Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weather Or Not For Sports Media

Which is worse? A media owner controlling on-air content or the rest of the media being so quiet about it?

It seems that the Super Bowl weather prediction segment on The Dan Patrick Show was reportedly "forced" to change guests, with the request coming from management at DirecTV. (The L.A. Times reported this story on Tuesday (1/28).) The story quotes at DirecTV spokesperson as admitting that DirecTV causing a change and having Paul Douglas from WeatherNation as Patrick's guest.

Orginally, Patrick planned to have the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore on the show. However, the show is owned by DirecTV, which recently dropped The Weather Channel from its lineup,  replacing it with (you guessed it) WeatherNation.

The problem is that this change of guest had nothing to do with which is more accurate forecasting the weather. Clearly, this had everything to do with the DirecTV change of its weather source. In this instance, it means that management was dictating content.

During this week, when seemingly the smallest detail related to the Super Bowl gets a mountain of media hype, this story has not caused one bit of controversy. At least not yet.
Sports fans need to be concerned over this. Now we have a blatant case of management dictating content. In recent weeks, this column has pointed out several instances of pro teams taking more steps toward controlling their own content, which is sometimes better than what the traditional media and social media has access to.

One more point. How is that DirecTV doesn't care enough to have a live show with guest hosts fill in for Dan Patrick on his days off, but knows to force a guess change for specific segments?

Chances are we will see Sunday TV sports ratings go from one extreme to the other by this time next week. It seems that the Sunday before the Super Bowl wasn't as kind to the TV ratings, except for the Pro Bowl telecast on NBC. Over at ABC/ESPN, there is some disappointment from the first of several Sunday NBA doubleheaders on ABC.

Both the Lakers at Knicks and Spurs vs. Heat telecasts wound up with ratings around 30% less than the same week last year. Over at CBS, not having Tiger Woods hurt, as final round coverage of the PGA tourney also dropped more than 30% compared with last year (as did their third round coverage on Saturday).

Of course, this coming Sunday with the Super Bowl figures to be the highest TV ratings for any Sunday of the year.

Speaking of which, I still don't get the attention paid to the Super Bowl on local sportscasts outside of the Seattle and Denver coverage areas, except for the various Fox radio and TV stations (which do so to promote the Fox telecast). The other stations should limit it to any "real" news related to the game, such as injuries and weather conditions. Listeners and viewers know that both teams practiced and are looking forward to the game. Worse yet is how some TV stations have the nerve to take time out of a sportscast to promote commercials which will air and other "non-sports" aspects of the game, instead of giving viewers actual sports news.

Regarding Fox Sports, these next couple of months will be most interesting in terms of shaping the future. One of the most important missions for Fox on Super Bowl day will be to promote its Fox Sports 1 Network to the maximum number of TV viewers. You had better believe that we will all see numerous promos for FS1 all evening.

However, it also means that if FS1 doesn't show an increase in audience over the next few weeks that Fox can no longer say that people don't know it exists. There will be no excuse.

It should also be noted that 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox Sports Media Group is looking to take a majority stake in YES Network, which has been owned (in majority) by the Yankees. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval but is expected to close during the second quarter of 2014.

My hunch is that if and as FS1 fails to generate viewership (after the Super Bowl promos) that Fox Sports will then do some combining of FS1 and YES Network in order to force FS1 to gain an audience. Don't forget that FS1 has the rights to show MLB games starting this season. Owning the network with the rights to all Yankees telecasts could make things interesting.

LOS ANGELES: The new SportsNet LA will no longer send a separate broadcast crew to the road games which Vin Scully does not broadcast. Instead, Charlie Steiner will move over to the TV booth (from the radio side) and to call those games and have Orel Hershiser as analyst. On the radio side, for those road games, Rick Monday will take over as lead play-by-play voice, and will have Nomar Garciparra as his analyst. In recent years, the Dodgers have used Eric Collins and Steve Lyons as the TV crew the majority of their road telecasts only. It still remains to be seen how many will be able to watch these games, however. There are still several cable and satellite carriers not yet signed to air SportsNet L.A.

SAN FRANCISCO: A change in the 49ers radio booth is coming for the 2014 season. Play-by-play voice Ted Robinson will now have former defensive lineman Tim Ryan as his analyst. Ryan grew up nearby in the San Jose area, and replaces Eric Davis, who held that role for the past three seasons. Davis will continue his role on the NFL Network's morning show.

MINNEAPOLIS: The Twins probably won't have many "big" games in 2014, based on their current roster, but if and when they do they will have Jack Morris. Not on the mound, but in the booth. Morris has been signed to be an analyst for both the Fox Sports North and KTWN broadcasts.

RICHMOND: ESPN 950 will now be simulcast on WZEZ-FM 100.5, which is actually licensed to nearby Goochland VA, except for some play-by-play conflicts. The station airs University of Richmond games, as well as national games from ESPN and Westwood One.

ROCHESTER: These small stations may be in upstate New York, but they have decided to air Boston Red Sox games this season. Both WRSB 1310 Canandaigua and WASB 1590 Brockport plan to carry the entire schedule. The funny part is the press release mentioning that this includes "preseason and playoffs". Makes you wonder how the Yankees fans who currently listen to either of these stations reacted to hearing or reading about upcoming Red Sox playoff games.

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