Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Competition For The Same Audience

The sports media bandwagon has been in high gear over the past few days, as stations and networks continue to look for more ways to compete with each other instead of leading the way.

In Boston, the local radio battle between WEEI and WBZ-FM Sports Hub could be taking another twist, based on last week's ouster of Jason Wolfe from the VP of Programming and Operations position he most recently held during his 22-year stint with WEEI. WEEI has seen its ratings on the decline while rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub has made significant (compared with WEEI) gains.

What gets me about this announcement was the comment from WEEI management that it is time for "new ideas" at WEEI. Perhaps moving Glenn Ordway from afternoons early this year, and the move to an emphasis on the FM frequency before that were not "new" enough. Kevin Winter came and went in the midday. WEEI made these changes in an attempt to stir ratings, and they didn't work.

Those were "new" ideas.

Over the past three months, The Sports Hub hasn't had much movement in the overall ratings either. This indicates that WEEI is not necessarily losing its audience to the competition. At least they haven't tinkered with Dennis & Callahan's morning show. This could all be a part of the problem which plagues TV even more, which is that there is simply too much competition for the sports audience, and only so many hours in the day. Sorry, but it's hard to believe that anyone could do any better than Jason Wolfe to maintain a presence for WEEI in the months to come. But, as they say in sports, that's why the play it out on the field.

Also on the radio side, sort of, is the announcement from Sirius XM about expanding its contract to carry all MLB broadcasts to now run through 2021. This announcement also makes a big deal that Sirius subscribers can now also receive these broadcasts, which were only on XM all of this time.

Seems to me that Sirius and XM merged years ago. This "move" should have taken place years ago but didn't until now. The "announcement" also conveniently overlooks how some "basic" Sirius subscribers still need to upgrade their package in order to receive these broadcasts. I can understand Sirius XM making it look like this is some kind of innovation and "new" service to cover up this delay and smooth over the fact that some of the subscribers are still left out.

What I don't understand is the large number of media reports about this failed to point this out. And there's more. The cost to "upgrade" for the basic Sirius subscribers so that they can receive this MLB package is more per year than the cost of the basic "At Bat" app for phones from MLB. And "At Bat" provides both the home and away broadcasts via phone, whereas many Sirius XM channels cannot even be accessed by phone.

On the TV side, CBS Sports Network is adding its own competition, partially to fill up air time and more likely to add to what is already there.

They have added American Athletic Conference football and basketball telecasts starting this year. The basketball telecasts figure to have more appeal, with the likes of U. of Louisville, U. of Cincinnati, South Florida, and Memphis included in this package. However, in order to get these games, CBS-SN also needs to show some women's games. This package is actually a sub-license from ESPN, so it's really nothing "new" for viewers. Because of this, ESPN generates "licensing revenue" while being able to show other games it can sell, and reduce its number of women's basketball telecasts. (I'm not knocking the caliber or rallying against women's basketball, but the ratings for those telecasts show a lack of demand.)

CBS-SN has also decided that the fans need still another expanded NFL pre-game show on Sunday mornings. As a result of this, Sunday Sept. 8th (week 1) they will be on from 9 AM to 1 PM ET with still another pre-game show. This one goes head-to-head with the NFL Network, with the later part on against ESPN and the final hour against Fox and, well, CBS. Adam Schein has been named as hot, with NFL Today analysts and on-site announcers expected to participate. This even includes James Brown. This show has been named "That Other Pregame Show". And I'm not joking. At least not yet. Heck, let's just do the same exact thing, but for four times as long, and see what happens.

NFL Monday QB will air on CBS-SN on Mondays at 6:30 PM ET, with Schein also hosting, and analysts to include Phil Sims, Rich Gannon, and Steve Beuerlein.

This from the network which is bringing us a bunch of college football telecasts this season. They are bringing us matchups such as Morgan State vs. Army (Aug. 30); Winston-Salem State at UNC-Pembroke (Sept. 5); Delaware at Navy (Sept. 14); West Alabama at Florida Tech (Sept. 19); and Harding at Southern Arkansas (Oct. 3). And to think that part of our cable/satellite monthly cost goes to help bring this all to us.

Then again, Fox Sports 1 comes at us with national college football telecasts such as Nicholls State at Oregon (Aug. 31);  Louisiana-Layfayette at Kansas State (Sept. 7); and VA Tech at East Carolina (Sept. 14) within the next month. Yet, to read some media reports this week, you could think that Fox Sports 1 has already established itself as an important presence in the lineup of available sports networks.

As we get ready for college football to begin, ESPN/ABC has announced it will use the same broadcast pairings as last season. (As if this was worthy of being an announcement?) Nonetheless, Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit return for Saturday Night Football for their 8th season together, while Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge will handle the #2 game for their 5th consecutive season.

The ESPN2 game on Saturday nights will again have Mark Jones and Brock Huard, while Clay Matvick and Matt Sinchcomb come back for season two on the featured ESPNU game. The Thursday College Football Primetime games will be called by Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack.

CHICAGO: WMVP ESPN 1000 has renewed "The Jay Cutler Show" for its second season, although the show is being moved to afternoon drive. Cutler will be heard on Mondays from 5 - 6 PM CT following Sunday Bears games, and on Tuesdays following the Bears two scheduled appearances on Monday Night Football. What makes Cutler's show unique from other NFL quarterback (and/or star player) shows is that Cutler, to his credit, appears live and in person each week, including those done from a restaurant or venue including a live audience in person.

WIND-AM 560 adds a two hour pre-game show from 10 AM to Noon CT on Sundays (NFL kickoff is at Noon local time), hosted by Fox Sports Radio's Mike North, the former morning host at WSCR The Score. Yes, it is a station which does not air any NFL games airing a 2-hour pre-game show on Sundays against all of the TV shows, and often against Bears pre-game programming.

STATE COLLEGE PA: Penn State Football's radio team of Steve Jones and Jack Ham has been signed to an extension for at least three more seasons. The pair has teamed up to provide the play-by-play for the past 13 seasons on what is currently a 60-station network. Jones has also called PSU basketball for 30 years.

COLLEGE PARK MD: The University of Maryland Football Network has added former QB Scott McBrien to its radio broadcasts in time for the upcoming season. However, at least to start, McBrien will merely serve as sideline reporter. Johnny Holliday and Tim Strachan will continue as the main broadcast team.

OKLAHOMA CITY: KRXO 107.7 has dropped its music format and has gone all sports, now known as "The Franchise 107.7". Play-by-play will include Oklahoma University sports and and network fed NFL games.

MONTEREY CA: KYZZ 97.9 has dropped ESPN Radio. In fact, it dropped sports and went to music.

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