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.

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