Thursday, June 26, 2014

Their Opinion Puts The Times Behind

It is bad enough that too much pure speculation gets mixed in with actual sports news, but even worse when pure opinion does.

The Seattle Times, or as I now should say, the "Seattle daily newspaper" has taken the editorial position that it insists that the Washington Redskins change the name of the team. That is fine. I'm not here to agree or disagree with their opinion.

However, when its Sports Editor decides that the newspaper and its web site will "ban the use of 'Redskins" from its news stories moving forward, this raises another issue. This is damaging to their reporting.

What's next? Maybe they'll insist that the Mariners trade Felix Hernandez at the July trading deadline and until that happens only report that "the right handed starting pitcher pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings last night" in their game story.

Expressing opinions and sparking discussion is fine. But not when it replaces actual news. In this instance, it's not even a local story. It is safe to say that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is not going to call a press conference to say that "Because of a Seattle daily newspaper I'm going to change the name of my team". But if that newspaper insists on editing sports stories because of its opinion, we might have a solid reason to name another Seattle daily newspaper as our choice of information.

MLB Network does so many things well, and the Tuesday (6/25) Tim Lincecum no-hitter vs. San Diego led to another choice moment for the network. It so happened that MLB Network was airing the St. Louis at Colorado game nationally during the time that the no-hitter was in progress. They not only kept viewers informed of the progress of the no-hitter, but knew to break away from the Cards-Rockies game for live cut-ins during the 8th inning. They stayed with the Giants' feed starting in the bottom of the 8th, between innings, and then the top of the 9th right through the immediate post-game reaction. (The post-game reaction included Lincecum being dunked by his teammates before getting a word out.) Next, MLB Network updated viewers on the Cards-Rockies game and returned for the conclusion before returning for post-game coverage of the no-hitter.

They could easily have only cut over for the final out or not bothered to play this up. Instead, they chose the route of pleasing the majority of baseball fans who were given the chance to watch baseball history being made without distraction.

The University of Kentucky struck even more gold with its new "multimedia" rights deal which will net the school another $210 million over the next 15 years. This is totally separate from the SEC Network and other TV deals the school benefits from. In addition to football and basketball broadcasts, the deal also includes baseball, as well as future naming rights, advertising signage galore, and even some TV game related coverage (such as pre and post-game features).

The same company which will handle the UK media rights also has a similar contract with Alabama, another SEC team, and is handling rights for the SEC package. However, it means that a percentage of Conference football and basketball games will soon be generating literally millions of dollars more in revenue for a couple of the schools ahead of other Conference participants. And this is fair because?

Fox Sports has brought increased credibility to its college football and basketball telecasts with the addition of Tim Brando as one of its lead play-by-play voices. Brando comes over after 18 years with CBS Sports in a similar role. It remains to be seen if Brando will get the opportunity to call as many top quality games as well as reach the same sized audiences he has in prior years unless Fox Sports is eventually able to raise the caliber of games it can televise nationally. Brando also loses out on the chance to call NCAA Tournament games as he was able to do with CBS.

If a broadcast remote fell in the forest and no one heard it, would it matter? Well, the "no one heard it" part applies to NBC Sports Radio this week.

On Friday (6/27), NBC Sports Radio afternoon hosts Mark Malone and Donovan McNabb will air their national afternoon drive show live from an auto parts store in a Chicago suburb. Let's sum this up. Two former NFL players co-hosting a show together in late June, weeks before NFL training camps begin. The remote broadcast is in an auto parts store, not at a stadium, arena, or sports bar. And there is one more important factor. No Chicago area station airs this show, live or on delay.

The real reason for this is that the auto parts store is part of a national chain which is a regular sponsor on NBC Radio Sports, and this remote is part of a series of remote broadcasts scheduled across the country. NBC seems to have a dream that this would help drum up interest in having this show air in Chicago.

Finally, a wonderful idea for the benefit of high school students interested in a possible sports broadcasting career. The "Live Mic Sports Broadcasting Camp" will be held July 24-26 in Ruston LA, with no broadcast experience needed by students who wish to attend. Among the instructors will be Malcolm Butler, who has called Louisiana Tech women's basketball, and ESPN 97.7's Nick White, who has called more than 20 state high school championship games and has hosted sports talk on the station since 2003.

Details at

Thursday, June 19, 2014

World Cup On A Roll, But Not A Scroll

It's the sports fan's version of "Where's the beef?", the commercial from years ago. ESPN is doing a solid job with the World Cup telecasts, but there is something missing.

Where's the scroll?

Whether you care or don't care about the World Cup telecasts is not the issue. It's just that sports fans should be taking issue with the fact that the ESPN "Bottom Line" scroll of the updated scores and headlines is missing during all of the World Cup game action. It returns during half-time and the studio portion, and throughout the remainder of all other ESPN programming, but disappears during the games.

Obviously, it isn't missing because there are so many scoring plays that ESPN needs room on the screen to account for all of the goals. ESPN also televises NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and a ton of important live events. Those always allow viewers to keep track of the happening in sports at the bottom of the screen.

One would think that ESPN would have the clout, as the "Worldwide sports leader" to be able to program as usual during the World Cup, if this is even some sort of restriction. Either way, it is shocking that ESPN is so secretive about this. If not showing the scroll is indeed some sort of restriction, then ESPN should be providing viewers with extended recaps of the other sports news and scores at every "non-game" opportunity. Half-time should be a 10 minute SportsCenter, even if they must still jump around from sport to sport with every story and confuse us as viewers like they do on 'regular' SportsCenter.

Instead, the casual fan, who might otherwise keep a World Cup telecast on in case there is a scoring play while monitoring the MLB, golf, tennis, etc. happenings instead has to go elsewhere. ESPN can't (or shouldn't) be pleased about that.

Speaking of baffling things, after a brief delay, the May radio ratings for Los Angeles have been released. While the frustration of Dodgers fans mounts since the majority still cannot view the games on TV, the overall ratings for KLAC 570 actually showed a 10% reduction from April to May. At the same time, Angels flagship KLAA also has an overall rating of less than 1.0. It could be that the audience measurement system is even more screwed up in the L.A. area than other markets, but it seems odd that the radio ratings would not be climbing when so many fans can't access the games on TV.

The Wednesday night (6/18) no-hitter by Clayton Kershaw certainly added to the frustration, since the majority of fans were not able to watch it live. The next morning, at least two of L.A.'s local TV stations made reference to the lack of availability because of the Time Warner Cable situation. A KTLA Channel 5 morning anchor reportedly said "Thank you, Time Warner" on the air out of frustration after showing the highlights. And in an unusual twist (but one that we hope becomes the usual!), posted a link to an edited video package with Vin Scully calling all 27 outs.
It appears that it will take at least one of three national developments to potentially bring the Dodgers TV crisis to a head.

Adding to the problem is the fact that none of these three are immediate. The possible merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast figures to take months, if not years, to be approved. Given Comcast's participation with sports rights and networks, one would think they want to make a reasonable deal to draw revenue from the few competing cable systems and satellite providers that would remain.

There is also the Houston situation, where reports have NBC interested in restructuring and "purchasing" CSN Houston for a different division within the same company. It is too early to tell if that will happen, and if it does, whether or not it would mean a renegotiation of the Astros and Rockets TV deals. As it stands now, both teams are owed millions from the previous arrangement that went sour.

In addition, the case involving Aereo, the service that "redistributes" over-the-air broadcast signals for a more reasonable cost in certain markets, has gone to the Supreme Court. If Aereo gains a favorable ruling, this would severely reduce the amount of money paid to many TV stations and networks, which would certainly have a trickle down effect when it comes to rising sports telecast rights fees in the future.

With no specific timetable on any of these, and the Dodgers not appearing to be concerned about their fan base (as long as attendance is strong, and it continues to be), fans should start worrying about being able to see the games in 2015 at this point.

Elsewhere, this time could be due to Father's Day, the nice weather across the country, or the World Cup, but TNT should be concerned about its NASCAR ratings from this past weekend (6/15). The Sprint Cup (of Michigan) telecast was down about 6% from 2013 and about 19% from 2012 (for the same race telecast), making it the lowest rated Sprint Cup showing since the mid-90's. This means that for the current Sprint Cup season, 12 of the 13 telecasts have shown ratings declines.

INDIANAPOLIS: WNDE 1260 management says they are not looking to kill their sports talk format, even after pulling Fox Sports from morning drive and replacing it with a syndicated 'general' show which is not sports driven. The local Query & Schultz Show continues from 3 to 7 PM. If they are serious about sticking with sports, why not move Query & Schultz into morning drive instead?

The other sports stations continue to air national programming in the morning, as WFNI The Fan 1070 airs Mike & Mike from ESPN while WXNT 1430 only airs the CBS Sports Radio morning show. A truly local show would figure to pull some rank against two other syndicated ones. Instead, WNDE pulls the plug and allows sports fans to move over to another syndicated sports show they might like better, and which could cost them listeners who might not return.

KANKAKEE IL: WYKT 105.5 is switching to CBS Sports Radio and going full-time sports beginning in early July, dropping its rock music format in the process. The station, located about an hour south of Chicago, will also begin airing local high school football and basketball games (previously carried by sister station WXNU 106.5) as well as select NFL games from Westwood One.

DAVENPORT IA: KJOC 1170 ESPN Radio is, as of this week, now being simulast on KQCS 93.5, which has dropped its music format. The stations will begin airing local high school football and basketball games for the coming season. But get this. The stations also announced that the high school games will also air online as part of a new partnership with So they add the signal to the FM dial to simulcast it 24 hours a day, but they need to add a stream so the fans can hear the games there?

Just give local fans another reason NOT to listen to your station.

While some radio execs keep wondering why they are losing their audience.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Baseball Again 'The Ticket' In Detroit

Just as the NFL is ratings gold for TV, MLB continues to be ratings gold for its local radio stations. The May ratings (late April to late May) are coming out this week, and the impact of the baseball season is evident.

In San Francisco, KNBR 680 is back as the #1 station overall in the market, going up from a 5.4 to a 6.1 rating in just one month. KGMZ-FM The Game, which carries the A's games, still has only about 25% of the audience size of KNBR, but also showed an increase during this ratings period.

Similar story in Detroit whre WXYT-FM The Ticket is a solid #1 in the market, with its overall rating increasing from a 4.7 to a 7.9 over the past three months. Obviously a boost from Tigers baseball.

New York's WFAN, now with the Yankees broadcasts, showed another overall ratings increase as well, while WEPN ESPN also went up, although it now has roughly half of the overall audience of The Fan. WOR, which now has Mets broadcasts, showed an increase in the amount of time listeners spend on the station, one of the goals the station had when it acquired the rights to the Mets games.

Elsewhere, sports talk stations are showing a slight increase in general terms. This is no surprise, given that this ratings period included some of most exciting NBA and NHL playoffs in years along with the MLB season. It continues the trend of the games themselves influencing the sports station listenership rather than the personalities, as some stations would have you believe.

In Chicago, WSCR The Score only edged up slightly, while WMVP ESPN held steady. The market's fairly new WGWG 87.7 The Game inched up to a .6, normally not worth mentioning. What makes this worthy is that the station has doubled up (from a .3) in the past two months. Even with these low numbers, the next ratings period will be a viable test, since The Game was airing Blackhawks playoff games due to conflicts with the Cubs broadcasts on WGN Radio. Not having play-by-play next month will be a better indication.

Dallas listeners are moving around among the three sports stations. KTCK The Ticket held steady, but is now only .1 ahead of KESN-FM which increased. KRLD-FM also gained, increasing its overall rating by .5 to now be within a half-point of The Ticket. This market could get interesting.

In Houston, where the Rockets lasted through the first round of the NBA playoffs and the Astros have started to show a pulse, maybe there is some hope for a sports talk station. KILT and KBME both showed ratings gains and are each over 1 rating for what seems like the first time in ages.

As Atlanta's WQXI 790 begins its bailout (discussed in an earlier column), WZGC The Game showed a 25% ratings increase over one month earlier and now has more than double the audience of WQXI.

The always interesting Boston ratings race is now being dominated by WBZ-FM Sports Hub, which rose to #6 overall at 5.1, while WEEI-FM rose only slightly to a 3.4 rating.

Buffalo's WGR has a different challenge to contend with. (Not that the ratings battle isn't a challenge!) Speculation continues about whether or not the Bills will get ownership that will keep the team in Buffalo has to make a lot of local sports media companies nervous. Losing the Bills means it would only be an NHL city, and a loss of many NFL fans.

To its credit, WGR continues to provide coverage of this important local story. On Monday (6/9) the station got N.Y. Lt. Governor Robert Duffy on the air live to discuss the possibilities for the team. Granted, Duffy had nothing to actually report, and said the expected about thinking the Bills will stay in place, but the station is doing its best to keep its listeners informed.

CBS-TV has revealed its NFL announcing team for the coming season. Among the changes is naming Trent Green as analyst along with Greg Gumbel, replacing the retired Dan Dierdorf. In addition, Spero Dedes, who gave up some of his NYC play-by-play gigs, has successfully landed on the play-by-play crew for CBS, and will be teamed with Solomon Wilcots.

TALLAHASSEE: The Red Hills Broadcasting station group has taken over the broadcast rights to Florida State University games beginning this summer and is scattering the games among its three stations. WWOF 103.1 will air FSU football, while WANK 99.1 will air the basketball games. In addition, WQTL 106.1 will air the baseball games, beginning in 2015. This is all part of a three-year deal.

From a station ownership standpoint, this is a brilliant move. This gives the hardcore FSU sports fans, who would listen to all three sports, reasons to listen to all three of the group owner's stations over the course of a year.

LARAMIE: It's not a University of Wyoming football or basketball broadcast without Dave Walsh. At least it hasn't been since more than 30 years ago. And now that Walsh has signed a contract extension, he will be the play-by-play voice for both sports at least through 2019. Walsh will also continue to host both coaches' radio shows in season. Kevin McKinney has also signed on to continue as analyst.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Another Radio Tradition Going Away in Chicago

A long standing Chicago sports tradition is about to come to an end. As hard as it is to believe, Cubs baseball will not be on either WGN-TV or WGN Radio for much longer. Thursday (6/5) looks to be the day that the the announcement becomes official that WGN Radio is into its final season of airing the Cubs broadcasts, which it has done continuously since 1958. A history that began back in the 1920's of airing the games.

Although we don't yet have the official details, it appears that CBS Radio Chicago will have the rights, with WBBM 780 and 105.9 as the primary station. Sister station WSCR The Score 670 already has the White Sox broadcasts, as of now through 2015. It is possible that the Cubs broadcasts could shift among those three frequencies due to conflicts with Bears football and strong drive-time ratings for the WBBM all-news simulcast.

This would add even more distraction to (local) fans, who need a pencil and a scorecard to find the team's games on TV every day. This season, the Cubs air (or will air) on WGN-TV, WCIU-TV, WFLD-TV (Fox regional games), Comcast SportsNet Chicago, CSN Chicago Plus, ESPN, and ESPN2, and the little known Fox Sports 1.

But there is more. WGN-TV will stop airing the games of both the Cubs and White Sox nationally on WGN America, as well as Bulls basketball. They seem to think that cable and satellite subscribers would want to pay for WGN America without sports. Word is that the people over at Fox Chicago are salivating over getting the TV rights. In Chicago, they have WFLD-TV which is Fox Network AND they have WPWR-TV which can always use fresh programming. The Cubs would add to the roster of MLB teams for which Fox Sports would have the rights.

They would probably put the Cubs on WFLD-TV when not in prime time, and on WPWR-TV when in prime time. Put this all together, and it could mean different radio AND TV stations for each series.

Perhaps the biggest irony would come during the 2015 MLB season if Fox secures the TV rights. Next year is the final season for WGN-TV for the White Sox games, which means that in 2015 WGN-TV would have the White Sox and not the Cubs.

Elsewhere, it will be interesting to see how the ratings fare with the NBA and NHL Finals going on at the exact same time. (Usually the two championship series are a few days apart.) I look for the NBA ratings on ABC to crush the national ratings for the NHL on NBCSN and NBC.

First of all, the NBA has done a much better job in recent years of marketing the league overall. It's more than the national appeal of LeBron James and Miami. The San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City series (not exactly a battle of top ten markets) produced upwards of 30% ratings increases for TNT vs. last years West Finals. Game 6 was the highest rated sports program of the day (5/31) with the highest rating of any game in that series.

However, the NHL ratings, even with the New York market involved, figure to suffer based on less interest in the Los Angeles Kings. During the sixth and seven games of last week's Chicago vs. L.A. West Finals, the Chicago market had roughly four times higher viewership than L.A. In fact, Game 7 drew a 22.7 rating in Chicago, while Los Angeles showed a 4.8 rating for the same telecast.

Without the Blackhawks, Chicago won't produce any audience for the Finals, and the ripple effect will show around the country. Mike Emrick, again handling play-by-play for the Stanley Cup Finals on NBC and NBCSN, returns for Game 2 on Saturday after being given Game 1 off due to a death in the family. In a fun move to keep New York in the spirit of the Rangers, MSG Network began showing all seven games of the Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals on Tuesday (6/3), representing the Rangers' most recent visit to the Finals.

ATLANTA: WQXI 790 The Zone continues to lose out on quality programming. Now Georgia Tech football and basketball broadcasts have bolted, with WCNN Then Fan 680 taking those over starting this fall. The Zone now only has the Falcons for what figures to be one more season. Even though the Falcons contract is open after the coming season, there is no support programming scheduled on The Zone. For that matter, as of this writing, there does not appear to be any local sports programming on there. Hardly a beneficial arrangement for an NFL team. WCNN The Fan already has Braves baseball along with Georgia State football and basketball and support programming for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Stuggling The Game 92.9 has announced that it will broadcast the Metro PCS Corky Kell Classic of seven high school football games during the August 22/23 weekend. Those games will also be televised on Fox Sports South.

DALLAS: KTVT/KTXA-TV have let go of Cowboys' beat reporter Steve Dennis after 16 years in that role, along with other assignments. The stations will go with Guy Rawlings, who joined them last fall, as well as Jane Slater, formerly of The Fan 105.3.

CHICAGO: WMAQ-TV 5 has added Siafa Lewis to its sports staff after joining the station last month on a freelance basis. Lewis had covered sports for WNBC-TV New York along with SportsNet New York.

PITTSBURGH: KDKA 93.7 The Fan will continue to have weekly appearances by Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger through the coming season. In a curious move, however, "The Ben Roethlisberger Show" will air within the Cook & Poni Show at 11 AM on Tuesdays. Middays on Tuesdays? That's hardly appointment radio time.

COLUMBIA MO: No replacement named yet for KTGR's afternoon "The Big Show" after the departure of Will Palaszczuk, host of the show for the past four years. Palaszczuk has been with the station for nine years. Co-host Matt Michaels will host the show solo for the time being. Palaszczuk left the station to join Yahoo Sports Radio.

FT. WAYNE: WGL 1250 has dropped its music simulcast with its FM and picked up Fox Sports Radio as of this week. No local programming plans as of yet.

WHEELING WV: WBBD 1400 has also added Fox Sports programming, using it to replace (and I couldn't make this up) its all comedy feed.

BISMARCK: KXMR 710 might not sink Bismarck with this move, but it has dropped ESPN Radio and replaced it with a mish-mosh of programming, none of it truly local. You may need an update, not for scores but for programming on weekdays. As of now, The Fan carries morning (6 AM to Noon) and afternoon drive (3 to 7 PM) shows from KFXN 100.3 Minneapolis, Fox Sports from Noon to 3 PM, TMZ Sports after 7 PM, and back to Fox Sports for overnights and weekends.

SEARCY AR: KRZS 1300 has added programming from KKSP 93.3 Little Rock, including "Morning Rush" with former Razorbacks QB Clint Stoerner and Derek Ruscin. The station is planning for more extensive local high school sports coverage, adding Phillip Seaton to handle hourly local updates, including Friday night high school game coverage.