Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Teams Doing The Media The Media Should Be Doing

Although I'm all for pro sports teams doing what they can to provide for their fans, it seems that some pro teams are now providing what the sports media should be concentrating on. Two instances within the past week reflect this. I'm not understanding why networks and local stations are paying huge money for rights to games and coverage of teams and leagues, yet some teams are now in the media business as well.

The first such story is about how the Dallas Cowboys' stadium will offer fans in attendance at their home games a "free dimensional video" feature which uses 24 high speed cameras in each red zone to create video game style replays. This system reportedly has taken about one month to install, and will be used by NBC-TV during the Sunday Night Football telecasts it has scheduled from Arlington TX this season. The curious part is that the Cowboys "partnered" with NBC to be able to provide this for fans attending the games.

On one hand, it is a positive that the fans will be able experience this feature at all home games (including those not televised by NBC), giving fans in attendance an additional element. But my concern is that the team is a "partner" in this venture. Aren't team executives supposed to focus on the player personnel and other such matters?

The next story involves the past weekend's Chicago Blackhawks Convention for fans.

Understandably, the downtown Chicago hotel convention sold out completely following the team's Stanley Cup championship. To the point that many of the panel discussions, seminars, and festivities over the weekend were streamed live. Where?

On ChicagoBlackhawks.com, which also provided exclusive interviews and other content. While it was a great idea for the team to provide this coverage and the extras at no cost to fans, it brings me to the rest of my point.

Isn't the media supposed to enhance the coverage of the teams? In recent years, we all know how broadcast rights fees have skyrocketed. And now it comes to expanded replays and convention coverage, and suddenly the teams are taking over and not the sports media.

This does reflect how fans, in addition to the live telecasts, want factual interviews and live coverage of their favorite teams. There is a reason that teams are becoming involved in this, and that they recognize the demand for it. However, this is the media's responsibility to provide it. Here we have a whole bunch of sports radio stations struggling for an audience, and a growing number of TV regional and national sports networks which are starving for quality content.

Within the same week, the Big Ten Network unveiled BTN2Go, an application for phones and tablets allowing live streaming (to all who are cable/satellite subscribers. In addition to the regular BTN, this application will make the "extra" football telecasts (when they show overlapping games) available for streaming, along with access to current season games and other archives of past telecasts. A great service, indeed, but it is the Conference offering this up and not a TV or radio rights holder.

There are a couple of media related attempts at this, but with a "catch". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is offering a mobile site for NFL information, primarily about the Green Bay Packers (understandable) but with access to a variety of updated NFL information and coverage via MJSFootball.com. However, the site will be free for what it terms "a limited period" and then become part of a paid subscription.

So let's get this straight. Some teams are leagues are expanding live and updated coverage of their teams as a benefit to their fans. At the same time, some of the media which is covering these teams is planning to charge even more for fans to follow their teams. And so many people wonder why the audiences are becoming so fragmented.

All that said, the NFL is back, with this Sunday (Aug. 4) marking the return with the opening exhibition game on NBC at 8 PM ET. The Hall of Fame Game with Dallas against Miami will feature the regular Sunday Night Football crew in action.

The NFL Network has added two more reporters. Judy Battista, who has covered the NFL for the NY Times since 2004, has been added to the Network's roster, along with Jenn Brown, formerly with ESPN. Brown will host NFL Total Access and appear on other live programs throughout the year.

Fox Sports 1, which debuts within the next month, has added several analysts for its Fox Sports Live program, which is one of its time-fillers (ooops, I mean new programs) on its daily schedule. These include Andy Roddick, Gary Payton, and Donovan McNabb (who will no longer be seen on NFL Network).

Meanwhile, CBS Sports Radio still hasn't made a dent, and the outlook isn't getting any better. The latest casualty is WCFN 100.3 The Fan in Cincinnati, which (today before press time) on July 30th dropped its CBS Radio Sports and its sports programming completely and flipped back to music. Almost all of the local sports staff was released. After seven months, the station still ranked last in the market.

In Topeka KS, KTOP 1490, which also had joined CBS Sports earlier this year, failed to show in the latest ratings book. In Toledo OH, WLQR-FM The Ticket, which recently switched to CBS Sports Radio, has literally dropped more than 2/3 of the total audience it had earlier this year.

NEW YORK: ESPN Radio continues to be aggressive about the New York area market. Long Island's WLIR 107.1 Hampton Bays and 96.9 Selden is about to begin a simulcast of WESN New York. This will reportedly include the Knicks, Rangers, and Jets broadcasts. Word is that only Stony Brook football will air locally on these stations. What this does is put ESPN Radio into a better regional reach for competing against the strong WFAN 660 AM signal. The timing is important, since radio rights to the Yankees and Mets are still in the works for next season and beyond.

SEATTLE: While Steve Raible is returning for his 32nd season as Seahawks radio play-by-play voice, he will have a new analyst as Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon has been brought in to fill that role starting next week. Including his stint as a wide receiver for the team as well as his time calling the games, Raible has missed only four games in the team's entire history.

On the TV side, not many people outside of Seattle are aware that the TV pre-season voice of the team will again be Curt Menefee, who actually begins his fifth pre-season in that role. Yes, that's Curt Menefee who hosts Fox NFL Sunday. Former Seahawks Brock Huard has been named as his analyst for the pre-season telecasts on Fox Channel 13 Seattle.

WASHINGTON D.C.: WTEM ESPN 980 is changing its afternoon drive show, starting this week (Aug. 1). Steve Czaban, former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley and Al Galdi will host "The Drive With Cooley and Czabe" from 4 to 7 PM. This replaces "The Sports Reporters" which ran for 13 years, most recently with Czaban and Andy Pollin. Pollin will remain with the station, at least for now, doing fill-in work.

MARQUETTE MI: WZAM 970 ESPN has added its 93.3 FM and is now simulcasting throughout the Upper Peninsula. However, the daily local show, with Casey Ford and Bill Blohm, stays at only one hour from 4 to 5 PM on weekdays.

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