Monday, March 11, 2013

Cutting Away From A Championship Game?

Here we have CBS, having spent gazillions of dollars for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, not allowing some viewers to see the last four minutes of a college basketball telecast which has a direct bearing on the pairings for that tournament. Then they make it worse by seemingly passing the buck to its local stations. For some viewers, this puts the "Mad" into March Madness, and you can't blame them. Especially when this wasn't the first time.

On Sunday (3/10), the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game between Creighton and Wichita State was televised by CBS. Yet, with just over four minutes left in a tight game (won by Creighton by just three points), some CBS stations left that telecast for the start of the Indiana vs. Michigan Big Ten game. Supposedly, this was done (on some or all of those stations) with no warning to viewers.

Adding even more fuel to this is that the MVC Champion gains a higher seed in the coming NCAA Tournament which CBS owns the rights to (sharing with Turner Sports, but that is not significant to this story). The Indiana vs. Michigan game was a regular season game, not to mention that it hadn't started yet when the CBS stations joined that telecast instead.

One could, maybe (and I do mean "maybe") understand this happening in TV markets in parts of Indiana and Michigan, considering that Indiana State (of the MVC) was not a participant in the MVC championship game. However, WMBD-TV Peoria IL (in which Bradley University of the MVC is located) was among those stations that were switched out for the Big Ten game.

When this sort of thing has happened with NFL games, fans do get the explanation about NFL and TV policy. This past NFL season, Fox and, yes, CBS were helped when the league allowed primary doubleheader games to begin at 4:25 ET, ten minutes later than in the past, solely for the purpose of reducing or eliminating having to take viewers away from the end of a game.

This time, it happened on some stations with no rhyme or reason, and without warning. What about CBS-TV Sports Network? Why didn't it show either the start of Indiana vs. Michigan or, if they must switch, join the finale of the MVC game?

For all of the money these networks are spending for rights fees, and all of the time devoted to sports coverage, there is NO excuse for this happening. Fans, and even millions of people who are not college basketball fans, pay a lot more than they should for cable or satellite TV. These sports packages are a huge part of the reason for these fees rising over the past few years. Fans are entitled to see the conclusion of a Conference championship game for their money.

That wasn't the only oddball move from CBS over the past week. But this next one was merely strange P.R. and wouldn't upset the listeners. The new CBS Sports Radio Network, with all of its resources, had an interview segment last Wednesday (3/6)during John Feinstein's midday show with Bob Costas. That's concern enough, given that Costas works on NBC, which now competes against CBS via both TV and radio sports networks. Yet, CBS actually included the guesting of Costas within its publicity for that day's radio shows. Nothing like promoting one of your competitor's best assets. Oh, and Costas also works for MLB Network, which now has its own morning show. One which you could say competes (among baseball fans) with CBS Sports Network's morning shows.

Well, I guess they couldn't preview the MVC Tournament instead, given that they didn't show its conclusion to some of their audience.

The NCAA Tournament telecast announcing teams have been, well, announced. Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr will handle the Final Four. The other announcing teams will be Marv Albert with Steve Kerr, Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, Kevin Harlan with Reggie Miller and Len Elmore, Ian Eagle with Jim Spanarkel, Tim Brando with Mike Gminski, Spero Dedes with Doug Gottlieb, and Brian Anderson with Dan Bonner.

The NBC Sports Radio Network is on schedule to rollout its weekday lineup as of April 1st. It has had weekend programming since the start of the year. So what is their big unveiling? It's that Erik Kuselias, who has been hosting weekend nights, will then host weekday mornings from 6 to 9 ET. But it doesn't stop there. Jon Stashower, who has been hosting Sunday mornings, will take over on weekdays from 7 to 10 PM ET. Nothing yet about any "big name" announcers, former or current players or coaches, joining the schedule. Sure, just take you weekend guys and give them the weekday shifts. Oh my.

How interesting were comments made last week by DirecTV CFO Pat Doyle? While speaking at a Telecom Conference in Florida, Doyle commented that DirecTV is concerned about the price tag for possible renewal of "NFL Sunday Ticket" after the 2014-15 season. After all, the Network will shell out $4 billion during its current contract from 2009 through 2014 for the exclusive rights. While we can certainly understand the concern, based on that amount of money, it could be a difficult situation for DirecTV. Either giving up "Sunday Ticket" or not having the exclusive (to save money) would likely result in a significant reduction of their customer base. Makes me wonder if Fox Sports is chomping at the bit for this, given the announcement last week of forming (still another) regional network, and already having a contract with the NFL.

TBS has announced its MLB telecast schedule for Sunday afternoons for April and May:

April 7 1 p.m. New York Yankees @ Detroit Tigers

April 14 1:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox

April 21 1:30 p.m. Los Angeles Dodgers @ Baltimore Orioles

April 28 1 p.m. Toronto Blue Jays @ New York Yankees

May 5 1:30 p.m. New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves

May 12 1:30 p.m. Toronto Blue Jays @ Boston Red Sox

May 19 1:30 p.m. Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves

May 26 1:30 p.m. New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays

If you haven't already noticed, every one of these telecasts involves either New York, Los Angeles, or Boston. On a positive note, each telecast begins at either 1:00 or 1:30 ET, allowing some degree of consistency for viewers. In past years, part of the reason for less than stellar ratings has been the variation in starting times from week to week.

LOS ANGELES: Like father like son. This past Thursday (3/7), when the Dodgers played the Texas Rangers and it aired on KLAC 570, Jorge Jarrin handled the play-by-play filling in for Charlie Steiner and working with Rick Monday. He is the son of Jaime Jarrin, who was believed to be the first ever to broadcast baseball in Spanish over 50 years ago, when he began doing so for the Dodgers. Jorge remains in camp where he will call a couple of live webcasts (in English) from spring training. He also called several games in Spanish last year, along with Manny Mota, for Fox Deportes. The younger Jarrin is also hosting "Dodger Talk" on KLAC from the Glendale AZ camp.

CHICAGO: The record start by the Blackhawks also translated to record ratings for the telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The team's record 24 "unbeaten" games to begin the season produced the top ten regular season telecasts in CSN Chicago's history. That's almost as impressive as the team's streak.

St. LOUIS: While some other markets have seen an increase in the number of sports talk radio stations, St. Louis is headed in the other direction. Only WXOS 101.1 survives, and its ratings haven't been the greatest either. We'll get an indication when we see whether or not its audience increases over the next few months. KFNS 590 and KXFM 1380 are both giving up on all-sports in favor of "man talk" and "woman talk". Whatever they may do, it signals the end of an era, resulting in NO full-time sports stations on the AM dial. KFNS is the station that took the Cardinals broadcasts off of KMOX for a few years, and its night-time signal problems and the complaints it brought resulted in the Cards returning to KMOX last year.

PORTLAND OR: KPOJ 620 has changed to Fox Sports Radio. However, its previous talk format barely showed up in the ratings, so in this instance anything would be an improvement.

HOUSTON: I suppose that announcing program lineup changes provides KGOW 1560 with publicity they aren't otherwise getting. After barely showing up at the bottom of the ratings, the station moved Steve Czaban to mornings and then paired market veteran John Granato with Sean Pendergast for 3 to 7 PM as of this week.

MILWAUKEE: A nice move by WTMJ last Wednesday (3/6) when Bucks announcer Ted Davis had a special guest during the broadcast against the Clippers from Los Angeles, Eddie Doucette, the Hall of Fame broadcaster who called the Bucks for 16 seasons (including their championship in 1971) was a visitor during the game. Too many teams overlook their history, and giving the fans the chance to hear from a former "voice" was top notch.


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