Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2nd Japan Game Goes Live

Pleased to report that MLB Network announced late this morning that it will carry the 2nd game of the new season between the A's and Mariners LIVE at 5 AM ET tomorrow (Thursday 3/29), and will also make the game available in the San Francisco/Oakland market.

Too bad it didn't happen for opening day (today), but good to see this reversal of the original plan to also delay the national telecast.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Time To Play Ball - But Not To Air It

Play ball! It has been vastly overlooked by the sports media that the baseball regular season opens this week for the A's and Mariners with their two game opening series in Japan. Granted, this is does not appear to be a matchup of contending teams for the new season, but that's not the point. ESPN doesn't want us to know, because they are too busy promoting the April 4th telecast of the Cardinals at Marlins as if that is the "real" season opening game.

It's also interesting to note that MLB did not force these games to be played for American TV. That's a departure from the NFL and NBA overseas approach of scheduling games for U.S. viewing. The NFL's regular season game in London is played at night in London, but is timed to start at 1 PM ET as the first game of the week's NFL doubleheader. NBA games overseas have been shown live either on weekend afternoons or during prime time.

Although this is an historic moment for MLB, with the regular season opening in a different country, the TV people are keeping this a secret. The opening game, on Weds. March 28th (the next morning after press time), will be shown nationally on tape delay via MLB Network. This is one very rare occasion when a MLB game on tape delay makes sense for the viewing audience.

Because the game is being played for the fans in Japan, the Wednesday starting time is 6:10 AM ET, which is actually 3:10 AM local time for the A's and Mariners fans. Root Sports is televising the game live to the Seattle area, and its telecast is the one being picked up by MLB Network for the morning showing. Then, on Thursday (3/29), the game starts an hour earlier, with the game starting at 5:10 AM ET. No TV to Oakland, although KGMZ Radio will air its one hour pregame shows and the live broadcast. Both teams' radio networks will carry the games live overnight.

From a sports media point of view, this is a tough one. These games are the season openers for MLB for the 2012 season, even though both teams will play more exhibition games prior to their next regular season dates. Yet, there is no live national coverage, and, frankly, even the most hardcare baseball fans may not even be aware that the season is actually upon us. (At least those not in fantasy leagues which had to draft earlier than usual.)

It is difficult to overlook the MLB rights holders for, so to speak, dropping the ball on this one. One of ESPN, Fox Sports, or TBS should have been on this. We "should" have had extensive previews and feature reports on the scene in Japan surrounding games that count, Ichrio playing meaningful games in Japan, and various other angles.

Look at how ESPN makes such a production out of Midnight Madness when college basketball pre-season practice begins around the country. And their 24 hour marathon of college hoops when the season starts. They get schools to literally host games at 7 AM or after midnight. In this instance, with the games being in Japan, they could have overnight live baseball without it being an issue for fans in the U.S. since they can't attend the games.

Or, Fox could have shown these games and had fun with the telecasts being a lead-in for their morning show. Maybe have some of their morning show personalities in Japan from the stadium area and kept the theme going well into the morning.

MLB should have taken the lesson from the NFL, which every year hypes its regular season game from London nationally and somehow attracts regional and national media reporters to travel for the game above and beyond the televising network and the participating teams' radio crews. Especially considering how much money sports fans, and non-sports fans, are coughing up each month for ESPN and Fox's regional sports channels around the country.

In a funny coincidence to this, less than 24 hours before the MLB season will open in secret to a crowd in Japan, the NFL announced its national televised opener will be in prime time on Wednesday September 5th. NBC will televise the game between the Super Bowl champion Giants and the Dallas Cowboys at 8:30 that Wednesday night. That announcement seems to be drawing more national media attention than the baseball opener in a matter of hours. Go figure.

Speaking of KGMZ 95.7, the flagship station for the Oakland A's, the station has lined up A's GM Billy Beane to join Bob Melvin every Thursday afternon at 5 PM (unless an A's broadcast interferes) to talk baseball with Brandon Tierney and Eric Davis.

LOS ANGELES: Long time local sports talker Joe McDonnell has resurfaced to handle weekend sports updates on KNX NewsRadio 1070. Otherwise, he will only be heard during the week on an internet based sports talk show with his former on-air partner Doug Krikorian. KNX has also recently added market veteran Geoff Witcher to its sports reporting staff.

HOUSTON: KILT will be changing a co-host along with John Lopez, for the KILT 610 morning drive show by the end of May. But not for the usual "radio station" reason. Current co-host Marc Vandermeer, also the Texans' play-by-play voice for the past 10 seasons, will leave the morning drive co-host role to join the Texans on a full-time basis. Vandermeer will continue to be a part of the station, especially since the Texans will air on KILT for at least another 10 seasons, as the station's Texans related programming is expected to expand starting this off-season.

CHAPEL HILL: The story about the Vermont station that carries the University of Vermont sports that some university officials were not happy with (as written about last week) because the station also airs Rush Limbaugh was not just a crazed Vermont story after all. Same stuff, different day, in Chapel Hill with WRDU 106.1, which is the flagship station of the Tar Heel Sports Network. WRDU happens to also air the Rush Limbaugh show.

It shows you the power of these universities over the media these days. It seems that University of North Carolina officials have been granted their request for the station to not promote Limbaugh's show during Tar Heels broadcasts, or to promote the UNC broadcasts during the Rush Limbaugh show.Personally, I didn't agree with or understand Limbaugh's controversial comments either. However, the listeners should merely be able to "vote" by not listening, which would give the stations that carry his show reasons to take it off the air. It is even more disgusting to see University and city officials get upset with "programs the station associates with", especially when it is due to opinions expressed on a show not originated by the local station.

Here's hoping that WRDU management starts making requests about University policy it disagrees with.

SPRINGFIELD IL: WCIS-TV has added Joe Snaidauf to its sports staff, coming from Chicago where he served as a writer and producer for WBBM-TV and WFLD-TV among other outlets. Snaidauf's reports will also air on sister station WCID-TV Champaign, including his coverage of University of Illinois sports.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sports League Networks Work Worthwhile

Sports fans continue to benefit by the various major sports having multiple networks showing their games, and even moreso based on recent announcements and events.

Even the NHL is catching up and not hiding their telecasts liked they used to, or so it seemed. For yars, every MLB and NFL playoff game has been televised on a national basis. Last season, NBA-TV filled in the occasional early round "gap" and made certain that every playoff game was seen nationally. We are also in the midst of our second year of every NCAA Basketball Tournament game being seen live on one of four channels.

NBC has come out with the announcement that starting in early April, every NHL playoff game will be shown live. NBC will continue to showcase weekend action, with NBC Sports Network providing doubelheader coverage when possible. In addition, CNBC will be utilized to show additional early round action, since the strength of CNBC programming comes during the business day and would not be impacted by NHL coverage at night. NHL Network will also carry local feeds of additional telecasts.

This is good to see, as networks normally competing for viewers continue to work together, including cross-promotion, for the benefit of fans of the sport or the league(s). After all, CBS would normally not promote programming appearing on TNT or TBS, and vice versa, but these networks have devoted air time toward cross promoting the NCAA telecasts.

Even on regular season NBA telecasts, ESPN/ABC and TNT regularly promote the "national TV schedule" within their game telecasts regardless of which games are on other networks.

On the heels of this comes the word that Fox Sports is partnering with MLB Network for its Saturday baseball pre-game show starting in just over 2 weeks. The pregame show for the Fox Game Of The Week will now originate from the MLB Network studios, and be hosted by Matt Vasgersian. Personnel from both MLB Network and Fox Sports will participate.

This all serves to show how far the various "league" networks have come, and the progress they continue to add. NBA-TV did a great job with its "Trade Deadline Special" last week (3/15), with a 2-hour live special centered upon the league trade deadline. The network also came back with a prime-time recap and a fresh look at the teams. Of course, the network had no way of knowing there would not be a major deal done, but having this show available and utilizing the available resources around the league was a great approach. For the NBA fan, it certainly beat hours of nothing but speculation on the various sports talk radio stations around the country. NBA-TV also didn't stop because these shows were on up against the NCAA opening round telecasts during the afternoon, instead doing their job to maintain interest in NBA activities on what could have been a significant day.

NFL Media, which includes NFL Network (along with and NFL Films) has received 14 Sports Emmy Award nominations. This is an amazing and very positive reflection on NFL Media. Other award nominees come from the various networks and programmers who invest millions and millions of dollars and use prime time toward showcasing the games and leagues they telecast.

Included among the nominations are Mike Mayock, who acted as analyst for NFL Network's Thursday Night Football telecasts this past season. Mayock was established as analyst on NBC's Notre Dame football telecasts and did quite well in his first regular NFL assignment.

By the way, NBC has moved the Notre Dame vs. Miami college football telecast on October 6th, which will be played in Chicago at Soldier Field as an ND home game, to prime-time for an 8:30 PM ET telecast.

Meanwhile, this might seem like an issue only in Vermont, but it should not be treated as such. It seems that administrators at the University of Vermont went as far as to ask University President John Bramley to take terminate the school's contract for its sports broadcasts with WVMT-AM Radio. The reason? Because that station happens to carry Rush Limbaugh's show during the day. It seems that some faculty and school personnel remain upset over the remarks Limbaugh made last month and do not think the University should be associated with a radio station that carries that show as well.

UVM President John Bramley officially took the position of urging those upset about Limbaugh's comments to contact the station. WMVT General Manager Paul Goldman was quoted as saying that the station has no plans to drop Limbaugh's show, and that it wishes to keep the UVM sports contract, which as of now runs through the 2016 seasons.

Frankly, this attempt from the faculty members is more outrageous than anything Limbaugh said. Maybe the next group of students who disagree with a comment made by a professor should contact the school about ending the course. Those who work in the media should be totally offended by this crap.

NEW YORK: The latest radio ratings show that ESPN Radio is gaining on WFAN, especially in the afternoon, although Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton continue with solid morning numbers.

CHICAGO: WFLD-TV has added Dionne Miller as a sports anchor in early April. She will anchor the Friday and Saturday night sportscasts on the late news and participate in the Sunday half hour recap show, "The Final Word". Miller has worked for Big Ten Network, WBNS-TV Columbus, and also hosted studio shows before and after Cavaliers basketball telecasts.

97.5 ESPN Deportes will carry the Spanish broadcasts of White Sox games this season, as well as Chicago Fire MLS broadcasts for this season.

SAN DIEGO: XX Sports 1090 is adding Josh Rosenberg and Charod Williams to its lineup starting next week, with the pair coming over from XTRA Sports 1360. Rosenberg and Williams will take over the 10 AM to 2 PM spot, which also reduces Darren Smith's show to 2 to 5 PM. XX 1090 is the Padres' flagship station, and this means that John Kentera will air from 8 to 11 PM only on nights that the Padres are not playing at that time. What makes this move even more interesting is that it moves Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton into the 5 to 8 PM time slot after handling the midday spot. Most of the Padres road games will pre-empt some or all of Hamilton's show.

Hacksaw has always been very good at handling the "national" sports fans, as in the transplants and tourists in the San Diego area. Now, the evening time slot puts Hamilton up against the majority of games being televised and/or broadcast on other stations. Chances are, based on sports radio ratings vs. live sports telecasts around the country, this could cut into Hamilton's audience in the short term. Makes us wonder if there aren't any further changes in the hopper at 1090.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Call The Games, Not The Names

Since when is on-air "name calling" a more punishable offense than inaccurate reporting or using profanity? It appears since recently based on the most recent media developments.

Earlier this week WDAE 620 Tampa listeners now have Rock Riley as a fill-in host on the sports talk station's morning drive show, following the dismissal of Dan Sileo. Station management would not comment about the sudden departure of Sileo, which happened to come the day after he referred to three NFL players as "monkeys" on the air. Sileo was suspended by the station back in 2009 due to comments he made about the family that owns the Buccaneers, but without any further comment, we can't say for sure if the "monkeys" incident is considered a second offense or not.

Obviously, Sileo's use of the term was not a proper action. Just like Rush Limbaugh's poor judgement in calling a young lady slang names which has resulted in some advertisers dropping the show.

KMOX St. Louis has been temporarily spared a decision about continuing with the Limbaugh show, since it is carrying the majority of Cardinals exhibition game broadcasts this year, including an average of 2 weekday afternoon games which pre-empt most of the Limbaugh show.

This is not to say that Sileo, Limbaugh, and other broadcasters who have seen their on-air gigs end or be jeopardized due to name calling, should be allowed to continue as if nothing happened. It is, however, to raise the question of why the name-calling is so much more punishable than inaccurate reporting and use of "unacceptable" language according to the FCC.

Last year, viewers heard Bob Knight use the 's-word' during an ESPN basketball telecast before he laughed it off on the air and was not the one to issue an apology on behalf of the network. Last fall, Fox Sports Radio listeners heard Mike North "report" the death of boxer Joe Frazier before it really happened. (At least he apologized and corrected the "report" later in the same show.) Since those incidents, Knight continues in his same role, and North has actually been promoted into a bigger role with Fox Sports Radio. Regular readers of The Broadcast Booth know how much I do not appreciate "reporters" merely telling their audience that "such and such is reporting that......" instead of investigating and providing their own take on a developing story.

I would like to think that the vast majority of sports fans who are listeners or viewers of these hosts and analysts can make the distinction between fact and opinion/comments. If I were to have been listening when Limbaugh made his insensitive comments, I would have had the choice to voice my disagreement with his name-calling or turn off his show and not return. If I were listening when Sileo used the possible racial slur, I would have been upset at his usage and opinion, and also had the option of tuning out forever. If and as these hosts (and others who make this mistake) lose their audience, they will then lose their show because of it.

Simply put, I see much more justification for terminating a "reporter" who doesn't get the facts right than I do because of name-calling.

DENVER: Speculation was a huge part of the "reporting" last Friday (3/9) when QB Peyton Manning visited the city to talk with the Broncos now that he is a free agent. Sure, it will be huge news wherever Manning goes. But it's not as if Manning was coming to town to make a final decision. But tell that to the local media.

On ESPN 102.3, Les Shapiro and JoJo were "reporting" about Manning leaving the local airport and heading for the Broncos offices. (Frankly, it would only be news if Manning did not get there.) On The Fan 104.3, Drew Goodman and Scott Hastings were also discussing the arrival of Manning. Dave Logan devoted much of the early portion of his KOA 850 afternoon show to this possibility.

Yet, the "coverage" was not limited to the sports shows and stations. Even KUSA-TV 9 reportedly spent more than eight minutes (eight minutes?) of its 10 PM newscast on this "story".

As of press time five days later, there is no official announcement of where Manning will play. Not even a decision that the Broncos are or are not in the mix. Unless Manning or a high ranking Broncos official was speaking about this specific possibility, it's tough to fathom this "story" taking up more than one minute of airtime during "reports". The sports talk stations could, of course, speculate with callers to their hearts' content, for those who find that interesting listening. I guess as long as the "reporters" don't call Manning or anyone else any slang or obscene names, this is the "reporting" we as sports fans will continue to be expected to live with.

St. LOUIS: The Broadcast Booth salutes Randy Karraker, who has returned to his WXOS 101.1 afternoon show within just four weeks of undergoing a quadruple bypass.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Doc Walker has a new three-year extension to continue hosting at WTEM-AM 980. While Walker has been with the station since the late 90's, this extension is significant since Walker no longer will co-host with coaching legend John Thompson. Instead, Walker will be featured in the 2 to 4 PM weekdays spot, starting on March 26th. In addition, he will continue on the Redskins' broadcast crew.

HARTFORD: The 97.9 and 1410 Sports AM and FM combo are ending their simulcast, providing area listeners with more sports choices. 97.9 has changed call letters to WUCS and continues with ESPN programming, along with Mike Bower hosting a local afternoon sports show from 3 to 7. WPOP 1410 now carries Fox Radio Sports and will air a local show with Paul Nanos (also heard on New Haven's ESPN WAVZ 1300) on weekdays. Area listeners can usually also pick up WFAN 660 out of New York, providing them with additional regional choices and play-by-play, making Hartford a well served sports radio market.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Perhaps teams, leagues, and schools are learning the importance of preventing speculation and getting to an actual announcements. Maybe it's the TV networks getting on top of actual sports "news" stories in hopes of increasing their audiences just as showing live games is doing. Or, it could be a combination of both.

It is no secret to readers of The Broadcast Booth over the years that "speculation" stories are tarnishing the image of many sportscasts. The "Such-and-such is reporting that (name of player) will sign with Baltimore....." ramblings that take up sports "reporting" time instead of the station or reporter gathering his or her own confirmations or denials have made it a challenge to get actual sports "news" when it happens.

Finally, some TV sources are doing something about "speculation" stories, by making it known when the actual "news" or "announcement" will be made, and then providing live coverage.

The Peyton Manning Press Conference on Wednesday (3/7) was a great example of what needs to happen more often. This is an important story to NFL fans all over the country. Yet, I'm among those who found myself (as a fan) tired of nothing but "speculation" stories for weeks and weeks. In this instance, a press conference by the Colts was announced for Noon ET specifically regarding Manning. After nearly tuning out this story from week after week of "Look for Manning to be released...." or "Manning will likely sign with......" speculation, we finally were told exactly what the Colts were going to do.

During the morning hours leading in to the press conference, both NFL Network and ESPN were heavily promoting their live coverage of this announcement. Some sports radio stations around the country also carried this. On one hand, it is too bad it has come to this. Setting this up ahead of time took away any spontaneous reaction that used to happen when only actual "news" stories were announced.

On the other hand, doing it via press conference meant that NFL fans could avoid speculation stories all morning, and simply tune in to their chosen source to learn the actual news. That's a positive. Here's hoping that the next "news" story about Peyton Manning comes when he actually signs with another team (or retires if that's his choice).

But I know it won't happen. The supposed "reporting" media is already filling up time and space with "This team and that team would be the best fit". Sportscasts are becoming too much like weather forecasts. Too many educated guesses, and no backlash every time an "expert" is wrong. The difference is the weather HAS TO BE a prediction. Sports news does not and should not be.

I'd rather wait patiently for the time and channel of Manning's press conference to announce either a signing or his retirement, and not waste time with pure speculation. It doesn't help us (as sports fans) to know a few days in advance where he will sign since nothing happens until it becomes official. And it only hurts every time such speculation is wrong. Credibility is still important among reporters. All they need to do is "report", and they'll be fine.

The same should apply to these next few days as the NCAA Tournament selections come to fruition on Sunday evening. We don't need to have every conference game end with announcers speculating that "(Name of school) could now be a 3-seed and go out west". Just tell us that we'll know after 6 PM on Sunday.

CBS will have the actual unveiling of the pairings, and has been promoting that, as expected. Considering that CBS, as well as partners TBS, TNT, and TruTV, will be showing every NCAA Tournament game live again this year, something that college hoops fans have dreamed of and clamored for year after year until it came to fruition.

Yet, ESPN promises 13 hours of bracket "coverage" on Sunday. Sure, I prefer live programming as much as anyone, but announcing "coverage" prior to the actual announcement is speculation, no matter how accurate it may prove to be. All it takes is the "Oh, (name of school) has been sent out east", and it screws up hours of mere speculation, making viewers/listeners realize their time was wasted.

Just give us the pairings, and THEN we can all react to the matchups, as well as the specific schedule of when and where each game will be on.

A curious decision by the NFL Network earlier this week. To its credit, NFL Network did not run and hide from the major story about whether or not the New Orleans Saints players have participated in a "bounty" plan to injure opposing players over the past couple of seasons. A good portion of its news coverage was devoted to the issue, including footage from key Saints games. Yet, on Monday (3/5), the Network had originally scheduled to show a recent Saints vs. Vikings playoff game in one of its "classic game" telecasts. However, NFL Network instead aired a Dallas Cowboys game from the 90's.

From what I have learned, the majority of cable/satellite systems which have indicators as to what program is being shown continued to have the Saints telecast as scheduled. This means that NFL Network made this "decision" not to air a Saints playoff game (from during the 'bounty' period) too late to change the original schedule. It would seem to indicate that the decision to air another, and much less controversial, game was made after the bounty story had broken.

College football fans will enjoy this tribute to several of the leading announcers who broadcast for one school for many years:

This is a well done presentation for those who did or did not get to enjoy the likes of Larry Munson, Cawood Ledford, and several others.

SAN FRANCISCO: While KNBR 680 continues its strong ratings, the station has announced it will continue to air Giants baseball through at least the 2018 season. Credit the Giants for being a part of the announcement. Team President Larry Baer appeared on the station's Murph & Mac Show to help make the announcement, realizing the large audience of sports fans the station continues to reach. Compare that to the situation in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers games are now being heard (starting this season) on KLAC 570, which just about requires a telescope to find in the ratings book. KLAC's hosts might need to call out to get reaction to Dodgers broadcasts.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sportscast Gives Points To The Opposition

There are still a number of "Instant Media" reporters that still need to understand the importance of utilizing their internal resources to develop and/or report stories.

This might seem minor to some people, but as a sports fan I, for one, feel entitled to get "my" sports news based on a legitimate effort being made to bring me the story. Especially from CBS.

Another example of this took place on Wednesday (2/29). I was listening to WBBM Newsradio 780 and heard Sports Director Jeff Joniak deliver one of his afternoon sportscasts on the all-news station. Joniak mentioned the story about the likelihood of MLB adding 2 more teams to its post-season in time for the upcoming 2012 season, saying (to the effect of) "It will be announced tomorrow, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports".

And then Joniak went on to his next story. Huh? I'm not here to pick on Joniak specifically, but I do need to remind you that he is the Sports Director for a CBS owned and operated 50,000 watt radio station in a top 3 market. However, if he were one of my students and did that in a practice session, he would not have even finished that sportscast without me stopping him.

How could that story possibly have made WBBM's airwaves as it aired? After all, this is a CBS station. Just a few weeks ago, CBS Sports hired baseball expert Jon Heymann away from Sports Illustrated, and serious baseball fans (and Twitter followers of both Heymann and Rosenthal) know that these two guys are often in the battle for breaking baseball news. This story being one of national interest and impact (like it or not) would seem an avenue for Jon Heymann to be pursuing for "his" and the CBS audience.

Yet, Joniak merely gave credit to the biggest individual competitor to the assigned reporter for "his" network, instead of contacting Heymann in an effort to confirm, deny, or hold this story.

The on-air story should have been something like "CBS baseball beat reporter Jon Heymann has confirmed an earlier report that MLB will announce....." OR "CBS Sports' Jon Heymann has yet to confirm speculation that MLB would announce......".

Doing so would have demonstrated to listeners that he (Joniak) or the station was digging for information about this story, while making hardcore fans who had previously heard Rosenthal's report hesitate since it had not become fact. In the process, it provides another reason to tune to WBBM Radio Sports (the next day) to hear a confirmation or denial of the story.

If he (Joniak) could not somehow reach Heymann, then just maybe someone else at CBS Sports has some information one way or the other. For that matter, Chicago is one of only a few markets which has TWO MLB teams in the area. The sister station broadcasts one of them. Why not reach an executive with at least one of those teams for comment? A nice local angle, even if nothing is official either way.

Instead, Joniak provided me with a big reason NOT to return to his sportscasts. If it all depends on what a reporter for a competing network says, then I'll just go to Fox Sports or even ESPN to get my information about this.

Had this been on a sports talk show and he (or whoever is hosting) commented about the Rosenthal story within a discussion of the MLB playoff format, that would be different. (Although still not desirable for a competing station or network.) But this report I heard was on an all-news station.

Jeff Joniak on WBBM is most certainly not the only sportscaster who has been guilty of this. That's the issue. Especially when sports radio is still losing its audience in several major cities (even though there has been a rise within the past couple of months) while live telecasts are experiencing a ratings frenzy. For so many years, radio was the "immediate" media when it came to breaking and covering sports (and news) stories. Incidents such as this one, which are all too common, provide reasons why that could be changed back.

For example, even with the backlash from the NBA lockout and the shortened and injury marred season, TV ratings continue to be a slam dunk for the rights holders. Local telecast ratings are up nearly 20% for the first half of this season, with an estimated four teams showing 100% or higher increases.

Even the Los Angeles Clippers, which for years existed to give Southern California basketball fans additional chances to see their favorite teams and opposing players, have shown a 138% ratings increase thus far. Oklahoma City and Philadelphia, with their teams off to great starts, have increased more than 100%. Amazingly, the Minnesota Timberwolves, not exactly a threat to dominate the playoffs, have shown a strong increase as well.

ESPN/ABC, TNT, and NBA-TV are all showing double digit ratings increases thus far, with NBA-TV up more than 50%. The rise for NBA-TV is likely due to an increased number of doubleheaders and showing on more nights than in the past, in order to meet their previously determined number of telecasts.

New York and Chicago are seeing noteworthy ratings increases. Jeremy Lin and the Knicks have attracted some of highest numbers in several seasons. The Chicago Bulls telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Chicago have shown a 45% increase as well.Yet, among the few teams which have dropped off in audience (despite the strong national showing) are the local telecasts of the Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs. San Antonio has won 12 of its last 14 games (as of press time).

Even the NBA All-Star Game drew decent ratings, especially when you consider it was played later than usual this year (due to the lockout) and went up against the Academy Awards. Miami was the top local market for the TNT telecast, followed by OK City, Orlando, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

The FanGraphs web site has begun to gradually unveil its poll of local baseball TV announcing teams around the country. To make it even more interesting, they are announcing the results for the 30 teams' telecasts starting from the bottom. Finishing last is the White Sox TV team of Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone. No surprise here. Even the expertise of Steve Stone after all of these years is pulled down by "Horrible-son" (as he is referred to by his detractors). While I expect the usual choices, such as Vin Scully, to be up at or near the top, the poll results also include plenty of fan comments in support of the voting.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, NASCAR does regarding future scheduling of its major races. A major rain storm could be the catalyst for a significant change. Last Sunday's postponement of the Daytona 500 due to heavy rain "forced" it to air on Monday night in prime time. Coincidentally, there was no NBA action (since the All-Star Game was played the night before), and obviously no baseball or football. In other words, even though there were plenty of college hoops games airing, there were no other pro sports to compete. Some markets had strong ratings for the Daytona telecast, even with only a few hours advance notice.

In fact, WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee had stronger numbers for the Daytona race than the WITI-TV telecast of the Big Ten game between the University of Wisconsin and Ohio State.

I have to think the NASCAR folks, and its TV partners, will take a look at the prime time possibilities for at least a handful of their key races in the future.

SAN DIEGO: Fox Sports San Diego is surging ahead in preparation for its Padres telecasts even though they were still awaiting (as of press time) approval from MLB of the new package. Mike Pomeranz has been named as studio host for the pre-game and post-game shows. Pomeranz is leaving KARE-TV Minneapolis and his news anchor role to come to San Diego.

ALBANY: A most interesting move by WOFX 980. The station has dropped from being a Mets affiliate, but will continue to carry Major League Baseball starting next week. It seems the station has become a Red Sox affiliate, including at least 10 spring training broadcasts.

On the TV side in Albany, some Mets telecasts air locally, but because it is a Yankees "secondary market", Red Sox local telecasts cannot air in that market. WOFX will also be able to carry the 18 games between the Red Sox and Yankees. Normally Yankees fans would not want the "rival" broadcast, but the speculation is that some fans may choose the Red Sox version ahead of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman doing the Yankees call. The station could also attract Yankees fans in general when the Red Sox are playing Tampa and other Yankees rivals.