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.

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