Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Truly a "National" football league

Whether it is due to superior marketing, fantasy leagues, or both, the NFL continues to be the strongest sports draw on the national level. No other sport is "guaranteed" the huge audiences for its ultimate championship. A study of local NFL viewership, as reported in the Dallas Morning News, actually confirms this.

Regular season and post-season ratings have been strong in the biggest NFL markets this season, which is no surprise. However, we are seeing instances of large markets showing fewer viewers for the local teams, which tells me that fans are hooked into a "good" game no matter who is playing.

The study took local ratings for the past two regular seasons (2012 and 2013), and shows that since the 2011 season the N.Y. Jets have "lost" approximately 19% of their audience. Before the Giants fans stop reading this to call their Jets fan friends, it seems that the Giants' ratings have dropped about 15% during the same period. The "loss leader", so to speak, is actually the Oakland Raiders with a viewer loss of around 22%. Football crazed markets such as Pittsburgh and Nashville also have shown double-digit drops during the same time period. Even more amazing, Dallas Cowboys local viewership is reported as down about 12%. It will be interesting to see the local breakdown for these markets for the Super Bowl.

This shows the importance of TV for the NFL being a league deal for TV rather than the local team deals which exist in the other major pro sports. If, for example, a Dallas local station had the rights to its own Cowboys telecasts and lost more than 10% over two seasons, it would hurt the station's revenue and perhaps rights fees if a renogiation was scheduled. Since every NFL team is part of a national package, all that matters to the NFL is "total" viewership. And that is what the NFL has.

To its credit, ESPN continues to swap out some of its previously scheduled NBA telecasts. This week it announced two more changes. On Weds. Feb. 5th the scheduled Detroit vs. Orlando game has been (thankfully) replaced by Portland at the N.Y. Knicks. A month later (March 5) the Knicks vs. Minnesota gets bounced with Dallas at Denver as the replacement. The balance of power in the Western Conference is such that ESPN is taking out the "same old East teams" and showcasing more of the West. It is good to see more flex scheduling.

KANSAS CITY: It seemed to have taken longer than it should, but it is status quo in the Royals booth for the coming season. Denny Matthews returns (while again missing a couple of extended road trips) for his 46th season on the radio side, with the rest of the crew dividing the radio and TV duties. Ryan Lefebvre returns for his 16th season, along with Steve Physioc and Steve Stewart. In addition, Rex Hudler will be back on the TV side for his third season.

NEW YORK: Sorry to learn of the passing of Carlos Silva at the age of 50. Silva had served as producer and engineer for the Yankees Radio Network, while also engineering for Nets broadcasts and for some ESPN Radio assignments over the years.

CLEVELAND: WKNR 850 is adding a local "prime time" weeknight show from 8 to 10 PM. Dave DeNatale will move over from a reporter and anchor role to host the show, which will follow "Munch On Sports".

YORK PA: It looks as though the minor league baseball team, the York Revolution, wants to be certain that its games will be broadcast without conflict. WOYK 1350 has been the flagship station, and will definitely remain that way going forward. Why? Because the team is purchasing the station, which is expected to continue to be all sports. Word is that the station will continue to air York College sports, although I think we know which team gets priority in the event of game conflicts.

NORFOLK: The format change at WTAR 850 means that two syndicated sports shows will be part of the weekday lineup even though the station is going to "News/Sports/Talk". The "Sports" part of this will be middays when the station now carries Dan Patrick and Jay Mohr. As of now, there are no plans for any local sports talk.

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