Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Free Press Couldn't Help A Brother Out

The Broadcast Booth would love to be in the holiday spirit and have a very positive update for our last one in 2014, but this week's sports media related events are not making that possible.

First, mistakes happen. Sports media and otherwise. The Detroit Free Press made one on Monday, and as you might expect, competitors and much of the sports media well beyond Detroit had a field day with it. Its news of Coach Jim Harbaugh going from the San Francisco 49ers to the University of Michigan was huge, especially in the Free Press' home market, which includes Ann Arbor.

However, a careless photo editor ran a photo of Jim's brother John Harbaugh instead, meaning that the print edition went out with a wrong photo on its front page. Whereas those who publish a fact or photo incorrectly online (including social media) have the ability to change or delete something and make amends, there is nothing which can be done immediately when it is in print.

As much as I am against mentioning a competitor within a sportscast or report, in an instance such as this, I can't blame other media members for pointing out that a publication with one of the nation's best reputations has made a prominent goof. This is a way to indirectly make a competitor seem less trustworthy and point out that "we" had it right.

However, I see some long term effects which are not good for sports fans and some in sports media. This incident further discredits newspapers as being a valuable source of information. In the long run, that is not good.

The Free Press has always had a solid reputation for its reporting and coverage. After all, this was a photo and not a factual error. Because thousands of newspapers were printed and distributed with the wrong photo, the Free Press was not able to "delete" its error and update it like it was no big deal.

Yet, so many of the sources which jumped on touting the Free Press error have the ability to instantly "update" or delete an error they put out there.

In this era when far too many "reporters" do nothing but relay something someone else reported so that they can be "first" and "safe" with their information, most newspapers still go in-depth with their information, investigation, and actual reporting on stories of local importance. We should all hope this is never lost.

Next, more disturbing news for sports fans this week. Multichannel News says that Time Warner Cable is implementing a $2.75 per month "sports surcharge" in early 2015 for its customers not currently under a promotional rate. In addition, it says that Cablevision, DirecTV, and Mediacom Communications are also planning to implement or increase a "sports surcharge" as well.

This is the same TWC which continues to hold L.A. Dodgers fans hostage by now lowering its price for other carriers to distribute its Dodgers Network around Southern California. As recently as Monday (12/29), TWC again issued a statement saying they are willing to go to "binding arbitration" in the matter. As if our court system needs to take valuable time to decide how much fans should pay to watch Dodgers games on TV?

DirecTV has announced a price increase for its programming packages from 3.5% to 6% as of Feb. 5, 2015, along with an increase in its fees for each additional connected TV. This, of course, comes just after DirecTV bid hundreds of millions of dollars to retain its NFL Sunday Ticket package, which it claims is "part of" selected regular packages and is without an extra charge.

Something has to give before sports become games not only played by millionaires, but only watched by them as well.

Meanwhile, the recent tradition of Christmas and basketball is starting to take control. ABC's doubleheader on the afternoon of Dec. 25th was up about 14% over 2013, while the TNT night doubleheader finished as the highest rated Christmas prime-time doubleheader ever for TNT.

CHICAGO: Not the typical feud between broadcasters at WMVP ESPN 1000 when a current player is involved. Bears receiver Brandon Marshall (who also appears nationally on Inside The NFL each week) used his regular radio appearance to call station host Carmen DeFalco "a clown" who "shouldn't be on the radio". The reason? (Or so it appears) DeFalco has been critical of Marshall's play this season as the Bears finished at a disappointing 5-11. Wonder what Marshall would have said if DeFalco wasn't on the same station. It will be interesting to see whether or not Marshall is retained by WMVP (or another Chicago station) for next season (if still with the Bears). A professional broadcaster is not supposed to criticize a co-worker, especially without explaining his or her reason for doing so, without justification.

ALBANY: Not sure this was by popular demand, but the market is about to get its fourth sports radio station by mid-January. WZMR 104.9 is about to become WINU and be known as "Win 104.9", adding CBS Sports Radio. For those keeping score, WPTR 1240 will switch from CBS to NBC Sports Network, as both go against WTMM ESPN 104.5 The Team and WOFX Fox Sports 980. That seems like a lot of national coverage for a market which doesn't even have a pro sports team.

KNOXVILLE: WVLZ 1180 is dropping its oldies format next week (Jan. 5) to become a sports station, with the call letters to stand for "Vols" as in the Tennessee Volunteers. However, at least to start, the daytime only station will carry Yahoo Sports.

TALLAHASSEE: WNLS 1270 The Team has not survived into the new year, dropping its sports format, after more than 15 years, to simulcast a music format from a local FM station.

Happy New Year to you all! We'll be back next week and throughout the year ahead. As always, we appreciate your feedback and comments.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wait 12 Minutes - Or Promote Your Competitor?

Maybe it's because I began the broadcasting portion of my career during an era when you did anything and everything you could to NEVER so much as mention a competitor over the air. These days, we have some media outlets not only mentioning, but in effect promoting their competition.

The benching of Jay Cutler from his starting QB position for the Chicago Bears last week was a huge story in Chicago, as well as to NFL fans around the nation, as well as being unexpected (since it was not due to injury).

As it happened that afternoon, I was watching CSN Chicago's "Sports Talk Live" show hosted by the hard working David Kaplan with a live panel of media members. In the midst of a live segment, Kaplan interrupted to say something to the effect of "Adam Schefer of ESPN just reported that Jay Cutler is being benched and Jimmy Clausen will start at QB for the Bears on Sunday!".

The panel then began to discuss "if it's true.....". This is not to specifically pick on Kaplan, who does an excellent job of reporting. Unfortunately, "reporting" what someone else is "reporting" has become far too common these days, especially in the sports media.

Reporters still don't understand how damaging this can be.

Of course, I understand the wanting to credit the source of a breaking story in case it needs to be retracted. However, in this instance (like many other situations in which this happens), a few minutes internally can make a huge difference.

Upon hearing this "report", I'm sure I wasn't the only viewer (who CHOSE Kaplan's show) to immediately switch over to ESPN, whether the TV network or the local ESPN 1000 Radio station, which, needless to say, were already all over this major sports story.

It wasn't until about 12 minutes later when Kaplan commented, to the effect of, "It is true. CSN is now reporting that Jay Cutler will not start on Sunday.....", and the discussion continued. We can speculate all we want about how much of the CSN audience may have been lost to ESPN by then.

How should this have been handled?

The fact is that CSN Chicago produced several hours of Bears specific programming as well as originating live pre-game and post-game shows before every Bears game. In addition, CSN is part of the NBC Sports group, which pays the NFL millions of dollars for Sunday Night Football and offers NFL programming on its NBCSN channel as well. CSN has both current and prominent former Bears players on its payroll.

Upon hearing this "report", the "story" could and should have been checked internally for verification. It obviously was, since CSN began "reporting" the story about 12 minutes after the ESPN "report" aired.

My point is that the vast majority (if not the entire) audience watching CSN at that time would not have known what rival ESPN was "reporting" during those few minutes until CSN sources were able to confirm the story. "Sports Talk Live" spends perhaps more of its time each week during football season about the Bears than any other local team or sports story.

They, in effect, told their audience that the biggest story about the Bears in months was first reported by a competitor.

Kaplan and the crew should have waited the 12 minutes, not said a word about the Cutler story, and THEN interrupted and started with "CSN has learned that.......". The viewers would not have known if or that any other media source was first with the story, nor would they have been given a reason to tune to a different channel or station.

Again, this sort of thing happens way too often. These programs, stations, and networks, depend on audience ratings in order to survive. A few minutes spent confirming a story makes a lot more sense than promoting a direct competitor. You read that here first.

SEATTLE: A ton of credit to KRJ Sportsradio and host Dave Mahler, who last week had Kevin Mather, the President of the Mariners, as an in-studio live guest on his show. In addition to taking calls from fans, Mather answered direct questions about the team payroll, the current ownership structure, and free agents not signed by the team.

It also made for an interesting part when host Mahler, who does not have many guests on his show, revealed that he went to school with Mahler's daughter and talked about the connection with the family. This is one area where sports radio stations could thrive, by giving listeners more direct access with team management. A ton more interesting than hearing from "Steve from the west side.....".

HOUSTON: Even though the Astros are finally showing some promise to compete in the American League West in the near future, the game broadcasts will remain on sports radio KBME 790, which now has a 4-year extension of its contract to air the games. KBME also airs the Rockets games, along with (non-conflicting) Texas A & M football and basketball. This announcement even though sister station KTRH 740, which aired the games for years prior, continues to have much higher overall audience ratings.

MIAMI: Down to two jobs now for Joe Rose, who has done his final sportscast, after 22 years, at WTVJ Channel 6. Rose anchored his last "Sports Final" on Sunday (12/21) night. Of course, Rose's other duties will keep him plenty busy, especially his continuing morning gig at WQAM 560. Rose also remains with the Dolphins radio crew.

BANGOR: WEZQ The Ticket 92.9 is changing its afternoon drive show to an even heavier sports focus. Teaming up with SportsNet Maine, Jim Churchill, Jeff Solari, and Wes Hart, will co-host "The Drive", which targets area pro teams, the University of Maine, and local high school sports starting Jan. 5th.

Rich Kimball, the voice of University of Maine football for the past 18 seasons, will have his show, which partially focused on sports, move over to WZON 620 (where Kimball was on the air for years prior) and will run head-to-head against the new show on The Ticket.

Finally, a Merry Christmas to you, yours, and theirs!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Not A 'Bunch' of Complaints For Brady

It's a story of a man named Brady, who was busy reacting with profanity when things went wrong during his team's battle against the Green Bay Packers. Something his three lovely children of his own shouldn't be seeing, either.

The SmokingGun web site revealed the actual complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission resulting from CBS showing the reactions of Tom Brady of the Patriots during a frustrating loss. One can debate how times have changed and how important it is, or isn't, to keep profanity off the public airwaves. For however long, current FCC regulations prevent the networks and local stations from airing profanity, subject to heavy fines and risk of license renewal.

Many will question CBS for showing an immediate player reaction when there is a likelihood that it won't be a family friendly one. But knowing that, as the saying goes, "stuff happens", this has become more of a common occurrence on sports telecasts over the past couple of years. It is also a sign of the times that SmokingGun went ahead and printed the "f word" (which is what lip readers could clearly see Brady saying several times on TV) within its factual article.

Rather than agree or disagree, let's take a look at a very important fact based on the SmokingGun article about this (including the actual complaint documents) from December 16th, more than two weeks after the New England at Green Bay telecast on CBS (Nov. 30).

There have been a grand total of THREE complaints filed to the FCC. While I will grant you that each complaint on the grand scale supposedly represents multiple viewers, let's not forget that this telecast could very well be the most watched NFL game of the entire regular season. Three complaints is one thing if it is a local telecast on a low rated station. But three complaints from literally millions of viewers is another matter.

You don't have to review the viewer demographics from Nielsen to find out that there were a lot of children watching this game, as well as the parents. With this in mind, this really means a decided lack of opposition to the profane outburst. You can't (or shouldn't) blame Tom Brady for anything he said. He is on the football field, in the moment, and trying to win a game he is being paid a ton of money to do. He shouldn't have to worry about what he says in what he considers to be a human reaction with some degree of privacy.

As tempting as it is to blame CBS for showing this, especially on multiple occasions within the same telecast, the network is spending millions and millions of dollars to televise these games, and wants to provide millions of fans with as much of the flavor as it possibly can.

But to see only three formal complaints when millions of people were viewing? Makes The Broadcast Booth think that CBS, and other networks which televise the NFL, may not be, ummmm, screwed by any of this.

Meanwhile, this may have come as a surprise to many, but Jon Gruden will remain as the Monday Night Football analyst for ESPN based on his just announced contract extension which now runs through 2021. Gruden even discussed the extension during the halftime segment of Monday's (12/15) telecast of the New Orleans at Chicago game. Many observers noticed how outspoken Gruden was about the problems the Chicago Bears have been having in the past few games and his criticism of QB Jay Cutler among others. Even in today's market, those were some strong team oriented opinions coming from a "national" analyst.

Gruden has become a "love him or hate him" analyst and has his detractors, while others anticipated him returning to coaching at either the NFL or NCAA level within the next two seasons.

CHICAGO: Dave Juday, who has been on the air as an anchor/reporter at WMVP ESPN 1000 since 1996, is no longer with the station on a full-time basis. However, he will be heard on the station a few more times, as his play-by-play for the University of Illinois Chicago basketball will continue to air on WMVP through this current season. In addition, Juday continues to host the "Jack Swarbrick Radio Show" with the Notre Dame Athletic Director (until late March, as previously scheduled), which airs in Chicago on WLS-AM.

SCRANTON: Now we'll get the chance to compare ratings of off-the-air vs. CBS Sports Radio to see which would be more successful. WARM 590, which was literally off the air for a short time after having been an oldies station for years, has received FCC permission to broadcast with a reduced signal. Their decision is to air CBS Sports Radio, even though the market already has three other sports stations already on the air.

Finally, for those who asked since the initial posting, here is the link to the Tom Brady complaints:


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Johnny Football On The Spot For Fox

A big break for Fox Sports became even bigger this week. Another schedule flexing brought them this Sunday's (12/14) Cleveland vs. Cincinnati telecast, originally scheduled for CBS. Now, the Browns going with Johnny Manziel as the starting QB brings even more interest to the telecast. Fox has already expanded the number of markets around the country that will not air this telecast ahead of their orginally scheduled Green Bay at Buffalo early regional telecast.

Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the call on many more Fox stations, which includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and Dallas added to the list. Fox figures to generate significant ratings, especially on the west coast, all day with this telecast leading into its primary doubleheader game of San Francisco vs. Seattle.

A schedule coincidence keeps major midwest markets Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis from each of the games, however. These and surrounding markets remain focused on the "local" Central Division, with Green Bay at Buffalo shown early and the Minnesota vs. Detroit game being shown late.

This is an ironic twist for CBS, which lost the Browns telecast due to a flex. As of now it appears that NBC will finish the entire season without flexing any of its Sunday Night Football telecasts, which in recent years has cost CBS a couple of key game telecasts.

Over on the baseball side of things, there is still nothing further or imminent regarding having L.A. Dodgers telecasts on any more stations or providers by the start of the 2015 season. Team President Stan Kasten appeared on MLB Network on Wednesday (12/10), acting as if the team is "concerned" about the situation when asked by host Chris Russo. Kasten basically confirmed my theory within that interview, with comments to the effect of how the team is awaiting the proposed merger of Time Warner with Comcast as a means to increase the distribution. What Kasten neglected to mention is that this proposed merger is likely a long way off if it makes it past the approval process.

Major congratulations to Dick Enberg on being selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a result of his many years of broadcasting baseball games. Enberg, in addition to calling games for NBC Game of the Week and post-season coverage during the 70's and 80's, has also had a couple of stints as radio voice of the Angels. He continues as TV voice of the Padres. Oh my!

ESPN officials are most likely jumping for joy about having scheduled their Sunday Night Baseball opener on April 5th as the Cubs hosting the Cardinals. In addition to the managerial debut of Joe Maddon with the Cubs and this history of this rivalry, this game figures to be the debut of Jon Lester in a Cubs uniform as well. Yet, as of press time, the Cubs still do not have a TV arrangement in place for as many as 70 of their regular season telecasts in place yet.

TAMPA: WHFS-FM 98.7 The Fan has given up the struggle to attract an audience, stopping abruptly on December 4th when it went to holiday music during the afternoon. Always a sad thing to have staffers lose jobs, but The Fan never had enough wind from day one.

MINNEAPOLIS: Just as the Twins are strugging to get out of last place for 2015, so is KTWN-FM, which is owned by the Twins. The flagship station has reportedly ordered new web domains after eliminating Eric Perkins as a morning show co-host last week. The station's ratings have barely been better than a 1.0 rating most of the year, failing to gain after the miserable Twins season ended. This would indicate another format change could be in the works prior to the upcoming Twins season.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

NBA-TV Gives Viewers Their Philly

It was 'Game Time' of a different sort for the decision makers at NBA-TV on Wednesday (12/3) based on its move to highlight what is essentially a negative statistic.

Since ESPN, even with the multi-millions spent for NBA telecast rights, only doing its Friday night doubleheaders when it feels like it, they were spared from making the very decision that NBA-TV did. If the Philadelphia 76ers lose to Minnesota tonight (with our press time being a few hours before tipoff), the Sixers would tie the all-time NBA record for most consecutive losses at the start of a season.

NBA-TV plans a doubleheader for this Friday night (12/5), having had the Denver vs. Washington matchup as its first game telecast all along, until today (12/3). (It remains to seen whether or not the network would switch back to the Washington game, since it merely picks up the local telecasts, if Philly were to win vs. Minnesota.) As of press time, the network switched its schedule to include the Philadelphia vs. Oklahoma City telecast for Friday, prior to its Indiana at Sacramento telecast.

If the Sixers lose to Minnesota, their game vs. OKC would be a possible record setter if Philly were to lose again and be 0-19 for the first time ever in league history. Not the most positive statistic, of course, but the point is that this could be league history. The fact that a league run entity would go ahead and, in effect, promote a negative statistic, speaks volumes. They are not trying to bury this, even though the ideal setting for the league would be to have every team within a few games of each other all season long.

Few would have questioned the NBA for not making this telecast so prominent and bringing such a negative statistic to light. Of course, the TV folks know the value of showing the game that would potentially attract a bigger audience, and a game with the potential for league history would do that, no matter what the history. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Kevin Durant has just returned to the OKC lineup, and most fans around the country have not had the chance to see him play yet this season.

Still, I wonder what ESPN would, or wouldn't, have done if it had the doubleheader this week. In their case, it involves sending an entire crew to produce the telecast. Changing within the three days leading into the game might not have been the easiest logistical move. My hunch is that ESPN would have gone ahead with their originally scheduled telecast and made the Philly game a "spotlight" game with live look-ins from the local telecast.

Either way, it is wonderful to see NBA-TV's decision makers changing on the fly on behalf of its fans and providing (potentially) the game of most interest.

Over at CBS, they have reason to be pleased with their fortune of maintaining last Sunday's (11/30) Patriots vs. Packers NFL telecast. The game turned out to be most watched Sunday afternoon regular season game on CBS (or Fox for that matter) since 2007. It was also the highest rated NFL telecast of the 2014 season thus far, and the highest rated regular season telecast for CBS (in metered rating markets) in three years. CBS is certainly thanking its lucky stars that it did not lose this game to Sunday Night Football on NBC.

To that point, NBC is retaining, and understandably so, its Dec. 13th originally scheduled telecast between Philadelphia and Dallas in a quick rematch of Philly's Thanksgiving victory. The NFL has announced some flexing for earlier that day (12/13), moving its Minnesota vs. Detroit telecast to a 4:25 ET start and the earlier Cinci vs. Cleveland telecast from CBS to Fox. Not sure that the demand is there for the Vikings to be moved to doubleheader game action, but the Lions possible playoff berth is the big story there.

The NFL also announced that its Dec. 20th Saturday doubleheader will be Philly vs. Washington at 4:30 ET on NFL Network, with San Diego vs. San Francisco to follow at 8:25 PM ET on NFL Network and CBS. The later game is technically a replacement game for the final Thursday Night Football telecast moved up instead of Christmas night.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I can't prove this, but several of my friends heard what I heard on the CBS-TV pre-game show prior to the Chicago at Detroit matchup. It sure sounded as if Bill Cowher, when speaking about running back Shane Vereen, referred to him as "Ben Vereen", who was a movie actor years ago. Either no one on the crew caught it, or they prefer it be swept under the table.

Meanwhile, a few more radio ratings thoughts from the October into November (most recent) ratings period which were revealed after press time last week....

Cleveland listeners provided some rather curious results. While it doesn't shock anyone that sports WKRK-FM has risen by .7 of a ratings point over the past three months as the Browns flagship (along with sister station WNCX which has risen by .2 during the same time), it does shock us that WTAM has dropped by more than one and one-half rating points overall during that same time. You see, WTAM is the flagship station for the Cavaliers. As the TV ratings for the Cavs have been way up around the country since the return of LeBron James to the Cavs, a noticeable drop on the radio side is stunning.

Almost as amazing are results from Pittsburgh, where KDKA-FM The Fan had its overall Nielsen rating dip from a 6.7 to a 4.4 in just one month, coinciding with the end of the Pirates' run, meaning that Steelers talk was not a major factor.

Nashville listeners are engulfed with Titans coverage, as WGFX has risen to #2 overall in the market. And in Sacramento, KCTC ESPN 1320 continues its overtaking of KHTK back in September by increasing its lead over KCTC to more than one-half of a ratings point this go round.

Fox Sports has announced some of its title game telecast announcers. The Pac 12 championship telecast will be handled by Tim Brando and Joel Klatt, while the Big Ten Championship game will feature Gus Johnson and Charles Davis.

MLB Network has added Carlos Pena to its roster of studio analysts after his 14 season playing career. He is scheduled to debut this Thursday (12/4), just prior to the network's planned extended coverage of the MLB winter meetings next week.

An embarrassing moment for Mountain West Network last Saturday when play-by-play voice Robert Kekaula (the voice of Hawaii football since 2011) thought the Network had signed off at the end of its telecast of the University of Hawaii game at Fresno State. Kekaula saying "Good night from the armpit of America!" went out over the air. Fresno State University officials received an apology from Kekaula, while Oceanic Sports (the telecast originators) said there would be no further action taken since Kekaula issued a full apology. Got to wonder how many more Hawaii road game telecasts he will be assigned to, however.

PITTSBURGH: KDKA-FM 93.7 has announced that Colin Dunlap will still be on weekdays from 6 until 10. But with a major difference. Dunlap is moving from 6 to 10 PM to the morning show around the first of the year. Dunlap, who has only had his own show for less than two years, replaces Gregg Gianotti, who moves on to mornings at CBS Sports Radio. Dunlap has filled in occasion for Gianotti on the morning show over the past few months.

BOSTON: While the sports radio stations continue to fight it out for listeners, the market has one less familiar sports voice as of this week. Walt Perkins, who took over as morning sports anchor just over five years ago when Gil Santos retired, is no longer with WBZ 1030. This is one of those "no one is saying" endings, but Perkins being among those to point out his sportscasts were often limited to just 90 seconds is some indication.

From here in The Broadcast Booth, this is a bad move by WBZ. Both not having Perkins and the recent reduction in sportscast time during its drive time programming. Taking the "there are two major sports radio stations and plenty of TV sports networks to cover the sports, so we won't bother" approach is really telling listeners to go elsewhere for what WBZ has consistently delivered for more than 50 years. It would be one thing if the station was changing to a different format, but it isn't.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

If Networks DISH It Out, Who Can Take It?

The public has no say in the matter of DISH Network potentially dropping several of its networks in the very near future, yet the networks and carriers involved seem to think consumers can make a difference. The media's purpose should be to report on sports and programming, and not use its airwaves to determine who receives it and when.

Briefly, some of the regional sports networks, including CSN Mid-Atlantic and CSN Chicago, have contracts to be carried on DISH Network which expire before the end of this year. In response, each of those networks has put up a (separate) web site for consumers to complain to DISH Network. At the same time, CBS Network is threatening to pull its owned stations (such as WCBS-TV New York and WBBM-TV Chicago) from Dish unless they (CBS) begin receiving increased compensation.

What has me even more concerned is that CSN Mid-Atlantic has gone to using even more than their own airwaves to bring this to the public's attention. CSN Mid-Atlantic has resorted to PAID digital and social media, along with some paid radio (although some of their radio time is generally in trade) to spread this message. Let's get this straight. Here we all are as consumers paying increasing monthly fees to cable/satellite providers to watch these channels. Now at least one has the nerve to spend some of that money to advertise against one carrier not compensating it enough.

This situation is not like the L.A. Dodgers local TV situation, for which the majority of fans willing to pay the fees still cannot receive the telecasts. In this instance, customers of DISH Network can easily go elsewhere if they no longer have the package of channels they wish. It is that simple. If a large enough percentage of subscribers abandon DISH over losing a regional sports network and/or their local CBS station(s), then DISH will need to take action on its own one way or the other.

Although this is a sports media column and not a consumer blog, there is a point to be made. This matter is taking up air time (including CSN Regional nightly sports shows including this information within their "news" time) to present the CSN version of the story. We should be getting actual news and reporting about the teams these networks cover instead. For what we are all paying to receive these channels, we are entitled to better. Which carriers are involved is not our problem.

CSN Mid-Atlantic announced an expanded college hoops schedule for the new season with 119 men's telecasts on their schedule. These will feature Atlantic Coast Conference, Atlantic 10, and Colonial Athletic Association contests.

Elsewhere, we only have preliminary numbers at press time, but, as expected, the snowbound residents of the Buffalo area were watching the rescheduled to Monday night (11/24) Bills game vs. the Jets. Early numbers show an amazing 37.8 rating and 52 share for the Buffalo market, compared with an 11 share from New York City. One can only imagine what the Buffalo numbers would have been had it been a close game!

Next weekend (Sunday Dec. 7th) NFL ratings for New York City and nearby markets will be extremely interesting. With NBC sticking with its originally scheduled New England at San Diego telecast, it means that the Giants and Jets will both play at the same time. This rare occurence will take place during the early games. Fox will show the Giants at Tennessee while CBS shows the Jets at Minnesota at 1 PM ET.

It is expected that the Giants telecast will produce higher ratings, especially since neither the Jets or Vikings figure to be in the running for the playoffs. Fox also gains since its Seattle vs. Philadelphia doubleheader telecast will follow.

At that same time, many fans in the midwest will need to be aware that the Indianapolis at Cleveland telecast (also 1 PM ET) has already been flexed from CBS to Fox.

There was also a rather quiet story from the previous week about NFL players complaining loudly about in-game scoreboard distractions, even for the home team. While we understand and appreciate the efforts by teams management to enhance the experience for those at the game, even the likes of Peyton Manning spoke publicly about the need to tone it down.

ESPN has already reported that Broncos President Joe Ellis spoke with the team's scoreboard operator after Manning complained about how the playing of music and showing of players dancing fired up the local crowd (during the Oct. 23 game vs. San Diego) and caused a false start penalty against the Broncos.

The latest monthly radio ratings are being released, and while the Boston ratings (WBZ-FM vs. WEEI-FM) are not available at press time, it seems the San Francisco Giants also won a championship for flagship station KNBR 680. During the World Series run and surrounding weeks, the station showed more than a 30% overall audience increase from the previous month to become a more commanding #1 overall (by more than three full ratings points). The San Jose ratings also show KNBR with its strongest ratings ever in that portion of the market, making it #1 in both places.

The Cowboys continue to be "The Ticket" in Dallas, as flagship KRLD-FM increased by .4, the exact same ratings percentage that KTCK The Ticket fell from the previous month. KESN ESPN also showed a slight decline.

In Chicago, WSCR The Score 670 dipped slightly overall while WMVP ESPN 1000 showed another slight increase. In Los Angeles, while it is too soon to judge KFWB 980 and its new run as a sports station (and the Clippers flagship again this season), it came in at a mere 0.3. Without post-season baseball, Dodgers flagship KLAC showed a 40% overall audience decrease from the previous month.

For those paying attention to it, CBS Sports Radio is making daily lineup changes for the coming new year, including the outster of John Feinstein from his late morning show. Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney move to late mornings, while Gregg Giannotti and Brian Jones will shift to morning drive.

CHICAGO: Well, it's actually Champaign. The University of Illinois football broadcasts will have a new analyst starting for next season, as the former QB has decided not to return for family and business reasons.

CLEVELAND: Browns fans are finally not simply looking toward next year, but the preseason games which are not nationally televised will have a new home. WEWS-TV 5 will replace WKYC-TV with the local telecasts. No additional details yet, but this change makes it likely that Jim Donovan will not be back on play-by-play since he remains under contract as the primary sports anchor on WKYC.

GRAND RAPIDS: WBBL 107.3 continues its rotation of co-hosts for its local morning show. Ray Bentley, who has been a college football analyst on ESPN since 2002, was dismissed from the morning show last week. The announcement came while Bentley was away from the station to work the Bowling Green vs. Toledo game for ESPN2.

Bentley's co-hosts included Bret Bakita, Tim Doctor, and Ryan Schuiling. Until or unless a replacement is named, Schuiling and Shaffer Abraham are co-hosting the show.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

CBS Telecast of Bills Likely Shuffled Off From Buffalo

It is quite probably, as of press time, as the monster snow storm in the Buffalo area this week has many convinced that the NFL game scheduled for Buffalo on Sunday (11/23) will be moved to another city outside of New York (state) and also be pushed back to Monday night.

If that happens, it means that CBS would lose the telecast and that ESPN would gain the telecast. ESPN would then show the game only on a regional basis (throughout much of New York state as well as nearby New Jersey and Connecticut cable/satellite systems which are considered as NYC primary), while the scheduled Monday Night Football game would air as usual everywhere else on ESPN.

Moving an NFL game to another venue and from Sunday afternoon to Monday night has only happened once in recent memory, which was a couple years back when the Metrodome roof collapse forced the Vikings to scramble to get their next home game played.

If and when this Sunday's game gets moved from Buffalo, it would actually mark the second Bills telecast which CBS will have lost for its home market. The Bills' season opener in Chicago was flexed over to Fox in return for CBS taking the Chicago vs. Detroit game on Thanksgiving Day (next week). Now, CBS would lose this telecast because of the likely move to Monday Night, when ESPN takes it over.

It will also be interesting to see how Fox Sports would or would not react for the Buffalo and Syracuse markets if the Bills game moves to Monday. As of press time, the Fox schedule for both markets has the Arizona at Seattle 4 PM telecast scheduled as its only game of the day. This was planned based on the Bills vs. Jets being in the 1 PM time slot. Among the early regional games on Fox is Detroit at New England. In addition to being a battle of two contending teams, it is a rare chance for the local Fox affiliates to have a Patriots telecast.

CBS has the doubleheader game on Sunday (Miami vs. Denver), which would seem to make such a change by Fox to the earlier (and better game) telecast possible. And let's face it. That part of the country should produce astronomical ratings for football (and probably for all live sports) this weekend with so many people being snowed in.

DALLAS: Normally a radio broadcast of the University of North Texas hosting Florida International, especially late in the season with both teams having losing records, would not be noteworthy, but this Saturday (11/22) is an exception.

UNT play-by-play voice George Dunham (for the past 25 years) will be calling the final home game of the season, and thus the final home game of his son Blake Dunham, the team's long snapper. Dunham, who also appears as a host on KTCK 1310 The Ticket, has been able to call every moment of his son's college playing career, as well as travel with him to and from the games.

The team's regular season finale will be the following week, on the road at U-T San Antonio.

CHICAGO: The recent ratings increases for WSCR 670 The Score and WMVP ESPN 1000 appear to have caused WGWG 87.7 The Game to reconsider. After finishing in 38th place overall in the most recent ratings with a dismal .5 rating, the station will be gone as a sports talker before the end of the year. The "Kap & Haugh Show" with David Kaplan and David Haugh is, however, expected to continue as a TV only midday show, airing from 9 AM to Noon on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Congrats to David Schuster of WSCR The Score on being named the "Harry Caray Sportscaster of the Year" for 2014. His 36 years of covering sports in Chicago no doubt contributed to this honor. I first knew and worked with him in the early 80's in Chicago, and could tell even then that he held the knowledge, expertise, and patience to cover the day-in day-out practices, press conferences, and games.

CINCINNATI: The strong season for the Bengals has propelled their radio contract to another extension through the 2019-20 season as a "triple cast". WCKY ESPN 1530 and WEBN 102.7 will continue as flagship stations, with WLW 700 also airing every Bengals broadcast which does not conflict with its Cincinnati Reds coverage.

The stations also announced that Dan Hoard will return as play-by-play voice, with 2015 being his fifth season in that role. Even more significant is that Dave Lapham will be back as analyst, with the '15 season making it 30 years for him in that role. The team related programming and coverage will continue on WCKY as well.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A "Silver" Lining For The Print Media

The publishing of a commentary by a pro sports commissioner is always huge media news regardless of the content. In this case, the opinion piece written by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also happens to take a unique stance regarding the future of sports betting in the U.S.

Whether you agree or disagree with Silver's stance on betting, there is a lot to be said about his doing this at this time, especially from a sports media standpoint. Silver's thoughts did not come from a press conference or a scheduled media interview. Instead, they showed up unannounced in the New York Times on Thursday (11/13).

This is a nice boost for print media. By doing this, Silver was not mis-quoted and not taken out of context. He had the time to put his thoughts into the exact words he chose, as well as to reach a wide general audience. Had Silver made these comments on a TV or radio show, especially a sports show, there could have been a much different spin placed on this.

It is interesting that Silver did not use any of the media outlets which are league partners to make these important thoughts known. I'm sure that executives at ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports are especially miffed that they were not "chosen" to be the first to air a commissioner talking about the need to regulate sports betting. But it is quite understandable.

This matter is really not strictly a sports issue even though the ramifications could highly impact the sports community. Cheers to Silver for being the first in his position to tackle this head on, and do so in the best manner possible.

Meanwhile, Sports Business Journal reports that the media rights dispute between MASN and Major League Baseball will still be heard by the New York Supreme Court, although the proceedings have been delayed from next month (12/15) until March. The report indicates that the Orioles are looking to explore the role that MLB Commissioner-Elect Rob Manfred may have played in the dispute.

Over at ESPN, it's college basketball mania as the regular season gets underway this weekend, even to the point of ESPN not doing a Friday night NBA telecast this week.

ESPN still won't get rid of Bobby Knight from its roster of analysts, however. Then again, if they didn't fire him after he uttered a profanity on the air and never apologized (among his other antics), I suppose they aren't looking to. At least the network has downgraded his assignments to "third man", working behind Len Elmore while Mike Patrick does play-by-play. This team will only be seen on select American Athletic Conference telecasts which will appear on ESPN2 or ESPN3.

On the MLB side, ESPN has announced that its 2015 MLB season opener will take place, weather permitting, from Chicago on Sunday April 5, 2015. With the World Champion Giants opening on the road for the first week (thus no ring ceremony on opening night), the network has selected the St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field as its opener. This rivalry game will feature the debut of Joe Maddon as Cubs manager.

Over at NBC, the Saturday telecast of Notre Dame Football will have one slight change that could be an indication of things to come starting next year. Doug Flutie, who has been getting increased exposure within the NBC and Comcast SportsNet family of late (such as analyst appearances specific to CSN Chicago), appears destined to be moved up to the primary analyst role on the N.D. telecasts.

The Nov. 15 telecast against Northwestern will have Flutie in the booth with Dan Hicks, while Mike Mayock is, literally, sent to the sidelines for this one. Unless Flutie fumbles, this looks to be his opportunity to become much more of a presence with NBC.

At CBS, the network has chosen its next two weeks of SEC game telecasts. Ole Miss vs. Arkansas airs on the network on Nov. 22, while the rivalry game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State airs on the 29th.

NEW YORK: The Mets radio team of Josh Lewin and Howie Rose will remain in place for at least the 2015 as the team's broadcasts begin their second season on WOR.

CHICAGO: Even as ESPN is ready for the Cubs by moving their opening game to Sunday Night April 5th, the Cubs still (as of press time) do not have an over-the-air TV deal in place for the coming season. The announcement that the team was parting ways with WGN-TV after 60 years could even be taken back within the month. It appears that the two local Fox TV stations (the heavily rumored destination for weeks) have backed off, as has Weigel Broadcasting which owns local independent stations. With nowhere else to turn, the Cubs might have to settle for a revenue share deal and have even fewer games televised over WGN-TV.

AKRON/CANTON: Sam Bourquin will be starting as afternoon drive host, and Sports Director) of WHBC-AM Canton starting next week (11/17) from 2 to 5 PM. In addition to local play-by-play, Berquin handes the Public Address for the NFL Hall of Fame Game each August in Canton.

Finally, for those who haven't seen it, here is the link (which was still valid at press time) to the Adam Silver piece in the New York Times:


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rockets Fans To 'Root' For New Launch

Finally some good news coming for Houston sports fans, as the path seems to have been cleared for Root Sports to begin a new regional sports channel to include the Rockets and likely the Astros telecasts.

Although this story was still breaking at press time, reports on the afternoon of 11/6 indicate that Comcast is more concerned with recovering money invested than preventing another provider from handling the telecasts.

This looks to be excellent news for Rockets fans, considering the team's undefeated start in the new NBA season and likely solid ratings as soon as fans can see the majority of the games. This could be another story for Astros fans, as revenue from Root Sports will likely be much less than promised from the now defunct Comcast SportsNet package, while millions of dollars in revenue could be in dispute for months to come.

LOUISVILLE: A sad day last week when the "Joe B. and Denny Show" radio show signed off for the final time after a run of more than ten years. Joe B. is Joe B. Hall, former coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats and Denny is Denny Crum, former coach of the University of Louisville. During their respective prime years, the rival schools wouldn't even think of playing each other and fans of both teams were passionate against the other team. Yet, in later years the two became good friends and it came across on the air as well.

To the show's credit, they treated that final broadcast last Thursday as a special event. Hall, in the Lexington studios of affiliate WVLK-FM, had former players Kenny Walker and Kyle Macy with him. In the Louisville studios of WKRD-AM, Crum had Darrell Griffith and Jerry Eaves with him.

The final show aired on the 18 station network the show had throughout Kentucky.

Not only will these two legends be missed by listeners, but the concept of former rival coaches analyzing and interviewing former players remains something that a lot of sports radio stations could and should be using.

CLEVELAND: The latest "decision" by LeBron James to return to Cleveland is already paying off in terms of ratings, and not just in the Cleveland/Akron area. The Cavaliers' opening telecast on TNT finished with 50% more viewers than its second night of NBA games last season. Even more significant is that the national rating was more than 110% higher than the "average" TNT audience for regular season games last year.

Locally, the same effect exists, which is a lot less surprising. Even with somewhat better expectations for the Knicks (the opponent for that telecast), the Cleveland/Akron market had a rating more than three times higher than the New York City market.

DALLAS: CBS Radio, which earlier this year added the Chicago Cubs broadcasts (starting next season) to its local sports portfolio, has now added the Rangers play-by-play for KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan, beginning a multi-year deal in the spring. The Rangers had been airing on KESN 103.3 ESPN since the start of the 2011 season, following a 15 year run on KRLD-AM prior to that.

Since KRLD-FM is also the Cowboys flagship, conflicts will result in the Rangers airing on KRLD-AM. Eric Nadel and Matt Hicks remain as the play-by-play team. The station is also expected to announce more Rangers specific programming to be added to its schedule.

St. LOUIS: Not that anyone doubted the Cardinals for even one second for having moved their games back to KMOX a couple of years back, but there is even more proof now that the move was the best one for all concerned. The former KFNS 590, which aired the Cardinals (which owned part of the station at one point) for the non-KMOX seasons, has gone completely off the air with the station owners more than one-half million dollars in debt.

St. AUGUSTINE FL: It is rare to find a small market taking such an outrageous approach to a local sports show, but 96.5 FM is doing just that. Long time broadcaster Dino Costa returns to the market and begins a 2 PM to 5 PM weekday show with Pat Paolini as co-host. Paolini owns a local sports bar, but is also known for a one-hour show he has done on the station for nearly three years.

The pair are calling the show "The Sports Radio Mafia", and plan to discuss national sports from a local perspective. If that title sticks, it shows how far along the media has come over the years. Can't help but recall how the demise of then prominent CBS-TV sportscaster Jack Whitaker began after he referred to the crowd at one of the holes during a CBS telecast of The Masters as "a mob". Now, these hosts and the station will be mentioning "Mafia" on a regular basis.

Then again, in some markets, it is rare to find ANY approach for local sports radio programming.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Blame MLB For Lower World Series Ratings

Even though MLB had a very exciting post-season and a seven game World Series, the executives need to look in the mirror even moreso than to Fox Sports, to examine why the viewership was so (comparably) low for Game 7 and those before it. Specifically, MLB needs to quickly re-evaluate its having allowed its TV partners place the majority of the post-season on cable instead of over-the-air.
The "small market" argument no longer holds in pro sports TV ratings. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are among those NBA teams which draw respectable NBA national telecast ratings. The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints drew millions of people to their prime-time game last week on Sunday Night Football.

Why didn't the Kansas City Royals do the same? While I will grant you that part of the reason is that the Royals lack a big name superstar (i.e. George Brett from the 80's), it is really because millions of casual baseball fans (who make the difference between lackluster ratings and strong ones) had little to no chance to get familiar with them.

As of this (just concluded) season, the national networks began MLB contracts at higher revenue, but with significantly fewer regular season telecasts, especially over-the-air.

TBS reduced its regular season workload by 50%. By the time it started showing games, at staggered times on Sundays, fans had already forgotten to even look for a game telecast, as well as NFL telecasts competing for the final month. Fox will tell us that it aired more MLB games than ever, and they did. However, their reduction of Saturday telecasts on "over-the-air" Fox Sports killed any momentum it might have built. As is obvious by the ratings, not many fans (in comparison) knew to seek out Saturday telecasts on Fox Sports 1 if they even knew about them at all.

Even if you include the regular package of games on ESPN, I do not recall the Royals being on any full national telecasts all season. Then, you factor in that NONE of the Royals' post-season games were "over-the-air" until the World Series, and this tells you why the audience MLB hoped for did not come around.

Of course, MLB is going to take the money and stop. It is no different than the NFL and NBA deals in that respect. However, the NFL keeps all regular season and post-season games over-the-air, and its network partners show games every week at every opportunity. If the Green Bay Packers did not appear on over-the-air national TV at all until the Super Bowl, would they still attract the same audience?

Your answer came from the Kansas City Royals, participants in one of the lower rated Game 7 telecasts in history.

Sure, Fox and TBS could have and should have shown their previous steady diet of regular season games. But how does MLB allow them to reduce the exposure its teams received?

And don't think that Fox Sports itself didn't suffer from not enough telecasts. Heads should be rolling after the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 when Fox blew the coverage. With only one more out to go, Alex Gordon of the Royals hit a ball in the gap and was flying around the bases representing the tying run in the final inning of the deciding game of the season.

What did Fox do? It stayed with the ball in the outfield, and failed to show Gordon until he was already slowing up while heading into third base. After the game, all the media could do was to speculate about whether or not Gordon could have made it all the way home and tied the game. Say what?

Personally, I have never produced or directed a telecast. But I have watched enough, as well as participating in other aspects of pro and college telecasts to know what SHOULD have happened.

All Fox needed to do was switch back and forth between Gordon flying around the bases and the ball going to the wall and being kicked around. Instead, they did a poor job of showing what could have been one of the most important plays in baseball history.

Now we have five months before the 2015 MLB regular season begins, and a new commissioner scheduled to take over before it does. How about making sure that fans get to see all of the contending teams "over-the-air" ahead of the World Series?

Meanwhile, the radio ratings continue to prove the point that the teams and sports content makes sports stations instead of the talent. The just released ratings for mid-September into mid-October, which includes the baseball pennant chases and the NFL season in full swing, left its mark in the usual important markets.

In New York, having the Yankees broadcasts helped WFAN rise to #6 overall with a full ratings point increase in just one month. It is important to note that the increase did not come from WEPN-FM, as the ESPN flagship saw its ratings increase by .5 overall during the same month.

San Francisco's KNBR 680 again finished #1 overall, since it is a sports station and the flagship for the (now) World Champion Giants. During this period, it went from a 5.7 to a 6.6 rating while staying on top. In fact, the station also rose from a 4.7 to a 5.6 in the San Jose rating book, which is considered a separate market by Nielsen.

Chicago sports radio stations all increased during the month, with WSCR The Scorer 670 and WVMP ESPN 1000 each increasing by .3. Even WGWG-FM The Game rose from a .4 to a .5, marking the first time that three sports stations in Chicago have all increased their rating during the same book.

In Philadelphia, the Eagles broadcasts helped WIP-FM, which rose to #5 overall, going from a 3.7 to a 5.3. Yet, WPEN-FM also rose .6 of a ratings point during the same time.

Sports radio continues to be at its strongest in Boston, especially with the Patriots and Bruins underway and expected to contend. WBZ-FM Sports Hub (Patriots flagship) rose to #7 overall with a ratings increase of 1.1 in just one month. Yet, rival WEEI-FM finished #9 overall and showed a 1.0 ratings point increase, despite the Red Sox finishing in last place.

You continue to see the impact a strong local team has on sports radio in several other top markets. Dallas' KRLD-FM went from a 1.8 to a 2.5 in one month while the Cowboys started off hot. Detroit's WXYT-FM The Ticket not only finished #1 overall again, but rose from a 7.4 rating to 8.3 with the Tigers in the post-season and the Lions off to a solid start. Baltimore's WJZ-FM rose to #6 overall, with an impressive rise from 3.6 to 5.1. And if you don't think the local team makes a difference, consider that WBAL, the Orioles flagship, went from a 4.2 two months earlier to a 5.7 this time as the Orioles entered the post-season.

Other examples include Seattle's KIRO-FM rising .5 in the ratings to #3 overall with its Seahawks coverage, and Pittsburgh's KDKA-FM The Fan moving up to #4 overall with a .7 ratings rise.
Folks, it doesn't always matter who co-hosts from Noon to 3 PM on these stations.

On the NFL side, it will be interesting to see how the NFL handles scheduling games from London next season. The Detroit vs. Atlanta game last Sunday (10/26) drew ratings much higher for Fox than the pre-game shows combined, and would seem to indicate that the league will look to add more early starts in the future.

Its choice of having the early start on this date is a very curious one. With fans around the country having the opportunity to have already watched three complete NFL games prior to NBC's Sunday Night Football, it is really no surprise that SNF drew its lowest ratings of the season thus far.
By choosing Oct. 26th, the NFL has its alabi. The SNF telecast went up against Game 5 of the World Series on Fox. Therefore, the NFL can point to the World Series as having taken away from its audience for the one night, and not alarming anyone about football burnout from four complete live telecasts in one day.

I'm thinking that the NFL will only add "early" international telecasts on days such as the Sunday during the World Series so it can have an excuse for a decline for the fourth game.

CBS Sports has announced its SEC doubleheader for November 8th, with Auburn vs. Texas A & M for its afternoon tilt at 3:30 ET. The prime time telecast will feature the huge rivalry of Albabama at LSU. No surprise with either choice.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If Turner Dishes It Out, How Are Sports Fans Going To Take It ?

Here we go again with the rising costs of sports programming having an impact on how much more consumers are being expected to pay. As of press time (10/21), Dish Network is no longer providing Turner Broadcasting channels to its subscribers. Let the mud slinging begin.

Subscribers lose out on TNT, TBS, as well as CNN, HLN, Turner Classic Movies, and a couple of other channels in the family. You can't tell me it is a coincidence that this happens one week before the start of the NBA regular season (with TNT again having a national package of weeknight telecasts). Especially since TNT just nearly tripled its rights fees to renew its NBA rights earlier this month. Already, efforts are underway to raise the price so that TNT can attempt a return on its investment. An investment no one forced them to make.

If you are not a Dish TV subscriber, do not think for one minute that this does not have an impact on you. Perhaps it won't over the next few weeks, but for sports fans around the country this is another story which bears watching.

Turner Broadcasting is a division of Time Warner Inc., which also owns the L.A. Dodgers channel which is currently distributed in less than one-third of available cable/satellite homes in Southern California after a nearly $2 billion dollar deal commited to by TWC. Now, we have a percentage of national subscribers to Dish Network who, for very much the same reason, could be shut out of NBA telecasts for the regular season as well as potentially playoff games if nothing is resolved by April.
While this is going on, the possibility still exists of a merger between Comcast/NBC and Time Warner Cable. he potential transaction still has not been turned down. If it manages to be approved, consumers would be faced with the vast majority of cable systems, internet providers, and sports rights being owned/controlled by the game giant entity. Along with a lot of the media which "reports" and covers the very same sports teams and leagues.

Meanwhile, as we write this hours before the 2014 World Series gets underway, it's interesting to note that San Francisco area radio listeners have a choice of radio broadcasts, since ESPN's national broadcast is not blacked out in either local team market. With the likes of Jon Miller and a high caliber broadcast team, it's highly unlikely that Bay Area radio listeners would go anywhere other than KNBR 680's game broadcasts. But it's interesting to note that the ESPN broadcast will be carried on KGMZ 95.7 The Game.

Ironically, KGMZ is also sports radio and averages only about 20% to 25% of KNBR's total audience. In addition, the station serves as the Oakland A's flagship station, with the A's having blown a big division lead and then losing out in their one post-season game this year.

On the football side, several radio stations which carry the Bob & Tom syndicated morning shows are being provided with specific songs geared toward the local pro or college football team in an interesting marketing strategy. Duke Tumatoe and the Bob & Tom Band are producing the songs from their Indianapolis studios. Cincinnati's WOFX Fox 92.5 was the first station to receive one, with a song specific to the Bengals. Their stations in New Orleans, Detroit, and Buffalo, and Green Bay are among those which will be airing custom pro team songs, while stations in Oklahoma and Nebraska will be provided with songs to promote their major college teams. Most of the stations which air the show are not sports stations and/or do not air the broadcasts for the teams being featured within the songs.

It's not exactly a draft, but CBS and Fox have been working to select specific NFL telecasts to "protect" from flex scheduling to NBC or another network during the final six weeks of the regular season. NBC has the right to select from certain games for its Sunday Night Football schedule, with the current contracts allowing for Fox and CBS to protect up to one telecast per week from Week 11 through Week 17 of the season.

Among the games Fox is holding onto are Philadelphia vs. Green Bay (week 11), New Orelans at Pittsburgh (week 13), Seattle at Philadelphia (week 14), San Francisco at Seattle (week 15), and, for some unknown reason, Detroit at Chicago for week 16. I'll take a stab at a possible reason for Fox to hang onto Detroit at Chicago late in the season. It is likely because Fox loses the Chicago at Detroit telecast to CBS on Thanksgiving Day (when CBS was flexed a telecast on an "all NFC" day), and wants to be sure it will serve both Top 5 markets with a local telecast. However, as of now, it doesn't appear that by Week 16 either team will be a major post-season threat.

CBS, on the other hand, includes Miami at Denver (week 13), New England at Green Bay (week 15), and Indy at Dallas (week 16) on its list. We certainly understand New England at Green Bay on this list. Even if the Patriots are out of the picture, a Brady vs. Rogers matchup is top-notch no matter what.

On the college side, ABC is certainly pleased that the Notre Dame vs. Florida State matchup last Saturday (10/18) was at Florida State. Because of that, ABC was able to televise the game, and scored the highest rating of the season (thus far) for a college telecast. The Chicago market, with a strong Notre Dame base, scored a 10.4 local average rating for the telecast.

CHICAGO: WLS-TV channel 7 named Dionne Miller as its new weekend sports anchor, which gives her the distinction of being that station's first female sports anchor. Miller had been with WFLD-TV in Chicago as a weekend sports anchor since 2012 and had worked at Big Ten Network prior to that.

CLEVELAND: The impact of LeBron James continues. In addition to the AM-FM simulcast discussed here last week, the Cavaliers games will also be broadcast in Spanish. WLFM 87.7 will air all home and road games, and has brought in Rafael Hernandez Brito to call the games. Brito had called the Brooklyn Nets games in Spanish during the two previous seasons. This makes the Cavs the sixth NBA team to air at least some of its schedule in Spanish, and the first in a state other than Texas or Florida. The others are Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Miami, and Orlando.

CANTON OH: WHBC 1480 has added Cleveland radio veteran Kenny Roda to its lineup, with Roda hosting 3 to 7 PM weekdays starting on Monday (10/27). This moves Sam Bourquin to the morning show, along with Gary Rivers and Pam Cook. In addition to the stronger Cleveland flavor by adding Roda (who was with WKNR from 1992 into last year), the station also airs the Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians broadcasts. The station also continutes its local flavor with numerous high school game broadcasts, some of which are called by Bourquin.