Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Less Coverage Means Less Interest From Fans

Too many people had the "Whatever!" reaction to the news that the (Portland) Oregonian newspaper has decided to no longer run all of the MLB box scores as of this new season. They are only running the full box for games involving the Seattle Mariners, S.F. Giants, and Oakland A's, the three nearest MLB teams. I'm already hearing that some other newspapers not in "big league" cities are already considering this. That's not good.

How is this decision similar to mistakes that sports radio stations often make? It's because this is another example of traditional sports media taking the approach of "They are getting it online anyway, so we shouldn't bother".

For years, the box scores and sports statistics sold a lot of newspapers. There were reports during that during the baseball strikes during the 1981 and 1994 seasons of specific declines in "big league city" newspaper sales. Yet, just as some of the sports radio stations fail to provide out-of-town scoreboard updates with any regularity, they also figure that "fans will get it online or on their phone anyway" and don't "bother".

My point remains that if the traditional sports media had beefed up, or at least maintained their level of reporting and contents over the past few years that they would not have lost so much of their audience to the online community.

Now, without the box scores, the Oregonian figures it will save on newsprint costs and reduce the size of its sports section. Well, that also provides one less reason to buy it, especially when consumers see a smaller publication at a higher price. Same thing to certain sports radio stations. As long as they want me to go online (or to my phone) for out-of-town scores, then we might as well look up what the online analysts have to say about my favorite local teams as well.

Ratings notes from the Opening Day period for MLB last week show that there are differences in how the local fans follow their teams when the openers are during working hours. Nielsen went as far as to release some of its research from that day (March 31), showing that fans tended to prefer radio OR TV.

In Pittsburgh, with the Pirates coming off their first post-season appearance since the early 90's, their early afternoon opener (vs. the Chicago Cubs) showed the Pirates radio broadcast with four times the audience share that the visiting Cubs radio had. Yet, the Pittsburgh telecast failed to draw ratings equal to the previous night's Penguins NHL telecast, which was "another" regular season game for the contending team.  The World Champion Red Sox opener at Baltimore showed that Boston's radio broadcast had a much larger audience share than the local Orioles did. The Giants' opening night radio broadcast from Phoenix had more than twice the audience that the local Diamondbacks broadcast had.

Later in the week (4/5), Fox Sports 1 began its regular season MLB coverage. The struggling network remains a secret, with its Giants vs. Dodgers late afternoon telecast drawing a 0.4 rating. And that was more than its early game, Minnesota vs. Cleveland, drew. As of press time, it was too soon to see if the Tuesday (4/8) prime-time telecast of Cinci at St. Louis registered on the ratings meter.

Monday night (4/8) was also the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron's 715th homerun, which was shown live on NBC-TV in prime-time. ESPN decided to try a unique twist and "cover" the historic moment for baseball by re-enacting coverage for those same two hours. The "coverage" included updates and player reaction. A nice tribute. However, despite the family of networks, ESPN only provided this "coverage" on

Someone please tell me how there was no room for this on one of their channels, especially with no more men's college basketball to televise for this season. Doing this tribute was an excellent idea. I simply can't believe this wasn't done on ESPN Classic. What could have possibly been more pressing?

Although ESPN Classic was a great idea and got off to a good start years ago, it has deteriorated to the point of showing poker and probably "Minor League Solitaire" at this point. Thirty-five years of history, and ESPN can't find enough inventory, let alone what they could get from the pro league archives?

The Hank Aaron anniversary should have been the start of this type of "coverage" that could make ESPN Classic relevant, and fun once again.

Speaking of memories from years ago, how sad to learn of the passing of long time sports TV producer Sandy Grossman last week at the age of 78. He helped to raise the quality level on NFL telecasts for so many years, as well as for 10 Super Bowls, 18 NBA Finals, and several Stanley Cup Finals for CBS and Fox. Not to mention the challenge of staying awake during Pat Summerall's play-by-play. Grossman will be missed, but his influence is and will be felt for a long time to come.

BOSTON: Steve Lyons is back as a baseball analyst, now for NESN's studio coverage of Red Sox games. He joins Dennis Eckersley and Jim Rice in this role. Lyons has previously worked with the Dodgers and for Fox Sports telecasts.

PORTLAND: KFXX The Fan 1080 has added more local programming to its weekend lineup. "Sinner and the Saint", with Keith Hill and Luke Andersen, airs on Saturdays from 9 to 11 AM. "Sports Sunday", with Mike Lynch and Rashad Taylor, now airs from 8 to 10 AM.

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