Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The "Finals" For Less Advertising On The Court

There will be one more thing to remember from the current NBA Finals between Miami and San Antonio other than the obvious. These game telecasts on ABC will likely be the "Finals" for clutter free televised pro basketball. ABC/ESPN and TNT are paying the big bucks for NBA television rights, and because of that the NBA itself is letting these networks, along with several regional sports networks, have their way for their advertisers.

Those of you enjoying the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NHL season have undoubtedly noticed the increase in the number of advertisements which clutter up the boards in each venue. Plus, in some cases, there are advertisements actually on the ice, in addition to the names of some of the arenas.

Now, the NBA is taking their game telecasts to this level. The league has gone as far as to send a memo to the individual teams about where and how much more "in-game" advertising is being allowed beginning with the coming season. Teams are now able to sell space on the sideline areas between the baselines and the coach's box. From the sound of things, this will be similar to what the NHL has allowed for the boards.

And there's more. The NBA will also allow local teams to have an advertiser's logo on the floor in front of one or both team benches. The league memo says that these logo ads will need to be removable and will be "restricted" to locally televised games. Which, of course, is the majority of the games for even the most popular teams.

My personal contention is that this added advertiser clutter is only going to get worse. Much of the feedback I receive from writing "The Broadcast Booth" focuses on my complaints about teams wearing alternate uniforms (or "throw-up" jerseys as I call them), as well as crap such as pink or special colored wrist bands, patches, bats, shoes, and other items during professional game telecasts.

This practice especially annoys me when players are forced to wear something which is not even a team color and/or that makes it harder to read the numbers or player names.

I'm here to tell you that this is really a "warm-up" for viewers to prepare us for when (and I do mean WHEN) pro leagues allow advertising on the uniforms. At this rate, ten years from now the players will look more like NASCAR drivers than representatives of the teams they play for.

Here's hoping they stop the madness, but I'm not counting on it.

Should game telecasts and broadcasts focus solely on the game when related "news" is breaking?

Last week brought us an interesting example of both sides of that debate in the New York market.

Hours after the story broke (on June 4th) about the possible punishment for MLB players such as Derek Jeter and Ryan Braun, among others, the Yankees game was underway. Those watching the Yannkees telecast vs. Cleveland on YES heard about the story during the game only when studio host Jack Curry gave a brief report during his in-game update. Otherwise, Michael Kay, Al Leiter, and John Flaherty did not discuss this "news", instead sticking with the game accounts and the "regular" information.

This came up on Kay's sports talk show the following afternoon on 98.7 ESPN, on which Kay was responded by saying, in effect, that game telecasts are not for the purpose of opinion and discussion.

At the same time, Tuesday night on the Yankees radio broadcast, John Sterling and Syzyn Waldman went as far as having N.Y. Daily News reporter Mark Feinsand in the booth with them to discuss the situation as it might pertain to Derek Jeter.

That same night, SNY was televising the Mets game against Washington. Gary Cohen and Ron Darling directly discussed the drug story during the game. (I was not able to find out by press time whether or not Mets radio addressed this or not.)

Personally, I understand both viewpoints as to why and why not review the story, especially when it is as heavy as being drug related. However, this situation occurs even when the "news" is not as 'heavy'.

For another example, I'll go back to late September 2011 when the word got out during a Chicago White Sox game that Ozzie Guillen was being fired from his manager position. The White Sox telecast included discussion of the situation, while the radio broadcast, also controlled by the team, did not. It was to the point where the radio broadcast only referred to a "press conference after the game" without so much as speculation, even though the flagship station is an all-sports radio station which supposedly covers breaking news.

Whichever philosophy you agree with (discuss or not discuss), I would hope you would agree that a pro sports league should have a policy in place for its team broadcasts. For all we know, this is a personal decision.

But here is another question. Why does a pro sports league take the time to detail exactly where local advertising can be placed upon its playing surface, but not have a "news coverage" policy in place for those same broadcasts?

The radio ratings for May are starting to be released this week. Briefly, NYC showed slight gains for both WFAN and WEPN. In Chicago, a surprise as WGN Radio, flagship for the Blackhawks and Cubs, showed an overall decrease of 1/2 ratings point. WSCR The Score 670 showed a slight decrease while no longer doubling up on the total audience of WMVP ESPN 1000 which showed a .4 overall ratings increase.

In San Francisco, KNBR continues to lead the market with help from its Giants broadcasts, and continues to have more than four times the overall ratings of The Game KGMZ. The Game, however, did show its biggest audience increase to date as the Oakland A's got off to a solid start.

It's the usual for Los Angeles and Houston where sports talkers continue to struggle. In Houston, only KILT came in with anything above a 1.0 rating (and not by much), while two of its sports stations failed to show up in the ratings book. And you wonder why KTRH got rid of the Astros broadcasts?

CHICAGO: WGN Radio has a problem it enjoys from being the flagship station for both the Blackhawks, now in the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Cubs. The station has decided to go with the Blackhawks as a priority and move the Cubs baseball games which conflict over to WLUP 97.9. Earlier in the Stanley Cup playoffs, WGN was sending the Blackhawks broadcasts over to "The Loop". If the Blackhawks vs. Bruins series goes seven games, there would be three such conflicts.

This could also be due to the fact that Comcast SportsNet's ratings for Cubs baseball are reportedly down about 15% from the same number of early season telecasts as last season. The White Sox, also off to a disappointing start, are showing ratings down more than 20% compared with last season.

ALBANY: Nearby WPTR 1240 Schenectady has become the area's third sports radio station, dropping music to pick up the CBS Sports Radio Network. Curious timing when you realize that WTMM ESPN 104.5 has seen an overall ratings drop of more than 50% this year while Fox Sports 980 failed to show up in the winter ratings book.

JONESBORO AR: KCJF 103.9 The Game will be dropping its sports programming at the end of this month and returning to an undisclosed (as of press time) music format.

BOZEMAN MT: Montana State football will be seen quite often in the region this fall. Max Media has announced that it will televise seven of the school's games, while ROOT Sports has already scheduled four telecasts. As of now, only the MSU at Southern Methodist game on Sept. 7th is not yet scheduled for TV.

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