One of the interesting baseball stories of the past few days was the return of Kevin Youkilis to Fenway Park to face the Red Sox shortly after having been traded away to the Chicago White Sox. Youkilis was one of the most popular players among Red Sox fans over the past few seasons. His return was a hot topic among fans, at least from what I heard, on WEEI Sports Radio during the day leading in to the game.
A lot of credit should go to Red Sox TV voices Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy for their handling of the first at-bat by Youkilis on the NESN telecast. As a good broadcaster should (although not all do), Orsillo and Remy did not say a single word after the first out of the inning was completed and Youkilis was about to be introduced. NESN aired the public address announcement and then showed the fans giving him a standing ovation, focusing in on several fan made signs to welcome him back.
Orsillo waited until after the first pitch was completed before saying anything. He and Remy knew to keep quiet and let the visuals tell the story, which they did. Great job!
Sorry to learn of the passing of former Chicago area sportscaster Bob Greenberg at the age of 68 due to cancer. Greenberg worked on several Chicago area stations over the years, as well as covering major sports for ABC Radio in his early days. What made Bob unique was that even though he was blind for all but his first few months of life, he got the job done. As one of his network of "seeing eye people" back in the 70's, I knew first-hand how hard he worked and all that he overcame to accomplish his goals in life. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one who noticed. The late Lou Boda of ABC Radio Sports went so far as to record a special audio tape endorsing Bob's work, for example. It was wonderful to have been able to be among those who "saw" things his way.
Fox Sports had two problems to deal with on Saturday (7/14) when its Detroit vs. Baltimore telecast, shown in much of the country, went into extra innings and ran into prime time. In addition to the delayed start for its prime time schedule, the network was burned during the brief post-game interview with Detroit catcher Taylor Teagarden following his game-winning homerun. It seems that a few seconds into the interview, happy teammates planted a shaving cream pie-in-the-face on Teagarden, who responded with the "s-word" that was not bleeped and was clearly audible to the viewers.
We thought the revised NFL home game telecast policy revision would make a difference for the coming season, but it might not be such a big deal after all. Hidden in that announcement is that each team has the option of allowing a local telecast even if a game is only 85% (or higher) sold out 72 hours before kickoff. Training camps haven't even opened, and already the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, and San Diego Chargers have stated that they are sticking to the 100% sold out in advance in order to have a local telecast policy. As of press time, only Tampa Bay has said they will allow home telecasts with an 85% or higher sellout 72 hours before.
Granted, of those three teams only Buffalo had a losing record last season. In Tampa, 13 of the last 15 Buccaneers home games have been blacked out locally, which is understandable given the team's 4-12 record last season. Yet, you have to wonder how many NFL fans in the Tampa/St. Pete area are transplants from up north and prefer to have other (and usually better) teams be available on the local stations. It's amazing how after all these years, all of the TV dollars paid to the NFL, and with no other pro sport having a this many restrictions on home game telecasts, how some NFL teams are still allowed to get away with not having every game shown.
Radio ratings for sports stations for the month of June were generally not as good as earlier this year. In New York, even with WFAN steady at a 3.3 overall rating (11th place), WEPN AM-FM (including the fairly new FM signal factored in) finished down slightly from the previous ratings period, while The Fan continues to have more than twice the overall audience. Chicago's WSCR The Score held steady while finishing 18th in the market, while rival WMVP ESPN 1000 has now lost more than one-third of its overall audience since the March ratings.
San Francisco's KNRB dropped slightly, but is still #4 overall in the market, while the Giants were struggling (during the June ratings period - before they made their move in the N.L. West) and the other Bay Area teams were quiet. KGMZ The Game, and the A's flagship station, showed up with a .6 overall rating, and is still not a factor. Even with Rangers off to a strong start, since it's not yet Cowboys time, KTCK-AM showed a 20% audience dip to 16th overall in Dallas, while KESN is nearly a ratings point behind in 22nd and KRLD held steady and finished #28 overall.
In Boston, WEEI again leads the Sports Hub WBZ-FM, coming in #9 overall and holding steady, while WBZ-FM has shown a 25% overall audience dip since the April ratings. In Detroit, WXYT-FM The Ticket came in strong at #2 overall with a 6.7. In Philly, WIP-FM has dropped to #16 (with WIP-AM now down to a .6 overall), while WPEN-FM has dipped to #29 in the market while WPEN-AM only showed a .2.
The sports radio audience still isn't taking to Los Angeles, Houston, or San Diego. The excellent start by the Dodgers hasn't helped their new flagship KLAC 570 very much, as KLAC went up in these ratings to #29 overall. KSPN 710 dropped slightly to #25 with a 1.6 during the same time period.
While it remains to be seen whether or not a potentially promising season by the Texans will help Houston sports talkers, KILT dropped to #21 overall, while KBME scored a .8 overall. KGOW came in with a .2, but since they had a .1 last time, the optimists would point out that they doubled their audience in one month. In San Diego, XPRS is now at #23 overall.
Now that Fox-TV has completed its 8-week run of Saturday prime-time telecasts, the ratings have the network running about equal to last season. The two highest rated of the prime-time games were both Yankees telecasts (vs. the Red Sox and Mets). Yet, the five "lower rated" prime time telecasts brought in a larger audience than the comparable afternoon telecasts did last season. Look for Fox to continue and possibly extend its prime-time run of games for next season, especially with the opportunity to present rare interleague matchups every week due to the MLB's scheduling revision starting in 2013.
ESPN's Mike & Mike will host a new 30 minute NFL highlights show each Tuesday on ESPN at 3 PM ET. Technically, this would be the only fresh highlights show that will include every game from the just completed weekend, since it would (obviously) include the Monday Night Football highlights. The network also announced that Bill Walton will return as a basketball analyst, primarily for its NCAA coverage, at least to start. Walton, who appears recovered from his latest series of surgeries, will also be an analyst for the new Pac-12 Network. He is also expected to return to NBA analysis via selected Sacramento Kings telecasts (as in when his schedule will allow), and if all goes well for ESPN during the NBA playoffs.
On the college football side, ESPN begins its extensive SEC coverage on August 30th, announcing that the South Carolina at Vanderbilt game will air in prime time. On September 8, the networks will air a live tripleheader with Auburn at Mississippi State, Florida at Texas A & M (A & M's SEC initiation), and then Washington vs. LSU in prime time.
NFL Network is gearing up for a full slate of exhibition game telecasts, but with a wonderful difference for this August. The Network now has plans to air 11 of those games live (rather than on delay, often by days), using local team telecasts such as MLB Network and NBA-TV do.
Here is the live telecast schedule, times are Eastern:
HALL OF FAME GAME
Sunday, Aug. 5
8:00: Arizona vs. New Orleans at Canton, Ohio
Friday, Aug. 10
7:30: Cincinnati at N.Y. Jets
Saturday, Aug. 11
7:00: Houston at Carolina
10:00: Tennessee at Seattle
Sunday, Aug. 12
1:30: St. Louis at Indianapolis
Saturday, Aug. 18
7:00: N.Y. Giants vs. N.Y. Jets
9:00: Dallas at San Diego (joined in progress)
Saturday, Aug. 25
4:00: Indianapolis at Washington
Wednesday, Aug. 29
7:30: New England at N.Y. Giants (blacked out in Capital Region)
Thursday, Aug. 30
7:00: Kansas City at Green Bay
11:00: Denver at Phoenix
Yet, N.Y. Giants fans in the NYC area will need a pencil and scorecard to merely keep track of when and where to follow the team's exhibition action. Even though they are Super Bowl champs, their four games will be on three different TV channels. Their opener at Jacksonville will be shown on WWOR-TV (and heard on WCBS-FM due to a Mets conflict on WFAN), with the Aug. 18th game vs. the Jets (as of now) being a Jets telecast on WCBS-TV. The Aug. 24th game against Chicago is a national telecast by CBS (and airs on WCBS-TV, with radio again on WCBS-FM), and the Aug. 29th game, which is a Super Bowl rematch vs. New England, will be nationally televised by NBC and air on WNBC-TV. For the regular season, WPIX-TV 11 will carry the NFL Network telecast of the Thursday Sept. 16th game vs. Tampa Bay.
HAMPTON ROADS: ESPN 94.1 debuted a local afternoon drive show on Monday (7/16), with Nick Cattles hosting the show starting at 4:00 PM.
TRAVERSE CITY: WCCW-AM 1310 is going Fox Sports Radio during the last week of August (in time for football season), and will also provide play-by-play of U. of Michigan and Detroit Lions football. In addition, the station will carry the Detroit Tigers and Pistons broadcasts as its schedule allows. WSRJ 105.5 (along with 106.7 WSRT Gaylord) will pick up ESPN Radio on August 30th.