Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's Up - It's Good

Although we're not even through February yet, it already appears that one of the most significant sports media stories of 2013 is the increase of time and effort Americans are showing when it comes to consuming sports events and information. Nielsen Research recently released its "2012 Year In Sports" Report that bears this out.

Their report shows that nearly 60% of people now access "sports content" (as in scores, news, and highlights) on a daily basis on a smart phone or tablet device, and that 99% of sports events were "consumed" live or on the same day. The study goes on to claim that more than 40% of tweets were sports (or sports programming) related among the people it surveyed. This comes on top of the amazing TV ratings for the recent NFL season, and the NHL going strong even after the lockout eliminated more than 1/3 of its current season.

Now, the January radio ratings are showing an overall growth in the sports radio audience. And this is while CBS and NBC Radio are in the early stages of providing national networks which include large markets.

In New York, WFAN showed a better than 1/2 point ratings jump over December after adding its FM signal. Yet, WEPN ESPN dropped .2 and has well under 1/2 of the overall WFAN audience totals despite its move to a stronger FM signal last year. Chicago listeners continue to grow WSCR The Score 670, which turned up 11th overall in the market with a one month gain of more than 1/2 point. (This may wind up as their best monthly ratings ever.) But unlike New York, the Chicago sports radio audience is growing across the board. WMVP ESPN 1000 also raised their ratings, although by .2 overall, meaning that both stations gained while other formats lost.

In San Francisco, KNBR's overall ratings are up 1/2 point, putting them #4 in the market. Yet, KGMZ The Game, which had been floundering for the past year, went up by .6. Although KNBR has more than triple "The Game's" audience and The Game finished at #25 overall, the significant fact is that, like Chicago, both stations rose.

Philadelphia listeners seem to have embraced both stations moving to FM, as WIP-FM finished #10 in the market while increasing its total audience by 25%. Yet, WPEN-FM increased by about 15% and finished at #16, also reflecting the upward trend.

This is not to say that every large market has this trend, but the positive news is that sports radio is holding steady in those markets without a noteworthy increase. In Dallas, KTCK The Ticket leads the pack of three sports stations finishing #18 overall, but it dropped slightly. Yet, KRLD-FM and KESN-FM each showed slight increases. If the three Dallas sports stations were combined, they would rank #2 overall in the market. In Los Angeles, KSPN-AM came in at #23 in the market, yet showed a 1/2 point ratings increase. Although KLAC-AM and KLAA-AM remain too far down to make an impact, they did each hold steady enough to indicate that the increase for KSPN came from other formats.

Same in Houston, where KILT went up .3 and came in at #18 (a move into the top 20), while the three other stations held steady with what little audiences they retain. The Houston ratings confirm our point from last week, where KTRH, which knew to get rid of the Astros broadcasts, finished with nearly triple the total audience of KBME which is stuck airing the games.

Elsewhere, as college hoops fans and media gear up for March Madness, it will be interesting to see whether or not ESPN continues to, finally, start to bury Bobby Knight as an analyst. Just maybe it's possible that the network realizes it can survive without bowing down to Knight as if he owns them and put him out to pasture at the first opportunity. Even though Knight embarassed the very media he scorned and toyed with during his coaching career.

It appeared, after he used the "s-word" on camera and then did not apologize and appeared to be asleep on camera during a "Game Day" live telecast, that no matter what ESPN would stand behind him. Not to mention his supposed refusal to acknowledge the U. of Kentucky last year prior to its championship run, as if that was an acceptable way to act. However, throughout this season he has appeared on games shown via ESPN2 rather than what could be considered prime telecasts. Hopefully the regular season will be the end of Knight as an analyst, and he'll be dismissed, like he should have been a while ago. And when he is, let's hope the media totally ignores him.

As we gear up for spring training, MLB Network has announced its plan to air about 150 spring training games either live or within 24 hours. Oddly enough, at press time, which is several days after the schedule was announced, the MLB Network web site does not have the schedule of game telecasts or the list of which teams will appear on which days for its "30 Clubs in 30 Days" series. That is odd, as MLB Network has been very good and providing that info in its past seasons. MLB Network has added Darryl Hamilton as an analyst.

Fox Sports has unveiled its Saturday Game of the Week schedule for the 2013 season, which will again include eight weeks of prime-time coverage. Those will air from May 25th through July 13th. The start times for its afternoon telecasts will, again, not be consistent, moving to an earlier slot when Fox has a NASCAR or college football prime time telecast scheduled in order to reduce the chances of runover. While that is understandable, not having a consistent start time often impacts viewer habits, since people don't always know when to check for or tune in for a game telecast.

KANSAS CITY: One less voice in the Royals' mix of announcers on its radio and TV broadcasts for this season. After 16 seasons of calling the games, Bob Davis has given up his spot in the booth in order to spend more time with his wife who suffers from Parkinson's Disease. As a result, Denny Matthews will work with Steve Physioc, Ryan Lefebvre, and Steve Stewart.

BOSTON: After several days of speculation, WEEI 93.7 has brought Mike Salk back to Boston for its 2 to 6 PM show, pairing him with Michael Holley. Salk had worked with 890 ESPN from 2005 to 2009, as well as having hosted SportsCenter Saturday on ESPN Radio Network. He comes back to Boston from Seattle's 710 ESPN, putting an end to "The Brock and Salk Show" there. In Boston, he replaces Glenn Ordway, let go last week after 27 years with the station.

CLEVELAND: Fox Sports is nearing its decisions about taking over STO (Sports Time Ohio), including announcing a revised name for the network. In addition, decisions will be made about local STO programming, such as the call-in shows "All Bets Are Off" with Bruce Drennan and "Chuck's Last Call" with Chuck Galeti. Those shows are among those which may or may not be continued.

The Time Warner Sports Channel has expanded the "More Sports & Les Levine Show" to now be shown throughout Ohio rather than around the Cleveland area. The show's focus shifts from beyond just the Cleveland area to include Cincinnati, Dayton, and Ohio State University sports.

ATLANTIC CITY: In a curious move, the Philadelphia Phillies games will air, starting this season, on WZXL-FM 100.7 as the start of a five-year deal. What makes it interesting is that WZXL is, and will remain for the forseeable future, a classic rock station.

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