Thursday, October 25, 2012

Will TV Ratings Jump Through The Hoops?

While the NFL telecasts continue to produce major ratings and the NHL is no closer to starting (as of press time), it remains to be seen how the early season NBA telecast ratings will fare now that the regular season is only a few days away from starting.

As always, NBA fans will be treated to four consecutive nights of nationally televised doubleheaders. Next Tuesday (Oct. 30) has TNT with season openers from Miami (including the ring ceremony vs. the Celtics) and then Dallas at Los Angeles (Lakers). On Wednesday (Oct. 31), NBA-TV takes over with a doubleheader that has San Antonio opening at New Orleans followed by the Lakers playing in Portland.

On Thursday, TNT shows another local matchup, as the Brooklyn Nets will host the New York Knicks, followed by another strong Western Conference matchup between Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Then, on Friday (Nov. 2), ESPN makes its regular season telecast debut with Miami at New York followed by the Lakers and Clippers from Los Angeles.

Granted, the NBA could have some serious sports audience competition for as many as three of those four nights. The first two scheduled regular nights' viewership could depend on the length of the World Series, while the Nov. 1st telecasts on TNT will be up against the NFL Thursday game. Even though it is not one of the better Thursday night NFL matchups (San Diego at Kansas City), it is the NFL.

If the World Series ends on or by Monday, it could be a very good ratings start for the NBA, especially without the NHL which is usually in full swing by this point.

College hoops are now less than three weeks from going full throttle. Tuesday Nov. 13th is the date for the ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, which will include 11 games in 24 hours, starting with a Midnight ET game between West Virginia and Gonzaga. In fact, if you include the ESPN "family" of networks, there will be only five days without at least one college hoops telecast between Nov. 13th and March 10th. And two of those are Dec. 24 and 26.

On another positive note, Dan Shulman will again call college hoops for ESPN, including the prime Saturday night slot working with Dick Vitale. In addition, Shulman will be back as the primary baseball voice, again handling Sunday Night Baseball on TV and then post-season radio play-by-play.

SAN FRANCISCO: CSN Bay Area is going all out, understandably, with its 'surrounding' coverage of the Giants games in the World Series. Its expanded pre-game and post-game coverage includes Greg Papa, Scott Reiss, Duane Kuiper, and Mike Krukow, along with Vida Blue, Bip Roberts, and Bill Laskey as analysts. Impressive as it may be, let's hope it's not still another instance of having too many analysts and not enough time for any of them to properly express their thoughts and concerns.

CHICAGO: Bears radio broadcasts will stay put on WBBM 780 (and its 105.9 FM simulcast) as part of a multi-year contract extension announced this week. Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer will remain in the booth. The deal also continues the (Head Coach) Lovie Smith show, known as "Bears Insider" for one hour on Monday nights (except when the Bears are playing, of course).

Sister station WSCR 670 The Score will again be airing DePaul basketball for the 15th consecutive season. While Zach Zaidman continues as play-by-play voice, local sportscaster Jeff Blanzy becomes the new analyst. The choice of Blanzy is an odd one. Not because of his ability as a sportscaster. It's because DePaul has produced several NBA players over the years. Yet, somewhere between the University and the station, no one sees the need for a former player to be the analyst. Three of the games will air on WYLL 1160 due to conflicts.

PHILADELPHIA: WIP 610 now has a multi-year agreement to air Villanova basketball starting on November 9th. In addition, "Talking Villanova Basketball With Jay Wright" will air on a weekly basis. The station will also air Villanova football starting with the 2013 season.

St. LOUIS: Fox Sports Midwest has picked up 10 of the St. Louis University Billikens basketball games, meaning that 23 of their games are now scheduled to be televised locally.

Ft. MYERS: ESPN Radio 770 is spreading the wealth among its sister stations in order to help with the large number of area play-by-play conflicts it faces. Its 98.1 FM (South Ft. Myers), 101.5 FM (Bonita Springs), and 105.1 FM (Naples) stations will air their fair share of broadcasts throughout the year. College football broadcasts include Florida State and Miami University, although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers games are expected to air on 770 each Sunday. During basketball season, the Miami Heat and college hoops will be spread around, along with the Tampa Bay Lightning (if and when the NHL season appears). When the 2013 baseball season rolls around, the stations will be able to carry both the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays games. In addition, 770 will continue to air play-by-play from ESPN Radio, including the World Series and NBA games.

SIOUX FALLS: ESPN 99.1 has expanded the role of local native Jeff Thurn. Known for his work on Sirius XM and markets such as Nashville, Thurn now hosts "Overtime With Jeff Thurn" from 4-7 PM weekdays, moving from having been a weekend show. Thurn was quoted as being pleased to be back in his hometown, and we wish him well on this.

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