Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nearly Out-Foxed By NCAA Opener

It's been a week of positives from some of the national sports networks. However nerve wracking it was for Fox Sports on Saturday (9/1), they came through with flying colors in their transition from the MLB Game of the Week to their prime-time college football telecast.

The network was able to delay the opening kickoff of its USC vs. Hawaii telecast so that the entire country would get the entire game when two of their three MLB telecasts ran long. Fox lucked out when neither its Nationals vs. Cardinals or Phillies vs. Braves telecasts went into extra innings, especially given the length of both games. This allowed the majority of viewers around the country to see the entire baseball game they were shown while not missing any of the football action.

In a wonderful coincidence for Fox, its regional telecast of the Angels vs. Mariners, shown in Southern California (including L.A., the home market) ended early enough to enable Fox to produce its scheduled pre-game show for the "home" region of USC. Had either baseball game gone extra innings, I'm sure there would have been complaints to Fox for sticking with the conclusion of the baseball game(s) it was contracted to show. For those of you saying "I certainly would have complained", I'd ask you how you felt when the 'early' NFL game was interrupted to go to the kickoff of the doubleheader game in your market. The new 4:25 PM ET start which goes into effect on Sunday (9/9) should remedy that problem, but there are no guarantees.

The upgraded ESPN deal for MLB games through 2021 looks great on paper. The only negative I see is that it provides still more opportunity for ESPN to keep consumer prices up for our cable or satellite TV, and that's a big negative. The increase in the number of games and daily coverage is a positive. That local markets will no longer be blacked out (as of 2014) on Monday and Wednesday night telecasts is also a positive. Frankly, if a team's local telecasts are well produced and fans are happy with the announcers, having another version of the same telecast shouldn't be a problem.

In those cities where fans have to put up with overly cluttered telecasts and/or subpar announcers, those paying each month to receive these channels should have the option to watch the game where they please. The team receives revenue from both telecasts anyway.

Meanwhile, both CBS and NBC Sports have begun their new radio sports networks this week. CBS has the clear early advantage due to having more prominent stations at this point.

Allen Pinkett will return to the Notre Dame football radio booth, but not until the 4th game of the season, after serving a three broadcast "suspension" without pay due to comments made on a Chicago sports talk show last week. This is somewhere between reasonable and harsh, but it's good to see that Pinkett did not lose his job over comments made separately from a Notre Dame broadcast.

NEW YORK: After weeks of hype about ESPN Radio supposedly going all out for the Yankees broadcasts, the Yankees quietly extended their agreement to remain on WCBS-AM 880 through the 2013 season. ESPN's NYC FM signal helps, but clearly doesn't replace the CBS Radio cluster of stations, which also include WFAN 660 and the highly rated music station WCBS-FM. The thinking here is that ESPN Radio will drive up the bidding for WCBS for 2014, but that the team will keep the games on 880 instead. As mentioned above, ESPN-TV will be able to show the Monday and Wednesday night Yankees national telecasts locally. The Yankees won't want their radio station promoting that "both ESPN Radio and TV will have the game starting at......" when so much revenue is driven through its YES TV coverage. Keeping the games on another radio chain, especially when WFAN competes with, and at this point is ahead of, ESPN Radio, prevents ESPN Radio from additional promotion of ESPN telecasts to Yankees fans.

MINNEAPOLIS: After weeks of hype about the Twins changing flagship radio stations, it will happen for the 2013 season. KTWN-FM will begin airing all games. Not a surprise, considering that KTWN-FM is owned by a company owned by the Pohlad family which also owns the Twins. Yet, KSTP-AM, an ESPN Radio affiliate which has been airing the games, is not being completely shut out after this season. As of now, the plan is for KSTP-AM to continue to provide some Twins related programming, given that KTWN-FM is not an all-sports station. No word yet about the future of the play-by-play team, but they are expected to continue.

SAN FRANCISCO: KGMZ 95.7 The Game continues its quest to make a dent in the ratings of KNBR 680. It reamins to be seen whether or not the Oakland A's being in unexpected contention will show up in the ratings for the flagship station. Now the station deals with the loss of Eric Davis from its afternoon show as Davis heads off to The NFL Network. Starting Thursday (9/6), Ric Bucher of ESPN moves into a co-host role during The Game's afternoon drive show along with Brandon Tierney.

MIAMI: WQAM is again adjusting its weekday lineup this week, shifting Dan Sileo from afternoon drive into the 10 AM to 1 PM spot formerly held by Michael Irvin. A familiar voice steps in to the 3 to 7 PM spot, as Jorge Sedano, who had been 790 The Ticket's morning host earlier this year, takes over. Sedano will be busy, as he is expected to continue with his TV gigs for Sun Sports (hosting pre game post-game shows) and filling in on Channel 4 sportscasts from time to time. Sileo had only been on afternoons for a few months, having replaced Sid Rosenberg earlier this year.

WAXY has hired former Dolphin Jason Taylor as an additional NFL analyst during Dan LeBatard's Monday show.

BOSTON: Comcast SportsNet New England has a new anchor/reporter, as Trenni Kusnierek is the new hire. Kusnierek, who left MLB Network a couple of years ago to be a sportscaster at top-rated WTMJ 620 Milwaukee, replaces Nicole Zaloumis, now with The NFL Network.

The network has also announced a truckload of Patriots related programming during the week and game day coverage, including a two-hour "pre-game" show on Sunday mornings. CSN Chicago provides similiar coverage of the Bears, although does not currently air pre-game programming.

Although WEEI and WBZ-FM don't figure to have much to worry about (other than each other) WWZN 1510 has picked up the NBC Radio Sports Network from 7 PM until 5 AM five days a week.

DENVER: Sandy Clough has begun is 9 AM to Noon show on The Fan 104.3, with Sports Director Nate Lundy taking over evenings while the station looks for a new night host. The station, understandably, wants Clough on the air at a time other than when the games are in progress.

PITTSBURGH: WBGG has named David Todd as host of its 2 to 4 PM weekday show.

And now, let's all get ready to enjoy the coming weekend, with NFL opener, a full NCAA slate of games, and MLB going strong. Happy viewing!

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