there is no partnership. As much I have respected Stockton's work over the past 40 years on national telecasts, it seems it may be time for the networks to move on. To give you an idea of how long Stockton has been on, it was his call on Carlton Fisk's 1975 World Series homerun, "If it's fair...".

Sunday's Indy 500 was, as always, broadcast nationally on radio. Chicago is roughly 3 hours away from Indianapolis and unofficially a "second market" for the race. Yet, this year, not one Chicago station aired the race live, leaving it only to a couple of suburban stations. Those signals did not even cover the entire city and nearest suburbs. One of the sports stations, WSCR The Score, could not because of its White Sox baseball commitment. The other, WMVP ESPN, did not. Perhaps because it is an ESPN owned station, and the race was carried by an independent network. Yet, even the country music station WUSN-FM, which has regularly aired NASCAR events over the years, passed on it.

Now some other readers are taking notice. Again on Monday (Memorial Day), The Dan Patrick Show was a rerun. When this happens, it sticks sports radio stations and some high profile regional sports TV networks in the embarassing position of airing outdated content on a busy sports day. Here is the sports world on the morning after its biggest auto race of the year, on the brink of the Stanley Cup finals, the NBA Conference Finals, and at the one-third mark of an exicting baseball season.

Yet, radio and TV stations disappoint their audiences by not airing current content for up to three hours. This leaves those fans with the option of turning the tuner over to ESPN TV or radio for live and current content. As I keep saying, Dan Patrick is entitled to the time off. Just hire somebody to take over on those days and keep the show with live content. It shouldn't be too much to ask. And ask again.

Then on Wednesday (5/30), the sports media talk was on White Sox TV voice Ken Harrelson for an on-air rant against the umpire who ejected White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana and then manager Robin Ventura. Maybe there is a time and place for ESPN and MLB Network (and others) to give viewers a chuckle at this sort of inane babbling, but taking up sports "reporting" time is not one of them. Granted, I don't like Harrelson anyway (and I'm a White Sox fan - so it's not the incessant homering), but there is no need to provide encouragement to a broadcaster who makes himself bigger than any event as it is.

Warren Sapp, who it is confirmed will not return to Showtime's "Inside the NFL", will return to NFL Network for the coming season, which again includes the Sunday morning pre-game show.

On the Canadian side of the border, Rogers Media Sportsnet has expanded its NFL coverage into Canadian markets. A 5-year extension will add 16 Thursday telecasts from NFL Network (and others) to their continuing Sunday afternoon "late game" package. Sportsnet will also show the 13 NFL Network Thursday night telecasts, as well as all three Thanksgiving telecasts, which will consist of one each by way of Fox, CBS, and NBC.

NEW YORK: Angels baseball on WFAN? Well, sometimes. Even with the long-standing ESPN Radio deal with Major League Baseball to air selected games and Sunday nights, Compass Media Networks are beginning a syndication of about 25 L.A. Angels broadcasts this season. Oddly enough, WFAN 660 is one of the affiliates, and plans to air those broadcasts on nights they do not conflict with Mets games. Its first broadcast will be on June 11th when the Angels play the Dodgers. Yet, there may be more to this. A check of the Mets schedule against the Angels' syndicated games shows that two of about 5 or 6 games WFAN can carry happen to be against the Red Sox, and probably of interest to Yankees fans. This, while the speculation continues that ESPN Radio New York will be an aggressive bidder for both the Mets and Yankees radio contracts over the next 15 months.

Smaller stations, such as WALL 1340 Middletown and WEOK 1390 Poughkeepsie are planning to air the majority of the Angels broadcasts, except for a couple scheduled vs. the Yankees.

MIAMI: It looks as though Sid Rosenberg will return to airwaves after all, most likely on WMEN 640, according to a Miami Herald report. Even though WQAM dismissed Rosenberg due to a recent DUI arrest, it seems his no-compete clause stands until early August at the latest.

CHICAGO: From the "It's about time" department, one team is doing a ticket giveaway during its telecasts. Since a big part of the idea of televising games is to encourage fans to come out and see the team, the WGN-TV new contest to give away White Sox tickets during every inning of its telecasts seems a perfect idea. The station plans to give out 4 tickets to fans during each inning of its 18 remaining telecasts (as of press time) of White Sox games up until Labor Day. Viewers responding to a code word given each inning will be eligible. This is something that more teams should use, since it also serves as a gauge of viewer response and interet in the team, to some extent. It's an added bonus for White Sox fans that the keywords will be on the screen. Thus, the fans who have muted the sound to avoid Ken Harrelson will be able to easily participate.

HOUSTON: The owners of KGOW 1560 Yahoo Sports Radio are now about to purchase KFNC 97.5 ESPN. Early indications are that KFNC would continue with ESPN Radio going forward. Too soon to tell if this could be a factor in these stations pursuing the Rockets games, given that KILT has yet to re-sign the team now that its Rockets contract has expired.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Comcast SportsNet has added local newspaper writer Tarik El-Bashir to its on-air staff, where he is expected to be on the network's thorough coverage of the Redskins starting in a few weeks.

ALBUQUERQUE: Not a very "Memorial Day" on Monday (5/28) for ESPN 101.7. The station was knocked off the air for more than 12 hours after vandals literally cut the transmitter wires and used a vehicle to dislodge them from the transmitter. As of press time, the station was back on the air with signal limitations and by generator.

By the way - thanks to all of you for your comments each week, whether positive or not, especially to Jeff in Tacoma. While I enjoy receiving them directly, I'm going to ask you to comment via this blog so that newcomers can join in. Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Crowning Blow For Kings Coverage

Sports fans around the country are well aware that the Los Angeles Kings are looking to eliminate the Phoenix Coyotes and advance in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs this week, and that's fine. Yet, it seems that the local television stations whose job it is to report on the Kings don't seem to have a clue. And this is a third round playoff series, following a full-length regular season.

During just this series, KNBC-TV in Los Angeles showed the "Kings" logo in the background while reporting on the team, but with one problem. That logo was that of the NBA Sacramento Kings, and not the local L.A. Kings of the NHL. KCBS-TV later decided to be cautious and not show the Kings' logo. So they showed the "Kings" mascot instead. Not going to make THAT mistake, right?

The Kings mascot that KCBS-TV showed was the mascot for, you guessed it, the Sacramento Kings, named Slamson. Granted, these glaring errors were not made by the sportscasters, but these do reflect on the stations and their sports departments nonetheless. It makes you wonder how many other errors are being made that viewers don't know enough about to catch. And it doesn't stop there.

And then there was KTTV-TV, which, I'm happy to say did not screw up the logos or the results involving the Kings. Anchor Liz Habib took over and on one of her reports (so far) referred to the puck as "the ball". Whether it was Habib or a writer in the newsroom, that was a blunder even the most casual of sports fans would have caught. After all, the lesser fan wouldn't know that on that same report, Habib flubbed the names of Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty of the Kings while showing highlights.

Let's get back to KTTV-TV. It is true they did not screw up the Kings logo. Why is that worthy of mention? Because they used an "old" NHL Logo instead of the current one.
These all happened in the second largest media market in the country, and after the L.A. Kings have been playing constantly since October. This would have been bad enough during the pre-season or early on in the regular season, but there are no excuses for this. The next time I hear or read about local TV stations cutting back on their local sports coverage "because of all of the sports networks",
I'm going to immediately send this column to the source of that information.

Meanwhile, Fox Sports Midwest had a challenging night on Monday (5/21) when serious technical difficulties caused a complete loss of the Cardinals' telecast of their home game vs. the San Diego Padres. To FSM's credit, they had a solution. They were able to replace it with the Padres' feed, since Fox Sports also handles that. As a result, Cardinals fans got to hear the legendary Dick Enberg call most of the game along with Mark Grant. Fox Sports Midwest aired most of the game without commercials (due to the technical glitch) and was able to get Cardinals analyst Rick Horton into the Padres booth for a short time. Great recovery!

Elsewhere, let's give credit to ABC/ESPN for a new enhancement to the Indy 500 coverage planned for Sunday (5/18). While ABC airs the race for the 48th consecutive time (although not live in the earlier years), plans a multi-camera stream from several "onboard" cameras. This is an incredible use of technology to truly supplement a telecast, giving viewers a solid reason to also be online rather than adding a distraction to the telecast.

Brent Musburger will again host the coverage, with Marty Reid on the call and Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever as analysts.

However, more evidence of ESPN harnessing too much power over the sports media has surfaced with the report of CBSSports securing a package of ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 basketball games starting with the coming season. It seems that this was not negotiated with the respective conferences, but results from a deal directly with rights holder ESPN.

The problem is that while it provides CBSSports channel with a more diversified offering of college hoops, I'd bet the ranch that these extra costs will be passed along to, you guessed it, subscribers. If ESPN had held on to these games, there wouldn't yet be another reason to jack up consumer costs.

At NBC Sports Network, Erik Kuselias comes over from The Golf Channel (also owned by NBC) to serve as a host on NBC SportsTalk which airs from 6 to 7 PM ET most weeknights.

MINNEAPOLIS: Congrats to Anthony LaPanta on being named as TV play-by-play voice of the Minnesota Wild for Fox Sports North. LaPanta has hosted pre and post-game shows on FSN for the Wild and has also filled in (and will continue to on occasion) on Twins telecasts. Mike Greenlay, coming back for his 11th season, will continue as analyst for the Wild telecasts. LaPanta replaces

Dan Terhaar, who had handled the call of the Wild for the previous seven seasons. The Wild's radio team of Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid will return.

HOUSTON: Rice University football will have a new voice beginning with the upcoming season, with an announcement expected within the next 30 days. David Saltzman will not return to the role he has held for the past five season, reportedly because of other commitments. Saltzman is expected to continue occasional fill-in at KILT 610 and Comcast Sports Southwest.

TAMPA: Tuesday (5/22) marked the debut of WDAE 620's new morning team. Tom Jones and Rick Stroud, both also with the Tampa Bay Times, now co-host from 6 to 9 AM. Previous host Dan Sileo was let go under previously addressed circumstances, although he now hosts a show on WQAM Miami.

TACOMA: Mariners fans in the Tacoma area were forced to scramble to find the team's games last week when KALE 960 made a sudden change to a country music format from having been all sports. With no previous announcement. The games are now heard on 1340 ESPN, along with University of Washington football and basketball and Gonzaga basketball in season. What makes this even more interesting is that 1340 is also simulcasting the daytime sports programming from Seattle's KIRO 710, including Brock & Salk in the morning and Kevin Colabro from 3 to 6 PM. At night and on weekends, the station will carry ESPN programming when not airing the local play-by-play.

CHATTANOOGA: 105.1 ESPN has named Jim Gumm as its afternoon drive host as of this week. Gumm began about 20 years ago at WJOC when it was the city's first all sports station.
BANGOR: WAEI 910's local afternoon show hosted by Rich Kimball will also be carried on WFAU 1280 in Gardiner, WIGY 97.5 Madison, and WRKD 1450 Rockland beginning on June 25th. These Fox Sports Maine stations will share the show which has only been on in Bangor since this past September.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Baseball Scores On Radio

The just released radio ratings for the month of April show that the start of the current baseball season had a positive impact in several large markets.

In Detroit, WXYT-FM The Ticket shot up more than 2 full ratings points to finish as the #1 overall rated station, thanks in large part to the Tigers being projected as a serious contender for this season.

In San Francisco, KNBR 680, the Giants' flagship station, jumped back to #3 overall at a strong 4.8 rating. What makes this even more significant is that KGMZ 95.7 The Game, which is the A's flagship station again this season, held steady with only a .7 overall rating in comparison. Even the loss of Ralph "Razor" Barbieri during this ratings period didn't seem to have an impact either way, while the level of enthusiasm for the A's isn't near what it is for the Giants.

Baseball was also good for Philadelphia, where WIP-FM, which now simulcasts all Phillies broadcasts, rose .6 to a 3.4 overall, good for 13th place. WPEN-AM/FM actually dropped to a 1.4 as a further illustration of baseball's impact.

Stations which are not full-time sports talkers but carry baseball and some additional related programming finished strong in St. Louis and Cincinnati, as expected. KMOX 1120 St. Louis shot up from a 5.9 to an 8.3 rating for #1 overall in just one month. Yet, WXOS 101.1 dropped to a 3.4 (though still respectable) and #14 overall, while KFNS-AM and KSLG both came in near the bottom of the barrel. Cincinnati's WLW, as usual, scored strong April ratings due mainly to the Reds broadcasts. The team's opening day telecast drew its best ratings since the 2000 season opener as well.

Boston's hotly contested sports radio race showed an increase for both stations, although WEEI (with the Red Sox) had the bigger increase. WEEI went up more than a full ratings point to a 4.6, good for #8 overall, while Sports Hub WBZ-FM went up .5 and came in at #10, giving Boston two sports stations in the top 10. In Chicago, WSCR The Score 670 went up .3 to coincide with the White Sox season starting, although it finished only at #18 overall. WMVP ESPN 1000 dropped .3 despite being the flagship station for the Bulls as they finished with the NBA best record and began their playoff run. (Derrick Rose didn't get injured until after this ratings period.) WGN Radio increased due to the NHL Blackhawks playoff run and the Cubs season opening, while not a full-time sports station.

In New York, WFAN went up .4 as its Mets season broadcasts started, while WEPN (prior to its adding the FM simulcast) dipped .3 from February through April.

However, sports talk stations continue to suffer in Los Angeles and Atlanta. In Los Angeles, KSPN ESPN 710 finished 27th overall, while KLAC hangs at 34th, up only .2 from the month before. What makes the KLAC 570 such as disaster is that April was the station's first month of regular season Dodgers baseball and the team getting off to its best start in several seasons.

The Dodgers are, frankly, fortunate that their upcoming cable deal and the positive media based on Magic Johnson's group acquiring the team is keeping the team on the local sports radar. Going with KLAC for its radio broadcasts continues to be a disaster of a decision for the team when there was barely any audience carry over.

In Houston, KILT had been showing a bit of growth, but dropped .2 for the month of April. KBME is now at only a .9 rating overall while KGOW blips in at .2. None of these stations made the top 20 most listened to stations in the market. In fact, the combined ratings of the three stations would put them at #18 overall. Granted, the Astros are not expected to have a good season, and the Rockets are long gone from the NBA season.

Atlanta continues to be a sports station disaster, as 790 (WQXI) dropped to only a .8 overall, and WCNN is nowhere to be found, despite a solid start by the Braves.

Meanwhile, the sad death of football great Junior Seau last week actually generated a sad sports media moment. For some reason, many TV stations and sports networks chose to show video of Seau's mother speaking with the media shortly after learning of the apparent suicide death of her son.

Those of you who saw this video know that her reaction was what you would expect it to be under such terrible and trying circumstances. I, for one, cannot believe that stations actually aired this. There was no "news" element to her reaction. It was nothing but sensationalizing a sad story, and that is a sad story as well. If Seau's mom were accusing someone of killing him or disputing the presumed suicide element, then (and only then) would this have truly been a "news" story. Airing his mom breaking down, understandably, on camera was not newsworthy, but it was insensitive.

LOS ANGELES: While the city's two NBA teams fight to get past tough 2nd round playoff foes, both are making media news. What was, in effect, a breakthrough season for the Clippers as they achieved a rare degree of respectability was recognized by KFWB 980. The station announced a multi-year extension to continue to be the Clippers' radio home. Brian Sieman will continue as play-by-play voice for the majority of games, with Ralph Lawler expected to continue to call those games which are not televised by the Clippers. KFWB has aired the Clippers for the past 2 seasons.

It was the end of an era for KCAL-TV 9 when it televised its final Lakers game after 35 seasons last week. This past Sunday (5/13) the station aired a tribute featuring highlights of the "showtime" Lakers and plenty of video with the late Chick Hearn on the call. It was during that era that KCAL-TV (and KHJ-TV previously) televised every Lakers road game other than those shown on the national networks whether live or on delay for select east coast weeknight games. Yet, Fox Sports West had already packed it in since knowing it would lose the Lakers to the new Time Warner venture, going as far as to give some Angels baseball telecasts priority.

CHICAGO: Last week it was the L.A. Angels' TV crew with a "That Was Weak" salute from The Broadcast Booth when the announcers failed to mention Jered Weaver's no-hitter directly so as not to "jinx" him. This time, WSCR The Score gets a "That Was Weak" salute. The sports station is the flagship station of the White Sox. For whatever reason(s), the station does not seem to monitor itself during White Sox broadcasts like it should.

This past Friday (5/11), the White Sox management held a press conference about an hour before the game regarding pitcher Chris Sale. It seems Sale had been moved to the bullpen the week prior, and rookie Eric Stultz had been scheduled to start the White Sox game against Seattle the following day (Sat. 5/12). This press conference was to announce that Sale was not injured as had been thought and that he (Sale) would make the start the next night. The change was announced on various local sportscasts and shown on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, which was televising the upcoming Friday night game.

One would think that WSCR would make note of a pitcher change for the next day, especially when it is a sports station AND airs the games. Yet, throughout the White Sox broadcast, announcers Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson continued to say that Stultz would pitch the next night!

If WSCR The Score was a music station (or not a sports station), I could possibly understand not getting this corrected. But it is a sports station. Already this season, there have been a couple of instances where the talk show delay was not lifted and their White Sox broadcast was on delay compared with the live TV picture - for the entire game. This indicates that the station does not seem to monitor their games. "That Was Weak" to allow a sports station (team controlled broadcast or not) to not air updated news about the next day's pitcher. How do they expect White Sox fans to monitor that station for "breaking" team news?

HOUSTON: KILT 610 has chosen a new morning show host to replace Marc Vandermeer when Marc leaves to join the Texans full-time. Nick Wright joins the station from KCSP Kansas City where he hosted a talk show which was not always sports focused. Wright, only 27 years of age, is expected to work with local columnist John Lopez and take over the 6 to 10 AM show on or about June 4th.

St. LOUIS: The miniscule ratings of KFNS 590 are already being reflected by the station trimming its midday show by 1 hour and having Frank Cusumano (of KSKD-TV 5 sports) host solo from 10 AM to Noon as of this week. Martin Kilcoyne (of KTVI-TV 2 sports), who had been co-hosting 3 hours each day with Cusumano, moves over to KTRS 550 to co-host a general talk show from Noon to 3 PM on weekdays. KTRS is continuing its weeknight sports show, but is moving it up to 6 to 9 PM instead of 9 to midnight.

Despite NBC's ratings success for showing every Stanley Cup playoff game nationally this post-season, St. Louis fans were not a factor despite the Blues getting into the 2nd round against the L.A. Kings. Having 4 of the team's playoff games spread across the different NBC networks (NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC) resulted in the 2nd round having ratings more than 2 full ratings points lower than the team's locally televised first round series against San Jose.

MIAMI: WQAM continues its play-by-play of University of Miami football and basketball through the 2016-17 season with an extension announced earlier this week. The station has aired the games since the 1999-2000 season.

HAMPTON VA: ESPN 94.1 is ending an era next week. The station is dropping Tony Mercurio following his May 24th show with no reason given as of press time. Mercurio's show is believed to be the first local sports talk show in Virginia, having begun back in the fall of 1986. Worse yet, the station has not, as of press time, announced if a local show will replace or if this is to go with the ESPN national programming during that time slot.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No Victor For This No-Hitter

I'm not sure if it was big moon or what it was, but it's a week of bizarre stories, and the strange decisions that go along with them, dominating the sports media news.

Last Wednesday (5/2), while the Angels' Jared Weaver was pitching a no-hitter, viewers tuning into Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza on the Angels' telecast had no idea of what was taking place unless they saw the graphics at the end of a half inning. There were no audio difficulties. Viewers were not told because (and get this) of the superstition about "not talking" about a no-hitter in progress. Funny, but I thought the announcers were on the scene to "report" the game.

The very least they could have done was to do as I have heard some announcers do, which is to make constant references to the totals and/or indirect references that clue in even the casual fan. A simple "Mauer, like his teammates, is still looking for his first hit of the night", or "and no hits again in the 7th, same as the first 6 innings", would have done the job. That Rojas and Gubicza could have cost themselves some viewers over their dumb superstition means nothing to me as a baseball fan. It's the fact that many baseball fans would stick around and probably notify friends and family members who are fans to tune in to hopefully witness history but weren't given that chance that stinks.

Although I have thought over the years that Rojas does an excellent job, and was disappointed that he left MLB Network to take on the Angels' TV position, he's going to have to do something to make up for lost ground. Then again, the Angels' broadcast teams have a bit of a history on being weak when it comes to no-hitters.

I flash back to September 19, 1986 when Joe Cowley of the White Sox no-hit the Angels in Anaheim. Even though they were the home team radio call and the game was not televised locally, then Angels voices Al Conin and Ken Brett did not get Cowley on their post-game show. That was understandable to some degree, since the White Sox broadcast wanted "their" pitcher on the air right after.

So, I tuned in specifically for the Angels' pre-game show the next day prior to the interview segment. And what do the fans hear? Nothing but Al Conin "explaining" how Cowley was still being mobbed by the media about the no-hitter and how they were not able to get him for their pre-game show. They only had HOURS before the game and were, for pete's sake, a Los Angeles radio station at the stadium the no-hitter took place. An unexcusable and weak broadcasting moment back then, too.

For those who think that social media played a role in the Weaver no-hitter, look again. Rojas tweeted things such as the number of strikeouts Weaver had and to "tune in", and still did not indicate a no-hitter in progress. What a way to let down some of the fans who had been following him.

Then we forward ahead to Sunday (5/6) when a segment of Orioles fans were denied the opportunity to see the live conclusion of their epic 17 inning game vs. Boston that made baseball history. (The first time a designated hitter was also the winning pitcher.) WJZ-TV management made a programming decision to dump the telecast during the 15th inning in order to show "60 Minutes" at its scheduled time.

WJZ-TV has the excuse that the game was being shown on MASN at the same time, and did advise viewers where to tune for the conclusion of the game. However, many viewing on WJZ do so because they do not have cable or satellite access to the games on MASN. What makes this more infuriating is that "60 Minutes" is NOT a live event. The show would have had exactly 100% of the same content an hour later.

Ironically, this blunder comes as the Orioles are finally playing decent ball and starting to attract some better ratings. Now chances are that some of the casual fans will be less trusting of the games on WJZ. Station officials reportedly cited the "60 Minutes" segment with Olympian Michael Phelps, who is from the Baltimore area, as the reason for making the (note here) pre-recorded segment such a priority. The station could just as easily have given the viewers the thrilling 17 inning game until its conclusion AND had been promoting the Phelps segment coming up, and kept everybody happy. Or did they forget that the Orioles are "from the area" too?

Earlier this week, SNY, the Comcast SportsNet for the New York City region, announced that it has added the University of Connecticut women's basketball games to its roster of games, which already includes UConn football and selected men's basketball games. Even though UConn has one of the most successful women's hoops programs anywhere, this announcement normally would not attract much attention.

What is worthy of note is learning that the UConn women's games had previously been shown on Connecticut Public Television. Just as I started to think that UConn fans who choose not to pay for SNY are now screwed out of those telecasts and that cable subscribers paying for SNY are now financially supporting UConn whether they intend to, want to, or not, this story got even more interesting.

It seems that Connecticut Public Television had been, according to published reports, paying UConn $900,000 per year for the telecast rights. Say what? This means that the people of Connecticut have endured "pledge night" interrupting the few quality shows Public TV has all year and been shown pitches to donate and contribute money - only to have 90% of one million dollars of those funds paid to a single university? At least that has now been stopped due to the SNY contract. Or is it worse that SNY is paying over a million dollars to show "at least" 17 women's games per year?

NBC Sports is touting their Kentucky Derby ratings from last Saturday (5/5), putting these ratings among its three highest since 1989. The initial showing of a 6% increase over last year is impressive.

While I'm not knocking the audience NBC got, it appears and a big percentage of their viewers came from "non-baseball" markets, considering that Fox had its MLB telecast up against NBC's Debry telecast. A review of the top 22 metered markets for the hour in which the Kentucky Derby was on against Fox's MLB telecasts reveals that only seven of those markets were "major league" markets. And one of those was Cincinnati, which is barely 100 miles from Louisville, where the Derby takes place (on a day when the Reds were not playing on Fox during that time). Cinci was the only one of the "top 8" metered markets which even has a MLB team locally.

Earlier this week, NBC Sports Network announced a 2-yeaer contract to televise Ivy League football and basketball. NBCSN will show "6 to 10" football and a like number of basketball games per season. With all due respect to Harvard, Yale, and the other Ivy League schools, this contract does not shape up as a sure thing ratings bonanza. It's more like "filler" material that at the very least counts a live sports instead of infomercials for workout kits.

On the bright side, NBC Sports continues to generate huge ratings for its thorough and innovative NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage, and is being justifiably rewarded for finally having every post-season game shown nationally.

Yahoo Sports Radio has added a new show to begin next week on Thursday May 17th from 8 to 10 PM ET. Columnists Pat Forde (college sports reporter) and Dan Wetzel will co-host the show. Hopefully this show will become a college football weekend preview show over the next few weeks, as it seems odd at a once-per-week show would only air on Thursday nights on a national network for any other reason.

Now that the moon seems to be returning to regulation size, the sports media news is returning closer to normal.

MLB Network begins another season showing select minor league contests live, starting this Thursday (5/10) with the Lehigh Valley at Indianapolis AAA game airing at 11:00 AM ET. These will be the minor league feeds from one of the teams, with the positive being that MLB Network will show the games without blackouts in the local markets.

• May 10, 11:05 AM ET, Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Indianapolis Indians

• May 14, 12:05 PM ET, Rochester Red Wings at Syracuse Chiefs

• May 22, 11:05 AM ET, Gwinnett Braves at Rochester Red Wings

• May 31, 10:35 AM ET, Columbus Clippers at Buffalo Bisons

• June 12, 12:05 PM ET, Toledo Mud Hens at Durham Bulls

• June 25, 12:05 PM ET, Buffalo Bisons at Durham Bulls

Former outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. has joined ESPN to report on baseball in a dual capacity. Cruz will appear on Baseball Tonight, beginning on May 16th, and also do his analysis in Spanish for ESPN Deportes.

Here's hoping the moon remains at regulation size, at least for the sports media.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ESPN Philly Takes A Flyer(s)

The endlessly growing appetite for sports on TV continues into the month of May. The NHL and NBA playoffs are attracting larger audiences, while even the NFL Draft (not a game) last week scored in the ratings.

It seems the NHL picked the best time to move up to the level of the other major pro sports and have every playoff game televised nationally for the first time ever. While one could make the "argument" that NBC had the huge market teams in action through the first round (New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington), having 16 overtime games during just the first round seems to have helped to maintain many viewers for longer time frames.

Through the first round, this season's NHL playoffs are the most watched ever, including the NHL's years on ESPN. It doesn't stop there, and NBC's weekend coverage showed a 39% increase in viewers over last season (through 6 telecasts). Perhaps more significantly, the Rangers win over Ottawa in Game 7 last Thursday (4/26) was up 6% vs. the Boston-Washington Game 7 telecast last season. Think about this. The night of April 26th also had an NBA doubleheader including a N.Y. Knicks game important to the playoff seedings and the NFL Draft up against the Rangers' win. Plus, with Ottawa being a Canadian team that receives very little attention, the "win" over the Boston vs. Washington telecast last year (with 2 large markets having a rooting interest instead of one) adds more flavor to the NHL ratings to this point. Not to mention the strong ratings for both ESPN and NFL Network which each televised the NFL Draft round 1 that night.

It's not just the NHL. TNT reports increased viewership again this season, its 5th consecutive season with more fans watching. The network reported an average of 100,000 more viewers for its Thursday night doubleheaders this season. Not bad considering the season began almost 2 months later than originally scheduled.

PHILADELPHIA: It seems that major east coast radio stations and groups are convinced that the higher sports telecast audiences will also translate to local radio broadcasts. Within hours of ESPN Radio New York starting on FM, the Philadelphia stations escalated their battle over the 'winter teams' broadcast rights.

In a stunning deal, the Sixers have changed flagship stations at the start of the current NBA playoffs, as ESPN Radio WPEN secured a multi-year deal. The "stunning" part is the immediate move to a new station during the hours between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. I simply do not recall a broadcast contract which did not include an adjacent post-season, especially when the NBA or NHL is involved (when so many teams go on to the post-season). Tom McGinnis continues on play-by-play on WPEN-FM 97.5 The Fanatic, with "some games" simulcast on WPEN 950.

Yet, WPEN didn't stop with adding the Sixers games. WPEN also announced that it will also air the Flyers' games, starting with the coming 2012-13 season, with all Flyers games to air on WPEN 950 AM. Tim Saunders and Chris Therien will broadcast the Flyers games.
On the nights (or days) when both the Flyers and Sixers are playing, the Flyers will always be on the AM side, while the Sixers will always be on the FM side. WPEN announced that when there are conflicts, the Flyers will also be on FM, with those simulcasts moved to WMMR 93.3, otherwise a rock station.

These moves by WEPN break up the pro sports "monopoly" which WIP had, ending their reign of airing the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers. The Phillies are now airing on WIP-FM, making it the first time all of their games have been on the FM side. Otherwise, WIP has been doing more to separate the sports programming it provides on the AM and FM side, bringing listeners more choices.

It is most likely not a coincidence that ESPN Radio scores these deals for a large local market, since this comes when ESPN New York has secured an an FM frequency in the NYC area and is reportedly about to bid heavily for the Yankees and Mets local broadcasts by next year.

HOUSTON: This market might provide a key indicator as to whether or not CBS Radio will be an aggressive player for local radio play-by-play or not. Now that the Houston Rockets' season is over, so is the deal for sports station KILT 610 to air the Rockets games. While the ownership status of KFNC ESPN 97.5 is reportedly in question, this situation could represent still another opportunity for ESPN to snap up play-by-play in a large market.

Ft. WAYNE: Froggy will soon croak. Although this is likely a cost-cutting move rather than a signal or ratings strategy, WKJG ESPN 1380 will be simulcast on WFGA 106.7 (technically licensed to nearby Hicksville OH) starting June 4th. The stations will debut a local afternoon drive sports show, "Stiller and Brian" from 4 to 7 PM on that date. WFGA will be dropping its current music format, having been known as "Froggy 106.7" for the past few years.

TWIN FALLS ID: A positive change for sports fans begins later this month (May 24th) when FM 103 changes to KVNO ESPN Radio The Zone, dropping its current Mix 103 music format and the KMVX call letters. Jonathan Drew, who will continue to call play-by-play of the College of Southern Idaho that moves to this new station, will host the 3 to 6 PM weekday slot. The College's games come off the campus station, KEZJ 1450, which is heard mainly surrounding the campus. In addition, The Zone plans to air high school games, and is reportedly pursuing airing the Utah Jazz games starting next season along with a Sunday NFL package.

TOPEKA: WIBW 580 shifts to "news/talk" and has added a new 4 to 6 PM weekday "Sports Talk" show as of this week. Jack Lebahn and Mark Elliott, who each hosted individual 2-hour shifts on the station prior, are being teamed up for this "new" show. On nights when WIBW airs play-by-play, the show will extend beyond 6 PM until the game (or pre-game show) it is broadcasting begins.