Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Play-by-play Rules The Ratings

Even as the weather finally improves throughout most of the country, sports fans continue to flock to live telecasts, especially for the playoff games. The NHL continues with strong ratings over the past week. For the current Conference Finals series, solid numbers are to be expected, given the hockey friendly markets of Pittsburgh, Boston, and Chicago. Los Angeles, even with the defending champion Kings, continues to be another story. This past Sunday (6/2) the NBC Sports Network Game 2 telecast from Chicago had a local rating of 2.3, compared with the 16.6 rating for the same telecast in Chicago. Ouch. Especially when you consider that the Saturday Game 1 telecast of Boston vs. Pittsburgh on NBC in prime time resulted in higher ratings than those in both local markets.

The Miami Heat probably saved the day for ABC by beating out the Indiana Pacers in seven games. An Indiana vs. San Antonio finals series would not have been a ratings grabber, but the most casual of basketball fans wants to see if LeBron James and company can win for the second straight year.

However, it appears that even with a prime time pre-game show, ABC will be keeping the same studio crew which still lacks a true broadcaster. Even though Michael Wilbon, Jalen Rose, Magic Johnson, and Bill Simmons each offer solid analysis, they still need someone to be in charge. The best example of this is when Fox Sports tried to do its NFL studio show with Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and the others before finally bringing in Curt Menefee and putting him in the host chair. Right now, this is a case of too many analysts and not enough hosts. Prime time viewers deserve better.

On the baseball side, it appears that fans know exactly when and where they are watching. Last week's "rivalry" stretch provided some interesting local market results for choices with duplicate telecasts. In New York, the Yankees vs. Mets series actually finished with a slightly higher rating for the Mets' telecasts over the Yankees' telecasts, with each showing games on cable and over the air. In Chicago, the Cubs and White Sox rotated telecasts on Comcast SportsNet and over the air, and came in with only a very slight edge to the Cubs.

Yet, in California it's a different story, which is most likely a reflection of the announcing. In the San Francisco area, the Giants' telecasts tripled in the ratings over the A's telecasts, even though the Oakland telecast of their Wednesday meeting had a season high. Frankly, A's announcing over the years hasn't been the most enthusiastic, especially since the days of Bill King.

But same situation in L.A. where the Dodgers telecasts outrated the Angels telecasts by a full ratings point, while the Dodgers games were called by Vin Scully.

An even more interesting MLB ratings find is that sometimes it makes a difference who the pitcher is. At least when Yu Darvish starts for the Rangers. Through his first 11 starts of the 2013 season, the Rangers telecasts on Fox Sports West have an average rating of 1.2 rating points higher than all other local Rangers telecasts this season.

For St. Louis Cardinals fans, it's almost as if ESPN is trying to interfere with Fox Sports Midwest. ESPN has now scheduled the Cardinals for their 4th Sunday Night Baseball appearance, which will be on June 23 vs. Texas. The Cards will also be on this coming Sunday (6/9) from Cincinnati and are scheduled vs. the Cubs on July 14th. They were already featured on April 21st, and could be shown on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball a maximum of five times this season.

ESPN also announced that Baltimore vs. N.Y. Yankees will be its June 30th telecast.

TBS is bringing in Keith Olbermann to be studio host for its MLB post-season coverage. This actually marks a return to Turner Sports for Olbermann, whose first national sportscasting gig was with CNN years ago. His reporting from the NFL strike in 1982 helped bring him to national prominence. Olbermann will handle the post-season studio assignment because once again Ernie Johnson Jr. will be calling play-by-play on the #1 crew, while Brian Anderson will handle the #2 crew play-by-play in October.

DENVER: Congrats to Gary Miller who adds play-by-play of Colorado State University football and basketball airing on ESPN 105.5 starting this summer to start a 3-year contract. Miller has been with KCNC-TV for more than 20 years, and the early word is that he will reduce his TV workload before the start of football season. Brian Roth will continue in the analyst role, returning for his 14th year. Miller, who previously called the Broncos on radio for seven seasons, will also host CSU coaches shows.

CALIFORNIA: Riverside's KTDD 1350 has gone to Fox Sports Radio, dropping its music format, and starting it without local programming. Up in Visalia, KIGS 620 has pulled the plug on Fox Sports Radio, which it had changed to less than a month ago. KIGS has changed over to NBC Sports Radio.

WINNIPEG: CFRW 1290 TSN Radio has already benefited from having the NHL Jets on the station. The station just showed its strongest ratings in nearly ten years, rising more than 1 1/2 rating points overall. This looks more impressive when you factor in that news/talk CJOB 680 dropped to its lowest overall audience in nearly 15 years even though it still leads the market. The realignment of the NHL in time for the 2013-14 season will likely mean even more interest in the Jets, which will be back in the Western Conference and play more games against Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

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