Monday, January 28, 2013

Changes and Additions In The Works.......

It's a modern innovation from KMOX St. Louis, as well as finally being an ideal use for a radio station web site. The station is running with the idea of naming the new expressway bridge over the Mississippi River into and out of downtown St. Louis in memory of Cardinals great Stan The Man Musial, who recently passed away. There is a petition for local signatures, and the CBS St. Louis web site is the place to go for area residents to "sign" it.

Finally, it's something on a radio station web site which does not take away from listening to the station(s) which power it. Whether the re-naming happens or not, it's good to see an innovation such as this one. It also fits the format. Even though KMOX is not a sports talk station, its having aired the Cardinals for most of the past 60 years, including the Hall of Fame career of Musial, makes it the perfect vehicle to promote this idea.

After several years, CNN is actually getting back to doing some reporting on sports, even though it appears to be only from a "feature" standpoint. New hire Rachel Nichols begins at CNN by doing some feature reporting from the Super Bowl this week. Although not as "meaty" as her work at ESPN, it signals a return to sports content. However, early indications are that CNN's sports features will not necessarily lead to bringing back sports only shows.

This is a far cry from the 80's and 90's, when CNN Sports Tonight was a solid competitor (in terms of content) to ESPN SportsCenter for at least one hour (two half hour segments) of its day seven days a week. You wouldn't even know of the partnership between CNN and Sports Illustrated from watching CNN. Perhaps that will change, but don't count on it just yet.

The surge of sports leagues providing a morning TV presence continues to rise. Now the Golf Channel is getting into the act. After only a few weeks of the live weekday morning show starting on NFL Network, MLB Network began theirs, although it doesn't begin until 9 AM ET currently. (That figures to change by Opening Day, however.)

Starting next week (Feb. 4th), the Golf Channel will provide a live morning show seven days a week, and is adding more co-hosts to start. After two years with live content during weekday mornings, co-hosts Gary Williams, Damon Hack, and Holly Sonders will add analyst Charlie Rymer and anchor Kelly Tilghman to the mix.

This will probably be the big media story of the week (with all due respect to the Super Bowl). At press time (on Monday afternoon), the preliminary announcements were coming through about the L.A. Dodgers regional sports network and the billions of dollars it will generate for the team. This will not impact the upcoming 2013 season telecasts on Fox Sports West and KCAL-TV. Coming on the heels of cable and local satellite systems having to deal with the high cost of Lakers telecasts on that team's new channel, the impact on consumer cable/satellite costs could very well have serious consequences over the next few months.

The Tim Brando Show is changing its radio affiliation starting next week (Feb. 4). The 9 AM to Noon ET show will air on Sirius XM Radio, while the TV simulcast will remain on CBS Sports Network.

As much as I have been fed up with the Manti Te'O situation and the amount of time it wasted in place of actual sports news and discussion, it continues to get even more ridiculous. Never mind what implications it may or may not have on Te'O's draft status. This whole situation shows how the sports media has gone to lazy reporting. This whole "story", and I use the term with hesitation, never should have gotten to the point it did.

When reporters learned of the death of the supposed (at-the-time) girlfriend, why didn't even one reporter investigate? Wouldn't someone ask for her name (if they didn't already have it), and seek out a death notice? Or at the ver least, some form of verification? Wouldn't interviewing a close friend or family member have brought more impact to that "story"?

Yet, not one "reporter" did that. Had someone done so, the phony story would have been exposed at a much earlier time, and not gotten to such a crazy point. Sure, I am old school media when it comes to reporting. But in this day and age when "reporters" merely "report" what others are reporting instead of confirming or denying with their own sources, somebody should have followed up on this.

Those of you who saw the movie "The Smartest Guys In The Room" about the fall of Enron a few years ago will recall that the entire demise of that corporation began after one reporter started asking questions and was not getting reasonable answers. Some of you might recall the Allentown PA newspaper reporter who published the Penn State scandal facts nearly three months before the story "broke" on a national basis. It can be done.

All this Te'O stuff took was for even one of the "reporters" who passed the supposed story along to seek out the information, at the time, about the "girlfriend". Frankly, the editors and TV shows who wanted to interview Te'O should have been scolding their "reporters" for blowing this story. And for wasting the time of sports fan who want news about the players and the games.

CHICAGO: Talk radio WLS 890 has obviously noticed that WSCR The Score 670 has been increasing its overall audience of late while its own "talk radio" ratings have slipped a bit. It's no coincidence that this week (Jan. 28th) begins WLS taking an hour of its afternoon drive general talk show, "Roe & Roeper Show", and adding a daily sports segment. WFLD-TV sports anchor Lou Canellis joins co-host Roe Conn and Richard Roeper during the 5 PM hour each weekday for a sportscast, discussion of the top sports stories, and occasional sports related guests.

This comes as WSCR The Score has announced that it will, again, have what it terms "Interactive Broadcasts" of White Sox exhibition games starting next month. The station takes four of its spring training broadcasts and wastes listeners time by having the game announcers take phone calls from fans instead of describing the game action after the 5th inning. I'm sure it is no coincidence that no other teams (that I know of) allow something like this to replace actual game action. Fortunately for White Sox fans, the team is increasing the number of webcasts this spring, so the impact of these ruined radio broadcasts will be minimal.

LAS VEGAS: Fox Sports host Mike North is involved with a new radio/TV studio designed for local or national sports talk shows to eminate from a major casino. In addition to North's weekend FSN Radio shows originating from there, "The Nick Bonsanto Show" on the Byline Radio Network is also originated at this location, which sits within a sports "Hall of Fame" exhibit with hundreds of memorabilia pieces. This studio does give visitors an opportunity, when in use, to watch these shows in person.

SEATTLE: Even just the possibility of Seattle returning to the NBA for next season has created a media buzz. Inside word is that Kevin Collabro, the long-time voice of the Seattle SuperSonics when they were in the league, is now campaigning (via an interview with KING-TV) to regain his play-by-play post in the event the Sacramento Kings are to actually move to Seattle. Yet, the fans haven't been able to ask Collabro themselves. Kevin continues to be "absent" from his KIRO 710 afternoon drive show, and has been for several weeks, even though he continues his play-by-play work for ESPN and the Pac-12 Network.

Yet, the Stattle Weekly just quoted Program Director Brian Long as saying that Collabro is still with the station, but in a reduced role due to his outside play-by-play commitments.

BILLINGS MT: The University of Montana basketball games have a new radio home as of last week, despite being a mid-season change. KBLG 910 now airs the basketball broadcasts, and will also add U of M football for next season. This happened as a result of KYSX 105 changing its music format and dropping the sports broadcasts.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The NHL Reaches "Goal" With Early Telecasts

Early indications are that hockey fans have quickly forgiven and forgotten the NHL lockout that has mashed a 48 game regular season into fewer than 100 days.

The NHL returned on Saturday (1/19) with NBC showing an east and a west regional game simultaneously, with strong ratings, especially in the four local markets. The Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia telecast scored literally more than double the ratings in Pittsburgh than it did in Philly, even though both markets showed their strongest regular season telecast ratings in years, ranking only with previous New Year's Day Winter Classic telecasts. The west telecast pitting Chicago vs. the Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings set a local ratings record in Chicago and won its time slot in Los Angeles.

For those about to make the argument that Pittsburgh, Philly, and Chicago did not have their respective NFL teams in the playoffs (and L.A. doesn't even have a respective NFL team), look again. In Boston, the NESN telecast of the Bruins' opener vs. the N.Y. Rangers set a NHL regular season audience record. And that's with the Patriots having been slated for the AFC Championship Game the following evening.

On Sunday (1/20), the NFC and AFC Championship Game telecasts produced strong ratings, finishing as the two most watched TV "shows" since last year's Super Bowl. And these numbers are actually down a bit from 2012.

The Super Bowl, on its own, and now potentially bolstered by the human interest element of brothers coaching against each other in the big game, figures to be another ratings blockbuster, this year for CBS-TV.

However, we're about to go into what I consider to be the most difficult week of the year to be able to get sports "news". Frankly, unless it is "your" team playing in an upcoming Super Bowl, the media hype gets to be too much. If you must watch and listen to the sportscasts next week, keep track of how much of the hype from the Super Bowl site is "really" newsworthy. Too many media outlets just don't get that we don't care that a reserve lineman sneezed in the locker room, or that a linebacker's cousin twice removed once dated an opposing player. Sportscasts start coming off as an extended edition of Entertainment Tonight.

Here's hoping that stations in markets other than San Francisco and Baltimore keep in mind that fans are interested in the NBA, NHL, and college basketball seasons as well. Scores and highlights should not be reduced and replaced by tabloid gossip just to hype the Super Bowl.

Elsewhere, ESPN is now gearing up for its MLB regular season coverage, especially for opening days. In addition to the Sunday Night opener on March 31st with Texas at Houston, the network plans to air four games on Monday April 1st. These, of course, include the Red Sox at Yankees at 1 PM ET, followed by San Fran. at L.A., Philly at Atlanta, and St. Louis at Arizona. The two night games will actually be shown on ESPN2.

In addition, ESPN has announced its Sunday Night Baseball schedule through May:

March 31 Texas Rangers at Houston Astros

April 7 Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers

April 14 Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees

April 21 St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies

April 28 Atlanta Braves at Detroit Tigers

May 5 Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants

May 12 Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox

May 19 Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers

May 26 Atlanta Braves at New York Mets

BOSTON: One broadcasting note came from last Sunday's loss by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. That game, and not the Super Bowl, marked the final Patriots play-by-play call for Gil Santos, after more than 700 games going back over the past 36 seasons. Thanks to the fan who put up the final Santos sign-off on YouTube, which remained up as of press time. (And if I could post it here, I would!)

MIAMI: WQAM 560's Dan Sileo continues to become the modern day Jim Rome in terms of making outrageous comments that lead to suspensions - but also to publicity. This time, Sileo issued multiple comments about Erin Andrews, including calling her a "bimbo", "worst sports reporter chick", and "Love Erin Andrews either naked or in porn". Even though these are more derogatory than Rome's "Chris Evert" name calling to former QB Jim Everett shtick on TV years ago, these comments were made via Twitter and not on the air. Of course, coming on Twitter adds another element of being deliberate compared with a live microphone, these comments were enough to prompt WQAM to suspend Sileo from this past Monday's and Tuesday's (Jan. 21 & 22) shows.

Then again, we don't know whether or not Sileo was originally scheduled to work on MLK Day or not. Looks like another challenge to the saying that "Any publicity is good publicity".

BIRMINGHAM: It's no surprise that Paul Finebaum is gone from WJOX 94.5 upon the expiration of his contract based on the earlier lawsuits involving Finebaum. Word is that his non-compete clause has only three more months, and that Finebaum will surface in late April on WZNN 97.3 The Zone, likely during afternoon drive.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jimmy Johnson Out-Foxed The Competition

Here we have the new CBS and NBC Sports Radio networks in start-up mode this month, along with NBC Sports Network (TV) now getting ready for a load of NHL telecasts starting next week. Yet, we also have Fox Sports with a major coup thanks to its analyst Jimmy Johnson.

Johnson either correctly predicted or reported, depending upon your perspective, on Friday (1/11) that Marc Trestman would be named to the Chicago Bears' coaching staff. At that time, Trestman was not one of the names being, well, speculated upon by the media as a candidate for the team's head coaching position. In an oddly timed announcement, the Bears sent out the announcement that Trestman would indeed be named the team's Head Coach on Wednesday Jan. 16th - at 4:00 AM Chicago time. The press conference to make the announcement official wasn't until the morning of January 17th.

Back on the afternoon of January 11th, Trestman was quoted by media sources as having denied Jimmy Johnson's comment via Twitter regarding the Bears position. While that is understandable, since it appears there was no contract for Trestman in place yet, the official announcement gave Jimmy Johnson and Fox Sports a major coup by being the first (if not only) source to provide what could be termed accurate speculation.

What does this all have to do with the new CBS and NBC Sports (radio) networks? When you think about it, plenty. Here we have two networks, especially CBS, on a major push to acquire an audience for their "new" national service. And NBC Sports Network on TV now gaining one of the very few programs which actually gets decent ratings while they promote their daily TV news and information shows.

When Jimmy Johnson's Twitter comment about Trestman came out last Friday, much of the national (as well as the Chicago) media went with Johnson's information. That included WSCR 670 The Score, which is the CBS sports radio station in Chicago. Once the announcement was made that Trestman was hired by the Bears as the new Head Coach, most football fans realized that Jimmy Johnson was correct with his "report". The majority of the media stories from last Friday say "Jimmy Johnson of Fox Sports".

It means that the significant media "boost" of the radio and TV stations as well as the print and online media gave to Johnson's comment on Twitter now means that Fox Sports picked up signficiant credibility among football fans. Again, Trestman was "off the radar" when it came to speculation about a new Bears head coach, so Johnson's "report" was not an obvious one, or "still another" of the same prediction. He (Johnson) clearly knew something was up.

This also means that the "speculation" by CBS, NBC, and a lot of other media sources wound up being incorrect about who would wind up as the new Bears' coach. Not only were these sources not correct, but those which "reported" on the Johnson tweet just gave their competition a huge positive promotion.

I've said it for years in this column, to my students, and to broadcast, print, and online colleagues. You are not supposed to promote your competition. This (the Johnson tweet) is a solid example of how you can get burned. This is even worse than how often outside media sources quote the likes of Charles Barkley or Terry Bradshaw, who are now best known as analysts for a specific network.

Those who "report" on sports need to go back to actual reporting and stop speculating. There is no counting how many "reporters" carried or aired the Jimmy Johnson "tweet story" last Friday, and helped Johnson and Fox Sports gain a ton of additional publicity for being the one source which was accurate.

Think about it. Any source other than a Fox Sports radio, TV, or online affiliate should have ignored the Johnson tweet until or unless they had factual information about the Bears' head coaching situation. If they all had done so, only Fox Sports would have been touting its having been first with the information. Because Fox Sports Radio is not a strong ratings grabber at this point (despite being months ahead of CBS' and NBC's radio sports networks), not as many football fans would have ever known. After all, these speculation lists from other reporters, the vast majority of which did not include Trestman's name until last Friday, were proven wrong.

These media outlets could have merely reported the "surprise announcement" in the middle of the night by the Chicago Bears, and presented information about Trestman. That was "real" sports news. Would have been a nice change of pace.

Along the same lines is the Manti Te'o "story". Once again, the media got caught "reporting" what other media was reporting. We still (as of press time) don't know what really happened with his so-called girlfriend. For whatever reason, a ton of media time and space is being taken up with questions about this. Questions, but not answers. Then again, do we really need "answers"?

Sorry, but whatever the true story is or was, this is not a football or NCAA matter at all. Fans generally don't care about the significant other (or even lack thereof) of athletes and team officials. Whether this "story" was a hoax or not has no impact on Notre Dame's 12-0 regular season and bowl game loss. Why is this a time consuming news story outside of South Bend? (If even there?)

Let's recap. Within the past few days, a tweet "report" by Jimmy Johnson of Fox Sports proved accurate ahead of its time, despite a ton of media speculation resulting in favorable publicity for Fox Sports. And one player on a college football team may or may not have invented or been hoaxed into a story regarding a girlfriend. Yet, these two stories have taken up the bulk of sports "reports", especially in the midwest, over the past couple of days. Not "Entertainment Tonight" or TMZ, but the sportscasts.

Oh, for the days of reporting on the day's games and the players in them. One would think that with all of these new SPORTS networks coming along, someone would be able to do that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How Football Helped NBA Ratings

Just how did the pro and college post-season football schedule last weekend help NBA ratings? It shows the importance of sports media, and its influence.

Here's what I think. Thursday and Friday of last week (Jan. 3 & 4) were the days leading into the four NFL division playoff games on the weekend, which were on the brink of the college football championship game the following Monday night.

ESPN, obviously with its season long NFL coverage and its (then) upcoming telecast of the Notre Dame vs. Alabama college championship game, knew it would have a larger than usual audience for its SportsCenter shows and related "talk" programming on those days.

On Friday (1/4), I noticed that ESPN was running one "non-football" story prominently, which was to preview the Friday night NBA game between the L.A. Lakers and L.A. Clippers. The angle was there. The Clippers have had the best record of any NBA team over the past month, while the Lakers have struggled near .500 despite the usual high expectations. ESPN was airing "lead-in" reports from Los Angeles with interviews and highlights specific to this matchup.

Oh, by the way, ESPN was showing the game as the late night portion of its Friday NBA doubleheader. That meant that seemingly every commercial break all day long included a promo for the Lakers vs. Clippers telecast, even moreso than its early telecast of Chicago at Miami which was the lead-in game.

This seemed odd, despite the intrigue of this Lakers vs. Clippers matchup at the time. The Lakers are on national TV on a regular basis. The Clippers don't exactly have a huge national following, to put it diplomatically. So why would ESPN "hype" this game ahead of Miami vs. Chicago?

My answer came on Monday, when I saw that ESPN's Lakers vs. Clippers telecast scored its best ratings for a late night NBA telecast (of any teams) in years. With Derrick Rose still not back with the Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles telecast was its best option to promote heavily.

Clearly, ESPN knew they would have a bigger than usual audience due to the hype for the upcoming weekend of important football games. And they used it to their advantage. And to the NBA's advantage. It worked. Their additional "coverage" leading into the game, combined with constant promotion, enticed a percentage of the ESPN audience to check out the game.

Many weeks during the NBA regular season, ESPN does a Friday night NBA doubleheader, while TNT does a Thursday night doubleheader. Based on this strategy, ESPN just gave itself an advantage when going after advertisers, and in terms of its late night ratings.

Just the same, the timing of the NHL lockout wasn't soon enough to help NBC. During its Saturday (1/5) NFL playoff doubleheader, the network did not have even one specific NHL telecast to promote to a large prime-time audience.

We may see how much local telecast promotion can mean for ratings in early February. What will the local telecast ratings be for a "previously unscheduled" NBA game?

The Indiana Pacers had to re-schedule a home game, which was supposed to have been played on Dec. 26th but was postponed due to a blizzard, against the Chicago Bulls for Monday Feb. 4th. Yes, for the night after the Super Bowl. Because of this, this telecast does not appear on pocket and calendar team schedules, and will not appear on TV listings published in advance of this just announced make-up date.

In fact, at press time the Pacers' official web site does not show a telecast for the game on Fox Sports Indiana. On the Chicago side, where Comcast SportsNet Chicago continues to have respectable ratings for Bulls telecasts this season, even without Derrick Rose, it will be interesting to see how much their promoting of this "added" telecast impacts their total audience compared with other weeknight games during that period. Measuring that is a solid indication for the Network about the power (or lack of) in promoting specific games.

Meanwhile, when it comes to outside promotion gone wrong, CBS Boston takes the honor for 2013 hands down. It's another case of the carelessness that plagues radio and TV organizations these days, while executives sit around wondering where their power of the audience has gone. At least in this instance, it's downright funny.

On Monday of this week (1/7), I saw the story about former Red Sox Manager (and recent ESPN analyst) Bobby Valentine joining NBC Sports Radio for the upcoming baseball season. Obviously, that info is more newsworthy in the Boston area after the harsh media treatment Valentine received upon the disappointing Red Sox season in 2012.

One of the media sources carrying the story on its web site happened to be WBZ-FM The Sports Hub on the CBS Boston web site. I couldn't help but chuckle. The CBS Sports web site promoting the fact that an important local name will be heard on NBC Sports Radio, and no one caught it?

But it gets better. Now it is press time on Wednesday afternoon (1/9), more than 48 hours after this "news" was posted on the CBS site, and the story is still there:

Funny as this is for NBC, there is a serious side to this. It makes me wonder if or when CBS Sports checks its content. The NBC Sports Radio is an attempt to compete with the new CBS Sports Network. Even with the carelessness in today's media coverage, I can't believe someone at CBS didn't catch this and either pull it, or edit out the NBC reference in the story and only say that Valentine will be a radio analyst.

Speaking of national networks, we should keep an eye on Sports USA Media Network, which handles one of the sets of national NFL regular season broadcasts and a college football "Game of the Week" on Saturdays during football season. The network has added radio management veteran Bob Moore to its staff. During his amazing GM period in Los Angeles, Moore worked with the Dodgers and Angels, the Kings, and USC regarding broadcast arrangements. We could be looking at a boom in "local team" networks going regional in the not so distant future.

CHICAGO: WMAQ-TV channel 5 has added Rebecca Haarlow to its sports anchor staff on a limited basis as her busy schedule allows. Haarlow continues on Big Ten Network and NFL Network. WMAQ, however, continues its rotation of sportscasters for its newscasts and still does not have a "clear" number one anchor.

MILWAUKEE: As documented here over the past couple of years, while WTMJ 620 leads the market with only some well placed sports talk surrounding having all of the major teams' play-by-play, the full-time sports stations, WAUK 540 and WSSP 1250 continue to linger with ratings of less than 1.0 overall. So what does WOKY 920 do in the new year? They went full-time sports, making it three stations going head to head against the market giant. WOKY now carries its so-called local programming from WTSO-AM in Madison, including U. of Wisconsin Badgers announcers Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas. (Interesting considering that U. of Wisconsin football airs on WTMJ.) The new "Big 920" will carry mostly national programming and carry the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl, the NCAA tourney in March, and continue to carry NASCAR, which it did in its prior format as a country music station.

SYRACUSE: The Score 1260 has moved Mike Lindsley from middays into the 3 to 6 PM spot. The "Bud (Poliquin) & The Mainchild Show" moves to 10 AM to Noon. However, these will be the only five hours on weekdays featuring local programming, other than play-by-play including Syracuse University basketball.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Out-Foxed In Sunday Coverage

Obviously the NFL on television is big big business. We all understand that, and that's while we prepare to enter into a post-season with multiple high quality story lines.

The final day of the regular season (Dec. 30), including the Sunday Night Football telecast of Dallas vs. Washington, produced the highest ratings for a primetime NFL game in more than 25 years in Washington D.C. and was the highest rated game of the season for NBC nationally.

Fox, of course, did great with their doubleheader of games, at least in terms of ratings. The move to switch many of its viewers away from the early game in which the Giants were down by four touchdowns over to the much more competitive Chicago at Detroit matchup certainly helped. However, those who were not able to see the early portion of that telecast did not see how Fox mishandled a crucial play on Chicago's opening drive.

Bears QB Jay Cutler was ruled to have fumbled at the 50 yard line, although Cutler initially appeared to be attempting a pass. The Lions had recovered, it was ruled, but the play was up for review. So what did Fox do? They went to a commercial, as is their policy for a change of possession. While I certainly understand policy, and that Fox needs the commercial time to generate revenue, in this instance the quality of their coverage suffered for it. By the time Fox returned to the telecast, and immediately went to a quick replay, the referee was already walking back to announce the result. Play-by-play voice Kenny Albert brought in Fox's Mike Pereira (the former NFL referee) to analyze the play, but Pereira was not through his first sentence when he was interrupted by the game ref announcing that the play would stand.

Clearly, Fox should have awaited the result of the review before going to a commercial. Had the play been overturned, it would not have been a change of possession. Instead, fans lost out on the opportunity to see multiple replays and hear the usual analysis of why the call would be upheld (or changed). Otherwise, this was an excellent telecast, as was the prime doubleheader game between Green Bay and Minnesota, with one noteworthy exception.

Over the years, I sometimes hear from fans wondering why I very rarely acknowledge "sideline reporters" as part of the play-by-play broadcast team. Pam Oliver provided a huge example of why after the Vikings' victory.

For those who missed it, the Vikings' last second win had just put them into the playoffs (while a loss would have eliminated them). Vikings rusher Adrian Peterson, as it turned out, missed the all-time single season NFL rushing record by only nine yards. We know as "serious" sports fans, that Peterson and the Vikings had to be concerned about winning this game. Had the Vikings been eliminated or clinched a berth, and had the game been meaningless for Green Bay, then the only story would have been Peterson, who probably would have been given the ball every play until he got the yardage he needed.

The game ended, and the Vikings were celebrating. Viewers were switched over to "sideline reporter" Pam Oliver who was standing by with Adrian Peterson. So what does she do? She asks him about "nine yards" first. Peterson, on camera, expressed that he had no idea what she was asking him about. Oliver then told Peterson, on the air, that he missed the rushing record by nine yards, and was seeking his reaction. Of course, Peterson went on to comment that winning the game was more important.

How could Oliver have possibly thought that Peterson knew how many yards he had? How could that have been the first question, coming seconds after a last second win with the whole season on the line? And this is supposedly from the "top" sideline reporter. Gee, thanks.

Sorry, but we as fans are paying more and more money to watch these games on TV (cable/satellite bills), and we're entitled to telecasts that give us the information we want all of the time.

The upcoming weekend's first round of playoff games will include an NBC-TV doubleheader on Saturday. Cincinnati at Houston starts it at 4:30 ET with Dan Hicks and Mike Mayock on the call, followed by Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth calling the immediate rematch of Minnesota vs. Green Bay after 8 PM.

On Sunday, CBS brings the Colts at Baltimore (a fun pairing for long-time NFL fans) with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms at 1 PM ET. The Seattle at Washington game airs on Fox after 4:30 with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

Elsewhere, the start of CBS Radio's Sports Network brings some changes to sports radio affiliations around the country, the majority of which we have covered over recent weeks. While New York, Philly, Baltimore, and Detroit are among the large markets now with AM and FM sports stations separating so that one can carry the new network, some other large markets will not be impacted very much.

For now, all is quiet in Chicago where WSCR The Score 670 continues its emphasis on local programming. In San Francisco, CBS' Network has taken to the low-rated KTCT 1050 The Ticket. ESPN Radio has been moved to KGMZ 95.7 The Game, which has also struggled big time in the ratings since its inception, even with the Oakland A's broadcasts this past season.

Other stations being switched to the CBS feed this week include KFNQ The Fan 1090 in Seattle (which dropped progressive talk), Boise's KTIK 93.1 The Ticket (from ESPN Radio), and KARN Sports Animal 920 in Little Rock (from Fox Sports Radio).

CLEVELAND: Fox Sports Media Group has finally acquired SportsTime Ohio (STO) after weeks of rumors and speculation, thus acquiring the TV rights to the Cleveland Indians telecasts. Fox Sports Ohio already has the Cincinnati Reds telecasts for southern Ohio, as well as the Columbus Blue Jackets if and when the NHL returns.

CHICAGO: With the proximity of Notre Dame to the Chicago area, the radio stations are taking the Notre Dame vs. Alabama national championship broadcast quite seriously for next Monday (1/7), as two 50,000 watt AM stations will each be airing separate radio broadcasts.

WLS 890, as the Notre Dame radio affiliate, will air the Notre Dame broadcast with Don Criqui and Allen Pinkett. In addition, WLS will have Chicago area sportscaster Chet Coppock in Miami to host special pre-game and post-game shows only for WLS. He will also host a 3-hour special on Sunday night (1/6). In addition, Coppock will be guesting on the station's drive-time general talk shows on the days leading into the game.

WMVP ESPN 1000 will air the national ESPN Radio broadcast with Mike Torico and Todd Blackledge, after its local afternoon sports talk show airs live from Miami on Monday afternoon. WMVP made a clear decision to air this game locally, moving its Chicago Bulls broadcast against Cleveland to WGN Radio for the evening. The Bulls had to give permission to WMVP for this move, since the Bulls have priority. WGN Radio usually has Blackhawks hockey, or now airs its "Sports Central" on weeknights without play-by-play from 7 to 10 PM.