Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Too Many Sports Telecast Distractions

It's all about the TV ratings and the TV money in sports these days. But it should be more about the networks maintaining the best possible elements of their telecasts to be sure the audience is paying attention.

Even the networks cannot overlook the recent "Know The Fan Report 2014" research just released by Sporting News Media. Among the findings of the study are that about 44% of viewers, with access to a phone or internet device, are now also engaged with keeping up with other games at the same time. Another 20% are accessing highlights of other games. Again, this is among fans who are viewing a specific game at the time.

For now, the ratings are excellent for the most part. Right now, TNT has higher ratings for its NBA West Finals between San Antonio and Oklahoma City than last year's West Finals showed. NBC's hockey coverage is up across the board. The NFL had a ratings bonanza on NFL Draft opening night. And so it goes.

But if the Memorial Day weekend is an indication, the telecasts themselves could be doing more harm than good for the attention span of the audience, and the networks need to be careful. On Sunday (5/25) the ABC telecast of the Indy 500 was its usual superb effort until the end of the race when ABC decided to go with a split screen. For those not watching or not aware, it wasn't to be showing multiple drivers or even multiple angles of the final stretch.

Instead, it was a split screen to show the reaction of the key drivers' significant other. As if viewers want to see the expected facial reaction as much as the leading cars race to the finish line. Unless ABC hired the TMZ Network to direct its video, there is absolutely no excuse for making an obvious reaction such a priority. ABC executives should not be wondering why more and more people are monitoring other media sources DURING telecasts when they take away from their live coverage to that extent.

Next, on Monday (5/26), MLB again decided to have all teams wear "special" Memorial Day uniforms. Personally, I don't like it whenever a team wears anything except their usual colors and uniforms, but that's not important here. The problem with the Memorial Day plan is that the teams were mandated to wear "camoflague" uniforms which totally fade the numbers and names on the front and the back.

As a result, TV viewers (along with fans who paid their way into every game) had a difficult time seeing names and numbers of players for the teams they were watching. Several of the team uniforms were also changed to the point of making it tough to determine which team or teams you were watching when you tuned in. I'd bet the ranch that some casual fans thought they must have stumbled on to a college or minor league game and kept flipping the channels.

Somehow we as fans survived all these years knowing when it was a holiday without needing for teams to wear something different "in support".

However, this crap with the 'special', alternative, and 'throw-up' (whatever they call them) uniforms has gotten out of hand and makes it difficult for TV viewers to determine who they are watching. And now we get more evidence that fans are going more and more to "other" sources while watching these telecasts. Even the national telecasts on ESPN and MLB Networks showed teams wearing unrecognizable uniforms.

Sorry, but we fans now pay big bucks to our cable/satellite providers for these games (even if we don't want them). And the networks and stations pay big bucks to these teams for the rights to televise them. It is time for the media companies to speak up about having the teams they show wearing their easily identifiable uniforms, complete with names and numbers that are easily read.

Ironically, at the same time, more and more sources point to Disney honcho Bob Iger as a strong possibility to become the next Commissioner of Baseball. He is not a baseball man, but is a media guy at a time when several teams have significant deals starting while other teams come up for negotiation within the next five years. If it's about media rights, and keeping your audience looking at the screen instead of Twitter, you had better believe something should be done about giving the fans the best possible visual.

The current NHL ratings bring a very curious finding. It seems that the East Finals between the N.Y. Rangers and Montreal Canadiens have higher ratings on NBC and NBCSN than the West Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings have. Chicago had record ratings for its local Blackhawks telecasts this season, while this matchup is between two of the top three TV markets. NBC does not get the benefit of the Montreal audience, since Canada has separate telecasts.

Elsewhere, Fox Sports has added former N.Y. Giants offensive lineman David Diehl to its roster of NFL analysts, starting for the upcoming season. Word is that Diehl, who was with the Giants since 2003, will be a game analyst on one of the revised Fox announcing teams.

LOS ANGELES: Chris Roberts, the voice of UCLA football and basketball since 1992, has decided that the coming seasons for both sports will be his last. Roberts is already inducted into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and has actually been calling college games in Southern California for more than 30 years.

EVANSVILLE: In perhaps the most bizarre sports media story of the month, rumor has it that WJLT 105.3 will drop its music format (which has increased by more than a full ratings point since March) and change over to ESPN Radio. It seems that there is currently not a full-time sports station in the market. And that is not even the bizarre part. The "source" of this story, which even named the current music air personalities who would be replaced, is WTVW-TV. Nothing like a TV station publishing a rumor about a local radio station. Quite the distraction for local social media followers!

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