Monday, June 18, 2012

NBC Comes Back To Radio

On one hand, I'll give credit to NBC Sports for extending its resources as it unveils a new sports radio network to provide hourly updates to begin in September. With the NBC Sports family having extended over the past couple of years to include several regional Comcast SportsNet networks, along with NBC Sports Network, there are more actual sports reporters along with play-by-play voices and analysts around the country to call upon. The timing is set to begin these updates as football season begins, baseball is into its final month of the regular season, and the NHL season (which is dominant on NBC Sports Network) is about to begin.

On the other hand, NBC Radio had been gone for years, having failed to establish themselves to sports fans when they were a player on the network radio scene. Back in the 70's and 80's, when radio was a primary source for sports news and scores, CBS Radio offered up daily sports shows from the likes of Brent Musburger, Phil Rizzuto, Andy Musser, and others, along with weekend scoreboard updates such as those anchored by the late Win Ellliot. ABC Radio offered up weekend updates from Lou Boda and others hour after hour. Other than the couple years of NBC Radio's "NIS News & Information Service" which was carried by a handful of stations and offered sports updates every half hour within the format, NBC was not a factor for sports fans.

Now that radio has, unfortunately, lost its status as "go to" for sports scores to the internet, mobile updates, and social media, it will be interesting to see how long NBC sticks with this. This new effort is most likely an attempt to promote its NBC Sports Network and the regional networks around the country. My feeling is that if (and when) the NBC Sports Network ratings fail to show overall improvement by the end of the first quarter of 2013 that the NBC Sports Radio updates will quietly fade away.

Those who dislike talker Jim Rome gained even more ammunition on Wednesday (6/13). NBA Commissioner David Stern was nice enough to guest on Rome's show when things became heated. Rome wanted to bring up about how the New Orleans Hornets, which is owned by the NBA at this time, secured the top draft pick later this month in the NBA Draft when it won the recent draft lottery. As only Rome would do, he asked the question by saying "Was the fix in for the lottery?". This clearly upset David Stern, which is understandable. As much as I would like to give Rome some credit for raising the topic, I'm not going to. The professional way to handle a delicate situation would have been to ask Stern, "What do you say to those fans who find it suspicious that New Orleans won the lottery?" and not ask it in such a clearly demeaning way. It will be interesting to hear if Rome gets any quality guests on his show from the NBA going forward. Well, interesting for those who wish to endure Rome's childish antics on the air, that is.

Speaking of ESPN, while the ABC/ESPN coverage of the NBA Finals continues to be very strong, there doesn't appear to be much hope for the studio segments being hosted by a true broadcast professional. For some reason (there must be one somewhere), the network seems far too content with Michael Wilbon being put into the closest role to being a host. Although Wilbon is a knowledgeable and interesting writer, the show continues to hurt without a broadcast professional to keep things in order. As was the case again with TNT's coverage, there are too many analysts in the studio every time, not to mention some game telecasts with an additional analyst in place. There are only so many valid opinions and angles, no matter how important the games become in June. There is no reason why Mike Torico shouldn't be hosting the ABC studio coverage after having done NBA play-by-play all season. Wilbon could be kept on as an analyst when called upon to comment.

One example is when Fox Sports tried to pull off not having a true host on its NFL studio programming a few years back. After the likes of Terry Bradshaw attempting to run the show, they knew something had to be done and put Curt Menefee in as host, even though he maintains a low profile and is not considered the "star" of the program. Whether Torico or one of the many capable ESPN anchors, here's hoping ABC corrects this for next season, if not by the clinching game of the Finals.

Speaking of ESPN analysts, Curt Schilling has taken what is termed a "leave of abscence" from ESPN just days after his video game company reportedly filed for bankruptcy.
On the radio side, the ratings for the month of May are being released. This month, let us focus on just four of the markets we have been watching most closely.

In San Francisco, the Giants' good start and renewed rivalry with the Dodgers (not that it ever went away, but the Dodgers are playing their best baseball in years) has helped to keep KNBR 680 as the market's top rated station overall with still another increase. The significance is that KNBR has its highest ratings in a year, which is after the departure of host Ralph Barbieri. Yet, 95.7 The Game, which airs the A's games, lost some of its audience this season, and it has yet to so much as challenge KNBR since it went on the air.

In Houston, KILT continues to be the leader among the all sports stations even though its overall audience has dipped since March and the station is now only at #20 overall in the market. KBME 790 is more than 1/2 of a ratings point behind, while KGOW 1560, the Yahoo Sports flagship station, showed up with a .1 rating over all. That is POINT one, the lowest possible rating to show up with.

And in Milwaukee, it continues to be "play-by-play or bust" for sports listeners. WTMJ, which is the Brewers' flagship station, has shown nearly a 50% overall increase from March through May, remains a solid #1 overall as a news/talk station otherwise. However, the 2 local sports talk stations now combine for less than a 1.0 rating overall. Thus, these sports stations now combine for literally 10% of the audience size that WTMJ currently has.

In Los Angeles, KLAC 570 showed a slight increase, but to only a 1.0 overall rating, even with the Dodgers broadcasts having started this season and the team's sizzling start.

SAN DIEGO: In what figures to be a positive move, 1360 XTRA has moved the Higgins and Ello Show to its 6 to 9 AM spot as of this week. This gives XX 1090's Dave Palet and Jeff Dotseth much needed local competition in the morning. Ben Higgins and Chris Ello has been airing from Noon to 3 PM. To its credit, XTRA moved The Dan Patrick Show from morning drive into that Noon to 3 PM spot, citing its "inconsistent ratings".

SACRAMENTO: Has it really come to this? Former KHTK 1140 host Carmichael Dave wants to talk Sacramento sports so much that he and former co-host Sean Thomas have just started a nightly internet only show to stream at 7 PM on weeknights. In addition, Dave will also stream a midday show, on which he will be joined by former ESPN analyst (and NFL QB) Sean Salisbury. As if people are going online to stream a talk show at night when the actual games are in progress. The kicker is that these shows are the only shows available on his web site, which promotes "from 7 PM to whenever" and promises weekends with "Repeats and whatever we feel like".

SCHEDULES: CBS-TV has announced the three SEC football telecasts it has scheduled in advance for the coming season. In addition to Alabama vs. LSU in prime-time on Nov. 3 (and it's tempting to say, in "still another" meeting), CBS has Georgia vs. Florida on Oct. 27th and LSU vs. Arkansas on Nov. 23rd (day after Thanksgiving). Its other national telecasts will be announced during the prior week.

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