Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Extra Holiday For Sports Talkers

A note to sports radio programmers. The holiday is Thursday. On Friday (11/23), it will be Black Friday, a day on which many have an extra day off and will be around the house and in the car waiting to park and go shopping. For many, it is a chance to listen in to the midday and/or mid-afternoon hosts on the local sports talker that they don't usually get to listen to and participate with. A chance for these stations to hopefully attract more listeners and solidify their audiences.

Oh, wait a minute. Programmers are also giving these regular hosts an additional day off, as if they are white collar workers. They don't seem to realize the number of current and potential listeners that will instead hear an unfamiliar or less familiar name and not be as interested in the content. Another blown chance for AM and FM radio stations to regain the audiences they are gradually losing.

Never mind that Thanksgiving weekend is generally the busiest holiday sports weekend of the year. (Even without the NHL, it's still jam-packed with football and basketball galore!) All these games and matchups to discuss, while the people best at discussing them are "off" for the day.

Of course, I'm not against people having an extra day off. But in the sports media, there are no holidays. Or so it used to be.

Certainly not for David Schuster of WSCR The Score in Chicago. At press time, the station's on-air schedule (which also showed them broadcasting the "Houston Texans vs. Detroit Tigers" on Thursday afternoon) had Schuster scheduled to host 12 of the 24 hours from 6 AM Thursday to 6 AM Friday. In a way, that's not as amazing to me as the lineup for Friday which consists of all weekend hosts instead of the regular lineup.

NBC-TV benefits from quality vs. quantity this season when it comes to college football. Having shown the Notre Dame home games as the majority of its college football coverage on the main network is paying off big time as Notre Dame enters Thanksgiving weekend with the #1 ranking. This season's ratings for the home game telecasts were up more than 67% over last year's, also marking the first time in seven seasons that three telecasts averaged more than five million viewers. By comparison, not one of their ND telecasts in 2011 averaged five million.

This is made even more impressive when you consider that NBC does not have a college football lead-in, such as ESPN/ABC, and sometimes Fox Sports have before their telecasts.

Of course, the biggest college football and TV story of the week was the upcoming additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten Conference starting in a couple of years. ESPN/ABC figure to benefit by having a lot of Big Ten football telecasts, which will take on added significance in the NYC and Baltimore/D.C. TV markets. The Big Ten Network figures to gain additional subscriber revenue, especially in the Baltimore/D.C. region, where it is currently (and mostly) available on an optional higher cost tier.

On the college hoops side, Turner Sports is looking at not charging its cable and satellite subscribers for watching the streams of NCAA Tournament telecasts in March. (This past March viewers had the option of paying to access the games online.) This is certainly a fair deal for the fans (for a change). Consumers pay for the access to TV channels, and whether they watch on a TV set or computer monitor should not make a difference. Here's hoping this goes through.

Speaking of good moves, the NBA has taken steps to make it's upcoming NBA D-League (developmental) games available to its fans, and at no cost. The NBA has arranged for a live stream, via a YouTube player on, of around 350 games starting on Friday (11/23) with four of its games available. This gives fans the opportunity to watch prospects for their favorite teams, as 16 of the D-League teams have direct affiliations with NBA teams.

MLB Network has hired Heidi Watney as a studio reporter starting after the first of the year. She joins MLB Network after less than two years in L.A. with Time Warner Cable. Watney is well known from her work in prior years covering the Red Sox on NESN.

Speaking of Time Warner Cable, its sports channel featuring the Lakers is finally being carried in Southern California by DirecTV, which, however, is still not carrying the Pac-12 Network. Dish Network is still not carrying the Time Warner channel. DirecTV reportedly has nearly 2,000,000 subscribers within the market area. The financial implications have not been revealed, although it's a safe bet that those consumers will soon feel the pinch.

Just having a new regional TV sports network doesn't guarantee success. The Houston area's new Comcast SportsNet Houston is still a secret to Rockets fans. Or it could be that the interest in Rockets basketball isn't there. This past Friday (11/17), ESPN's national telecast of the New York vs. Memphis game had higher ratings than the Rockets vs. Portland telecast on CSN. On Sunday night (11/18), CSN showed the Rockets game from Los Angeles against the Lakers, which figured to be a nice draw for the new network. Yet, the Sunday Night Football game on NBC (Baltimore at Pittsburgh) had a Houston area rating literally 10 times higher! And before you argue that it is the popularity of the NFL, upon further review the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on ESPN also drew a larger audience than Rockets at Lakers.

St. LOUIS: KFNS 590 and Kevin Slaten have parted ways again. At least this time Slaten was technically not fired. His show was canceled by the station last week after Slaten made comments with racial overtones. When several callers voiced their displeasure, Slaten responded by calling one of them "stupid". This was not the first time that Slaten has been part of a racial comments controversy. However, since Slaten was brokering the time for his KFNS show, the station simply canceled the contract. The station is now airing Paul Finebaum's syndicated college football show durijng the afternoon drive time slot, with no replacement named (or under time broker contract) at press time.

BOSTON: WBZ-FM Sports Hub found a way to keep Damon Amendolara as its popular overnight host. And save money in the process. The CBS Sports Radio network announced that it is adding Amendolara's show to its national 2:00 to 6:00 AM ET schedule as of the first of the year. However, the show will likely be less Boston focused, since the network announced the show will also air in Detroit, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, and Baltimore, among other markets.

DENVER: ESPN 105.5 will now air Colorado State football and basketball, along with coaches shows, as part of a new 5-year deal which takes effect for the 2013 football season. The basketball games will again air on KLZ 560 for this season.

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