Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Bernie Wasn't Burned

While we wait to see if the Tuesday night (4/29) TV ratings increase for TNT's NBA doubleheader is the start of a trend or a reflection of curiousity over the Donald Sterling Clippers controversy, the Bernie Kosar story in Cleveland seems to have slipped under the radar, as it should.

(The TNT ratings for their NBA playoff doubleheader with Washington eliminating Chicago followed by the L.A. Clippers vs. Golden State was up more than 35% from last year.)
In Cleveland, the Browns announced that Solomon Wilcots, the former player who is now with the NFL Network and CBS Sports as an analyst, adds the role as analyst on the Browns' pre-season telecasts this August. Wilcots and his extensive network broadcasting experience replace former Browns QB Bernie Kosar in that role.

The media should be having a field day with Kosar's reaction, especially when Kosar is reportedly being considered for other employment by the Browns. Kosar was quoted as saying that his removal from the broadcasts "stems from my slurred speech impairment, which is a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL." and that the decision to remove him from the telecasts was "unfortunate".

Somebody should have asked Kosar how, if his slurred speech is a "direct result....", he got hired for the analyst position in the first place. There is also the matter of Kosar overlooking that former Browns CEO Joe Banner issued a public apology to the St. Louis Rams due to comments Kosar made last pre-season about QB Kellen Clemens and his receivers during the Rams vs. Browns telecast.

Perhaps equally as absurd is the media battle in Southern California regarding Time Warner Cable's high fees for its Dodgers Network which are keeping more than two-thirds of the market area from seeing the Dodgers games this season. TWC's CEO Rob Marcus was quoted as saying the company had added subscribers in the L.A. market, although he did not give any specifics. At the same time, TWC and DirecTV were publicly disputing whether or not they were still talking.

What is curious to me is that the Dodgers have been silent about this, although they collect their huge fees for the telecast rights. I'm thinking that the April radio ratings for L.A., which will be released within the next two weeks, will tell us a lot by whether or not flagship radio station KLAC shows an audience gain or not. If the KLAC ratings go up (and there isn't a whole lot of room to drop), it signals that fans are fine with listening to Vin Scully without being forced to pay up to watch them, if they are even given that option. The Dodgers would be fine with that.

We should also keep an eye on ratings for the Angels telecasts, readily available on most cable/satellite packages in the area, and see how much those increase in Los Angeles. I'm thinking the Dodgers won't step in until or unless their game attendance drops. Based on advance sales and season tickets for a promising 2014 season, that might not happen soon. However, the Dodgers risk losing younger and "new" fans by not having the games available for the majority of their fans.

Meanwhile, Fox Sports 1, seemingly operating in secrecy, has pulled the plug on its "The Crowd Goes Wild" weekday show when, well, it never attracted a crowd to do much of anything. Original host Regis Philbin had been reduced to occasional appearances in February, and next week's shows will be the last. Another run of NASCAR Race Hub will replace it, even though NASCAR on Fox has drawn disappointing ratings this year. Granted, weather delays including the huge on at Daytona, have played a role, but Fox Sports is expanding its NASCAR coverage by next year.

I'll say it again. Fox Sports 1 needs to counter program ESPN and the others, instead of acting as though they can compete. Their MLB Whiparound has value, but not when it runs head-to-head most weeknights with Baseball Tonight on ESPN. If FS1 moved it to one hour (or more) later, they might bring over the audience which is focused on baseball and doesn't want to sit through ESPN's other sports coverage during the summer.

Here is a note to management at radio stations which are NFL flagship stations. The Miami Dolphins are now using their own social media directly. On Monday (4/28), the Dolphins own Twitter feed exclusively promoted individual game ticket sales via a special pre-sale code to their followers.

This is another case of the teams taking over for the reporting media, and that's not good. If "my" radio station was spending millions of dollars for the rights to broadcast the games, then my station should be the one promoting this exclusive pre-sale. This would give Dolphins fans a reason to listen to my station. Instead, as a fan wanting tickets, all I need to do is follow them on Twitter and not bother with the radio station.

DALLAS: Norm Hitzges, who turns 70 this coming July, has been extended for another three years on SportsRadio 1310, where he has been since early 2000. He had been with KLIF for 15 years before that.

MILWAUKEE: Bucks radio play-by-play voice Ted Davis, fresh off the team's horrible season, has been hired by WOKY 920 to co-host from 2 to 4 PM with Mike Heller starting next week (5/5). Davis had been a co-host on WSSP 1250, even though the Bucks remain on highly rated WTMJ 620.

The station (WOKY), which has only been around a 0.2 rating thus far, has Wisconsin Badgers play-by-play voice Matt Lepay co-hosting its morning show.

HOUSTON: The NFL Texans have added former KGOW 1560 host John Harris as a "contributor" to some team produced TV and radio shows as well as podcasts for the team web site.

VANCOUVER: Congrats to Dan Russell of CISL 650, who is voluntarily giving up his nightly sports talk show this week after almost 30 years in the market. Russell plans to continue with his blog and podcasts, and will continue on CISL's Sunday night golf show.

BUFFALO: Along the lines of stations serving their sports audience, a nice move by Howard Simon on WGR Buffalo last week on his morning show. Instead of what seems to be the norm for sports stations (having writers and analysts predict the upcoming NFL Draft), Simon had Bills General Manager Doug Whaley to specifically discuss the draft as it relates to the Bills. Whaley went as far as to specifically comment on a couple of the leading college prospects. That's more like it!

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