Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eye Off The Tiger

The star power of Tiger Woods was never more evident than this past weekend when he did not play in The Masters, and the CBS-TV ratings for the final round were the lowest in 10 years. And the 2004 final round was on Easter Sunday (which this year's was not). It shows that the covering networks will need to do more next year and beyond in order to build up those ratings for years to come for the sake of televised pro golf.

ESPN covered the first two rounds on weekdays, yet did not start its coverage until the afternoon even though the tournament begins during the morning hours. The fact that Tiger Woods did not play and the live coverage did not begin until hours into each round are both pertinent to the need to grow the ratings and not be as dependent on a current star player.

The future "star" golfers just might be the ones that tee off at 9 AM. Yet, ESPN's later start, when the well known players are on the course, sends a message that the up-and-coming young golfers are not important enough to be shown. Since The Masters is supposed to attract a larger audience to see the biggest names in golf all together, this is a chance for the stars of the future to be showcased to a national audience.

Sports networks now show rookie and "future star" games surrounding all-star game events for the major pro sports as part of the showcase, Part of the reason for this is to expose the casual fan to stars of the future. But pro golf telecasts continue to pass up this opportunity, now to the point of suffering in the ratings when their biggest name is not on the course.

This would be more understandable if these were still the days of one network televising and having other programming it needs to air instead. However, the partial coverage of the first two rounds of The Masters was on ESPN, which has more than one network on which to spread out continuing live coverage. For example, ESPN airs the first part of the NFL Draft each year, and the later rounds are shown on ESPN2 in order to serve the more hardcore fan. Why doesn't the PGA allow the same thing?

Earlier in the week, we had the unveiling of "team coverage" from the Final Four, when fans around the country had the option to watch game coverage on any of three separate feeds of the same telecast, depending upon whether or not they had a team loyalty. The NCAA Tournament is to college basketball what The Masters is to golf, yet fans could not watch the entire tournament even on one channel.

Especially when you consider how much all of these regional and national sports channels are starved for anything that resembles quality programming.  Fans get plenty of the same shows being replayed multiple times, paid infomercials, and/or events that are a complete waste of time on most weekdays anyway.

For that matter, CBS Sports Network actually put out a Press Release to promote their telecasts of the NBA Development League playoffs this weekend. Their first round series between the Santa Cruz Warriors and Rio Grande Valley Vipers will be shown live on Thursday (4/17) and Monday, and on delayed telecast on Saturday.

Yes, CBS is promoting a delayed telecast of a Development League playoff game. While nobody can show live coverage of early rounds of The Masters?

Meanwhile, the March radio ratings generally did not show well for sports radio stations. In New York, where the April ratings will be most interesting with the Yankees and Mets having changed flagship stations, both WFAN and WEPN dropped again. WFAN has gone from a 4.1 in January to a 2.7 overall for March. Philadelphia and Dallas have seen their ratings dives continue. Philly's WIP-FM has gone from a 4.9 to a 3.6 overall this year, while WPEN has dipped by nearly 33% during the same time. Dallas' KTCK has lost 25% of its audience this year, while both KESN and KRLD-FM have dropped by at least 15% during the same time.

Houston's sports talkers are again on the down cycle, as it now appears that KILT showing some respectable numbers in late 2013 was probably due to the Texans' season. KILT has dipped by 33% from January through these new March ratings, down to a 1.4 overall. The other two stations don't even combine to add up to that. In Los Angeles, KSPN held steady at only a 1.0, while KLAC, even with Dodgers broadcasts starting, could only muster a .5. The next ratings period will be significant for KLAC, given the incredible TV situation in Los Angeles in which approximately 70% of households can not receive Dodgers telecasts even if they were willing to pay through the nose to get them.

Chicago saw a drop for WSCR, which now leads WMVP by only .3, with WMVP managing to regain what it lost during the February ratings period. Atlanta's WZGC-FM and WQXI are now both showing overall ratings of under 1.0.

(As of press time, the important Boston radio ratings for March had not been released.)

With a nice boost from technology, serious fans of a MLB team have a wonderful new way to follow the team's organization. Many minor league teams, especially AAA and AA, are now making their radio broadcasts available by stream this season via the free TuneIn app. The daily minor league schedule is available at This gives fans able to listen online or on the phone plenty of opportunities to hear a ton of minor league broadcasters and follow the prospects of their favorite teams. There are often some minor league games played during the day on Mondays and Tuesdays when there are no MLB games going on, with some teams starting games as early as 11 AM local time. What a welcome idea!

St. LOUIS: Mike Kelly, the University of Missouri football and basketball voice, has joined KMOX 1120 to host "Sports Open Line" on weeknights when there is no Cardinals baseball conflict. Chris Hrabe will host "Sports Hub" from 9 PM to Midnight (or after Cardinals broadcasts). Kelly replaces Kevin Wheeler in that role, with Wheeler having left to join WXOS 101.1.  Kelly will continue with Missouri play-by-play when football season begins, even though those games continue to air on KTRS.

KMOX is obviously glad to have the Cardinals again, starting their 2nd year of the current contract. Even with the excitement of the Blues being contenders for the Stanley Cup, KMOX plans to farm out Blues playoff games which conflict with Cardinals broadcasts to KYKY 98.1. The Blues take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks starting on Thursday (4/17).

JANESVILLE WI: WTJK 1380 is no longer all sports, with new management adding more general talk to the mix, while promising some local sports content. The station had been the local ESPN affiliate, although WMVP ESPN from Chicago continues to easily reach into this area with its daytime signal.

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