As much as I wish it were not the case, the past week has brought still more instances which show how much radio is losing its status, especially when it comes to sports.
The Cleveland Browns' radio situation is both interesting and bizarre. CBS and ESPN, competing for the remaining sports radio audience throughout the country, decided to team up for the Browns' radio contract. As a result, the Browns games will all air on three different stations at the same time. WKNR 850, The Fan 92.3, and WNCX 98.5 will all air the games, although only WKNR will air the four hour pre-game and two-hour post-game shows.
This move will only help the Browns. The team will benefit from both major sports stations promoting and covering the heck out of the Browns all week in order to promote their broadcast. With WNCX being a rock station, the broadcasts (even without the pre and post-game) will reach a "non-sports" audience as well.
For the stations, they will not have an exclusive on ad sales. What would otherwise be "one" audience listening to the broadcasts will probably be divided between the stations. A combined rating does not help each station sell advertising, especially when two of those stations are otherwise direct competitors. For the fans, it means having to go to different stations for the surrounding coverage instead of one station with everything on game day.
Jim Donovan and Doug Dieken will continue as the broadcast team.
If a move does not strengthen the total audience for one station, and potentially gets in the way of ad sales, it is not good for the station. That's not good for radio. But there's more.
Over in Syracuse, while the big local story is the NCAA Final Four, there is the matter of the baseball AAA Syracuse Chiefs. After two seasons on WSKO The Score 1260, the Chiefs have decided to no longer broker the time on the sports station. So what did the team decide? No more radio for all of their games.
Instead, the team has decided to have announcers Jason Benetti and Kevin Brown call all of the games online and sell all of the advertising themselves. The team, reportedly, did not even notify WTLA 97.7 ESPN of any opportunity to pick up the games either. The 144 regular season games will stream on www.SyracuseChiefs.com. My guess is this is not good for the local fans who are at the ballpark, working, driving, etc., and can no longer hear the games live. It could be good for fans around the country, especially of the Nationals (the Chiefs are their AAA team), who can now hear the live broadcasts online.
Put these two stories together, and it is NOT at all positive for radio. One team splits up the pie, while another abandons ship.
On the TV side, a note to say what a great job CSN Houston did in its telecast of Yu Darvish's almost perfect game against the Astros on Tuesday (4/2) night. Even in the 7th inning, the Network was ready with graphics and Bill Brown, Alan Ashby, and Geoff Blum on the telecast were ready with notes about perfect games, no-hitters, and the Astros' history with them.
The coverage even stayed at the Stadium through the middle of the ninth inning in order not miss a second of the drama. (Darvish lost the perfect game with two out in the 9th.) Even if the game wasn't "perfect", the coverage was. At least those who either have the national baseball package or whose cable or satellite systems actually carry CSN Houston were able to experience it.
Looks like we will all see an innovation coming from HBO Sports, even if there is nothing to innovate. Ken Hershman, the HBO Sports President, told a Harvard Law School Symposium last week that "HBO Go" is expected to be ready by the end of this year. This feature would allow subscribers to receive "real time sports" by phone, tablet, and PC.
However, the only sport that HBO currently airs is boxing. Yet, another HBO official was quoted as saying that HBO does not plan to offer boxing in any form other than live (and replay) telecasts.
In an equally bizarre story, Florida Atlantic University's football stadium will not change its name to be named for the GEO Group. Normally, we don't care about these stadium and arena names. I continue to be amazed that the media cooperates by promoting these corporate sponsorships so easily, especially when they don't have to. In this instance, the GEO Group operates prisons, and this "naming rights" deal was already the subject of protests. As a result, the school loses out on a multi-million dollar deal, at least for now. The kicker is that if it wasn't for this story, it's likely that most of us sports fans would never have known about that company's mission if it wasn't for the protest. That's quite the media influence.
NEW YORK: It might have been to further infuriate Red Sox fans, or it could have been to keep his hand in broadcasting. Whatever the reason, Bobby Valentine will make about a dozen appearances on SNY's Mets telecasts.
MINNEAPOLIS: CBS Sports Radio can say it has an affiliate and that its national lineup is airing in the Twin Cities area. But if a tree falls in this forest, well, it's hard to say. It's airing on a regional group of stations, WXRP 105.3 Cambridge, WGVZ 105.7 Eden Prairie, and WGVX Lakeville 105.1. Considering that KSTP The Fan dropped again in the most recent ratings, and that the Twins broadcasts now air on KTWN 96.3, which is not all-sports, I wouldn't make a big deal about this.
St. LOUIS: In addition to the loss of two of its former all-sports stations, now Bernie Miklasz has announced he will be leaving WXOS 101.1 and the midday show at the end of April.
COLUMBUS: Similar story in the Columbus area, where WHOK 95.5 from Circleville has dropped music and gone to all-sports, where it will be known as "The Game".
ALBANY: WTMM 104.5 has brought in Mike Lindsley to host its 1 to 4 PM show as of this week. Lindlsey comes from Syracuse where he hosted afternoons at WKSO. Lindsley will also host the station's local early pre-game show before the N.Y. Yankees games it airs.
Nearby WGNY 1220 Newburgh has become ESPN Radio, having just dropped its music format.