Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CBS vs. NBC - Is That All There Is?

It seems like a journey back in time as we explore the sports "battle" between CBS and NBC on both the radio and TV side. Before cable networks took over a dominant share of pro and college sports, both TV networks had their years of domination for sports coverage. As we come closer to the start of 2013, both networks are going at it again, although they both face a similar uphill battle.

On the TV side, NBC Sports Network has the added challenge of trying to replace hours of NHL games and surrounding programming that was intended to be its centerpiece of winter existence. The continued lockout, which leaves fans with little hope at this point in time, is certainly not the Network's fault. What hurts them even more is the lack of promotional time to attract and keep viewers for its other programming.

To its credit, NBC Sports Network has added more college hoops, now into presenting at least 50 live telecasts. The network lucked out last Saturday (11/24) when its "Battle 4 Atlantis" Tournament coverage brought them the Duke vs. Louisville telecast of two of the top five ranked teams. However, NBC faced another "tough luck" situation, as that telecast was up against the Notre Dame vs. USC football telecast on ABC.

However, NBC Sports Network got stuck again last Friday (11/23) when, once again, The Dan Patrick Show that morning was a "Best of" show. I know I have mentioned this many times over the years, and that Dan Patrick deserves his time off, but I, for one, continued to be offended that there is not a live show on his days off. This was the morning after three NFL games were played, while college football and basketball games galore are taking place all weekend, as well as some good NBA matchups. Although I understand that NBC does not have control over this matter, I'd like to think they'll care enough to put a stop to airing outdated sports segments. I tuned in to see it was a "Best of" and saw a segment "previewing" an NFL game that had already been played.

You can't tell me that NBC couldn't step in and help come up with someone to host a live show, and/or that Patrick couldn't have provided some still current interviews recorded earlier in the week to still be topical. This is an embarassment to a Network that is trying to establish itself, and to the advertisers who paid thousands of dollars to appear on a show with zero reasons to watch. Keep in mind that ESPN was on with multiple LIVE programming, even with backup hosts, at the exact same time.

Over at CBS, the CBS Sports Network will prove it already has too much time on its hands next week. While I'm as patriotic as anyone, the Army vs. Navy football game simply is not a big deal anymore. I can understand a national telecast, since the game is on December 8th and doesn't interfere with a ton of college football games. Yet, CBS Sports Network is, believe it or not, making a one-week extravaganza about this meaningless game. Starting on Monday (12/3), the network has actually scheduled late afternoon and prime-time replays of games between the two going back to 1998. Frankly, this is right there with outdated Dan Patrick Show segments. I actually placed a couple of phone calls to be sure this was not a prank press release. If you know of anyone, outside of a participating player or coach and their immediate family, that would actually watch, please let me know.

All this while CBS' telecast of the Baltimore at San Diego game on Sunday (11/25) started with the telecast not showing the opening kickoff. While the kickoff was in the air, viewers were shown Ravens coach John Harbaugh watching the ball sail into the end zone, and then a blank color screen. By the time the production crew corrected this error, the play was over. From an announcing standpoint, I can understand the broadcast team of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts remaining calm about it. However, Eagle could have provided a more thorough description of what happened since viewers didn't see it.

On the radio side, CBS Sports Radio has created its morning drive show for the 24-hour network starting on January 2nd. Tike Barber (former N.Y. Giant turned broadcaster), Brandon Tierney (of The Game 95.7 San Francisco/Oakland), and Dana Jacobson (formerly with ESPN), were named to the new show. As of press time, the network has yet to announce its early evening (ET) host or hosts, although this will be during the time period when many of the games are taking place.

I'm curious to see whether or not CBS goes with a scoreboard "game night" type of show during the east and central prime time period or adds another host or hosts instead. If they go with another hosted show, all ESPN Radio needs to do is maintain its "game night" updates and focus on the games being played, and they'll do just fine.

It all makes me wonder if ESPN's biggest fear of competition is from what Fox Sports might announce soon rather than what CBS and NBC are up to. Fox Sports is reportedly looking at changing its Speed Channel to a full-on sports cable network, while its radio network has grabbed a few affiliates away from ESPN Radio within the past year.

Meanwhile, the radio ratings for mid-October to mid-November are coming out, but this ratings period is an exception to recent trends. Between the election and the big storm Sandy, most of the country was not in typical listening mode.

Even with the great ratings for NFL telecasts over Thanksgiving weekend, I couldn't help but notice that the NFL actually had THREE of its game telecasts blacked out locally. In Cincinnati, home town fans were not shown the home contest against Oakland, even though it was the return of former Bengals QB Carson Palmer. In Tampa, even the Conference's best record team, Atlanta, coming in didn't sell enough tickets. And, the San Diego Chargers game vs. a first-place Baltimore team failed to sell out in time, resulting the game being blacked out in San Diego as well as "secondary market" Los Angeles. (Never mind that CBS blacked out the kickoff to everyone!) I haven't kept track, but I don't recall a Sunday with three games blacked out in the home markets in quite a long time.

Of course, NBC Sunday Night Football had another ratings triumph (11/25) with the N.Y. Giants vs. Green Bay telecast, as you would expect. But the numbers produced an interesting find. As you would expect, the top two local markets for audience ratings were Milwaukee and New York. But which market was third, with a 17.8 local rating?

Would you believe it was Memphis? There was one other "hard to explain" market in the Top 10 local markets, as Albuquerque NM finished 10th with a 15.3 local rating.

That game also led to a great media moment on Tuesday (11/27) for Milwaukee listeners. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, while appearing on his Tuesday segment on WAUK ESPN 540, apologized on the air for "that disappointing loss". The significance of this honest quote is that it was not said moments after the game and/or in a "heated" or confrontational interview. That it was said during Rodgers' regular radio appearance shows that he intended to say this to the fans. That's a nice treat, considering the generally conservative nature of scheduled weekly radio and TV segments and shows involving NFL players.

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