Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tough Month For Sports Radio

While sports fans (and their co-workers who like to pick teams) await four days of non-stop college hoops, it turns out that the February ratings period was not good at all for sports radio, based on the top markets.

It keeps with showing that it is the sports happenings that make the difference, above and beyond the "personalities" on the majority of the sports stations. And it's not just a couple of markets.

In New York, WFAN was down .7 overall, with WEPN down .4. Chicago's WSCR The Score dipped by .6, while WMVP ESPN 1000 dipped by .3. San Francisco's KNBR dropped by 1.6 ratings points, while KGMZ lost 25% of its overall audience for the month.

In Dallas, all three sports stations lost, with leader KTCK The Ticket dropping .4, KESN .3, and KRLD-FM losing more than one-third of its audience with a .8 drop. In Philadelphia, WIP-FM dipped by .8.

Houston's KILT, which has been showing a pulse over the past four months, dropped by .6 overall (more than 25%), yet it still dominates its local competitors. In Los Angeles, even though one of the three sports stations actually held steady, none of them showed a rating higher than 1.0 anyway.

This is not to say that there is a trend here. The March ratings period will include the NCAA Tourney coverage, NBA and NHL playoff race time, and MLB spring training, all of which should generate an improvement for most of these markets.

Meanwhile, there is nothing wrong with ESPN using its "Bottom Line" scroll for promotion, as it often does, along with updated scores and sports headlines. However, the network has, at times, chosen to include Mel Kiper's mock NFL Draft picks on occasion. It is far too early to be considered as a promo for ESPN's draft coverage, since the draft is more than a month away. But this "information" is not newsworthy either. This wouldn't be so bad if the network didn't do things such as reducing the number of times it scrolls the NHL scores in prime time, perhaps because the NHL is the only one of the four major pro leagues it does not televise.

Speaking of ESPN, their new era for prime-time college football starts later this year when a "new" lead play-by-play voice will take over for Brent Musburger. Brent has been "moved" to calling SEC football on the SEC Network starting on August 28th (Texas A & M at South Carolina), where he will be working with Jesse Palmer as his analyst. He is expected to continue calling college hoops on ESPN, most likely on Big 12 Conference games.

Over at Fox Sports 1, the desparation for filler programming has brought the addition of a simulcast of Mike Francesa's WFAN New York radio show into the weekday afternoon lineup. Not sure if this will take any NYC area viewers away from the simulcast of Michael Kay's radio show on YES Network, and it's not as if WFAN will allow "national" sports talk. Another reason this is a curious move is that WFAN is a CBS station, and their morning show (Boomer & Carton) airs on the struggling CBS Sports Network as well. Just wait until Francesa needs to use the resources of CBS Radio on his show, and it goes out over Fox Sports 1.

MLB Network has announced an aggressive schedule of game telecasts for the month of April, including a few weekday afternoon games. These include the Monday April 21 Patriots Day game between the Red Sox and Orioles (11 AM ET), and back to back Yankees vs. Orioles day games on April 7 & 8. The Network is also originating the season openers this coming Saturday (3/22) between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, with the first pitch shortly after 4 AM ET. It is good to see that these games are being shown nationally, even without the hype that should accompany the season openers.

BOSTON: WEEI-FM has another obstacle this week in its battle to overtake WBZ-FM Sports Hub with the loss of Mike Salk. Salk announced on the air that he is heading for Seattle, where he will return to Seattle's ESPN 710 as both a program host and as its Program Director. He leaves "Salk & Holley", which began on WEEI-FM after Glenn Ordway was released more than a year ago.

SAN FRANCISCO: KGMZ 95.7 The Game is at least making an effort. They have hired Damon Bruce away from KTCT 1050 to host its 3 to 7 PM shift. The Game moves Bucher & Towny (Ric Bucher and Chris Townsend) up to its morning show to replace the "Rise Guys" show.

RHINELANDER WI: WHOH 96.5 debuts this week as Sports Radio 96.5. As of now, however, no local shows have been scheduled, with the station airing CBS Sports Radio Network.

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