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.

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