It is unfortunate that how the networks handle tragedy within their Sunday pre-game and game programming is again a top story. Even though the tragic loss of lives at the CT school last week was not football or sports related, both CBS and Fox devoted a portion of their NFL pre-game shows on Sunday (12/16) to its overall impact on all of us, which certainly transcended football.
CBS led with the CT tragedy on its NFL Today show, while Fox started its pre-game show with actor Jamie Foxx basically promoting a movie, which failed to "cover" any of the upcoming games or immediately address the tragedy until the following segment.
Personally, I was neutral about CBS' decision earlier this month to not lead with the Belcher Kansas City tragedy on its NFL Today show, although many in the media were highly critical. CBS won't say whether the criticism they received a couple weeks earlier had an impact on its decision to now lead with the CT tragedy, but I have to think it did.
On Sunday evening, NBC made the decision to leave the Sunday Night Football game for about 20 minutes in order to deliver President Obama's address regarding the CT tragedy. The network did move the game action over to both CNBC and NBC Sports Network during that time, thus accomodating its audience with the choice.
For all three networks which aired games on Sunday, there were programming decisions to be made in order to present viewers with a balance of coverage and reflection. Whether you agree or disagree with each decision, at least we know that each network had sufficient time to make their decision and run with it.
As for local market viewership of NFL games this past weekend, it is interesting to note that both Dallas and Chicago, which consistently draw significant ratings for Cowboys and Bears telecasts respectively over the years, were actually outdrawn by viewers of the opposing teams.
Milwaukee showed a 48.5 rating and an amazing 78 share for the Packers at Bears telecast on Fox, while Chicago's 31.5 rating and 59 share, while still respectable, was clearly behind.
The same thing happened with the Cowboys vs. Steelers telecast, as Pittsburgh scored a 47.5 rating and 70 share locally, with Dallas at 31.4 and 58.
For Sunday night, the big 49ers vs. Patriots telecast on NBC drew much better in Boston than it did for the San Francisco/Oakland market. That one is not a surprise.
NBC Sports Radio is now just over 2 weeks away from its debut, and has now finalized its weekend lineup, with some hosts handling both a Saturday and Sunday shift. Personalities will include Brian Webber (also on NFL Network's morning show), Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, and Newy Scruggs of NBC-5 TV Dallas.
CBS Radio Sports has had their lineup in place, but has been giving some "practice" time to author and columnist John Feinstein by way of Washington D.C.'s The Fan 106.7. Feinstein is doing some filling in over the holiday period only in D.C., with station (106.7) officials quoted as saying he is not in consideration for a local slot.
While in Boston, it seems that 98.5 Sports Hub is not going to continue with Damon Amendolara as its overnight host after all when he joins the CBS Sports lineup as its overnight host. Amendolara, who had been hosting overnights locally on the Sports Hub, had been selected for the national spot in the same time slot, leaving many of us to think that what is really the Boston overnight show would be picked up for national airing. Now it turns out that Boston's "loss" could be good for the rest of the country since the overnight show does not figure to be Boston biased. As of press time, the Sports Hub has yet to name the overnight replacement, but says it will, keeping the Hub local during that time.
KANSAS CITY: The market will soon have its first FM sports station, as The Fan 102.5 is now scheduled to launch on Jan. 2nd. This appears to be a "late" decision, as the station has yet to announce any local programming to start, instead going with CBS Sports Radio. This format replaces "Funny 102.5" which had been a comedy station. Those who find the current Chiefs season and recent Royals season as "laughable" will probably see a tie-in with the formats.
MIAMI: After more than 20 years on WQAM-AM, some listeners and fans have probably forgotten that host Joe Rose played in the NFL for seven seasons. Rose remains so popular with the station that the morning host has received a 3-year contract extension that runs though 2015.
CINCINNATI: Like with Kansas City, sports talk comes to FM on January 2nd when WCFN 100.3 hits the airwaves. And like K.C., there is no word yet and if and when for local hosts. The station has brought in Rick The Brick Ucchino as its morning sports anchor, and will be heard with scores and headlines during local breaks. Ucchino had been an afternoon co-host on WQRT 1160 during the sports shows it has aired during that time. WQRT is "Real Talk" with the majority of its programming being non-sports.