Monday, December 9, 2013

A Fox In The Hole On Coverage

It is technically not the fault of Fox Sports, but many NFL fans were left hanging on Sunday (12/8) when Fox "had to" leave its early game telecast in time for the start of its San Francisco vs. Seattle doubleheader game telecast at 4:25 PM ET. As Kurt Menefee explained to viewers when Fox broke away from the Minnesota at Baltimore thriller with :04 remaining, the switch was "due to contract regulations".

At the time, Baltimore had just scored the game winning TD with seconds remaining against Minnesota. In fact, the scoring play was "under review" at the time of the switch of the regional telecast for those feeds which had not carried the entire game. By this time, fans of the other regional games (including Green Bay vs. Atlanta and Detroit vs. Philadelphia) had already been switched to this game.

At the time, all that remained was the officials' review, which as it turned out confirmed the touchdown, and the kickoff to Minnesota and the possibility of one play from scrimmage. Although a "contract is a contract" (seemingly except for players who renegotiate), Menefee told viewers of the regional feeds that we "would be kept up to date".

Yet, when viewers were switched to the Seattle vs. San Francisco game, it was several minutes of real time before Fox game the final score of the Minnesota game. That delay in providing the information was NOT a contract regulation.

There is no excuse for Fox delaying providing fans with the information that the Minnesota at Baltimore game had ended, especially considering how many different telecasts had joined and left that game. Not to mention the last second comeback by Baltimore to win the game. Those are two solid reasons why there should have been some continuity.

Sorry, but the conclusion of an exciting game, which actually had multiple scores in the final few minutes to decide a close game, is more "urgent" than the first couple of plays from scrimmage in the game that just started.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that "It's a good thing I can watch Sunday Ticket" so that you could have stayed for the end of the Minnesota vs. Baltimore game before switching over. And it was a good thing. But this is part of my point. There are some people who would be less likely to spend the dollars for Sunday Ticket if they could get the coverage they want from the broadcast networks.

For the millions and millions of dollars that Fox (and other networks) spend for these rights, they should feel a bigger obligation to those remaining viewers to keep us informed. That SHOULD be their contractual obligation.

One long-time broadcast tradition has returned, while another is going away.

The long time Voice of the Indy 500, Paul Page, will be back in the spring as the radio voice of the Indy 500 as well as the IndyCar Series. Page, now at age 68, first joined the Indianapolis Speedway Radio Network in 1974 and became its lead voice following the unfortunate passing of Sid Collins before moving over to call the big race on TV years later. His returned is welcomed by race fans everywhere.

In Milwaukee, for the first time since 1926, University of Wisconsin football fans will turn somewhere else other than WTMJ 620 for the game broadcasts. Starting Aug. 30, 2014, when Wisconsin faces LSU, the games will air on WRIT 95.7 and WOKY 920, which will also air UW basketball starting next November. WOKY 920 is now a sports station with a tiny audience (a mere .02 overall in November), and this acquisition is the station's first "local" play-by-play. WRIT-FM is an oldies station but brings an audience to the table.

Word is that WTMJ did not bid for renewal since the contract did not allow the station to sell enough "station" commercial time, and the station had to farm out several football games each year due to conflicts with Brewers broadcasts. The station will continue to carry Brewers baseball and Packers football. But after 86 seasons, this is definitely a tradition coming to an end.

Meanwhile, the NFL continues to expand its international revenue potential, and this time is taking the media with it. There will be three regular season games in London starting with the 2014 season (up from one currently). What makes this even more interesting is that the NFL is allowing the Sunday Oct. 26, 2014 game between Detroit and Atlanta to begin at 1:30 PM London time and be shown live on Fox. That means that the kickoff will be just after 9:30 AM ET.

As a result, the game figures to be concluded by or about 1 PM ET, which would be in time for the "early" regional games to start. No word yet as to whether or not Fox will make this a national game. If so, it would mean a window for fans to view FOUR entire NFL games in one day, since the regular doubleheader of games would follow and then Sunday Night Football on NBC after that. It's probably a good thing that this time slot was not given to a west coast team (6:30 AM PT kickoff?), as Oakland will play Miami in London next Nov. 9th, but at 1:00 PM ET.

If this does become a quadrupleheader TV day, it would be interesting to see the ratings of an 8:30 AM ET (5:30 AM PT) pre-game show start for Fox, and what the ton of other NFL pre-game shows on TV and radio would do with their schedules for that morning.

Within hours of ESPN losing baseball analyst Orel Hersheiser to the Dodgers broadcast crew, the network came back with the announcement that Curt Schilling will join the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew as an analyst, along with John Kruk, working with Dan Shulman. Schilling has been with ESPN since 2010. Incredibly, 2014 will be the 25th year of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

Finally, as if there isn't enough to ridicule in Washington D.C. these days, now there is The Fan 106.7 and its The Sports Junkies show. The show has added a new segment for Thursday mornings (approximately 8:40 AM). It seems that the station has cleared a segment with Rob Ford, the Toronto Mayor in the news of late for admitting to an episode smoking cocaine while also being drunk. Ford is on to discuss his NFL picks. I have no idea who would actually tune in just for this, but it can certainly be said that he would seem to fit on a show with "Junkies" in the title.

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