My "content is king" theory for sports radio stations turned into "content is King" for Cleveland's WKRK 92.3 The Fan last week when it came to reporting on "King James" returning to Cleveland.
While much of the Cleveland media was surrounding LeBron James' suburban mansion as the word spread that an official announcement could be coming very soon, WKRK's Joe Lull scooped them when he reported that Cavaliers team owner Dan Gilbert was on his plane headed to South Florida.
That is where LeBron was at the time. Gilbert reportedly posted on social media that he was "enjoying the backyard", even though Lull was tracking the exact location status of the plane (via FlightAware). Even when Gilbert was made aware that word had leadked out, he had his crew change the flight into a different airport, hoping to avert anyone seeing him arrive in Florida. However, that move did not effect Lull's ability to track the specific location of the plane.
This enabled reporter Anthony Lima to (reportedly) be the first to broadcast the announcement that LeBron is returning to Cleveland, doing so during the Baskin & Phelps Show.
At that moment, WKNR 850 had Aaron Goldhammer on the air, but without vacationing co-host Tony Rizzo, while WTAM 1100 (news radio and the Cavs' flagship station) was into a long commercial break, before both stations soon after jumped on the story.
The sports media should be saluting and taking note of the work by Lull and Lima to be the first to report the most important local sports story in years. This is a whole lot better than reporting that some other network is "reporting" that LeBron "could be" about to return to Cleveland. And they scooped the team's flagship station in the process.
As it should be, this was about being the first to break a story and taking the steps necessary to do so ahead of the competition. It is all too rare in the sports media these days. For once, it was great to see radio lead the way.
However, a couple of days later there was reason to, again, be very disappointed in the sports media and what they "report". Fox Sports decided to reveal that it is making a change of the sideline reporter for its primary NFL telecast announcing team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. I'll say this again. In more than 50 years of personally viewing NFL games on a weekly basis, I have never made a viewing choice, nor met anyone who has, based on who the "sideline reporter" is, or even whether or not there is one.
This item should have been nothing more than a one-line blurb buried in the NFL News. How disappointing to tune to sports radio stations and read sports columnists spending ANY time about Erin Andrews and Pam Oliver. Even Fox Sports stations should know to have something of importance or urgency to be discussing instead. Way too many outlets acted as though this was a "news" story, and it should be cause for embarrassment if this is something to actually talk or write about.
Then there was ESPN, faced with an unfortunate rain delay during its Yankees vs. Orioles Sunday Night Baseball telecast (7/13). The network had presented its full hour "Baseball Tonight" leading into the telecast, and had a crew in Minneapolis for the following night's Home Run Derby telecast.
Yet, all ESPN chose to do during the rain delay was to join ESPNews for "SportsCenter". At the start, they were doing an extended wrap up of the World Cup. Don't get me wrong. I understand the significance of the World Cup. However, this was during MLB time. ESPN is not one of the regional or local sports networks that doesn't have anything to show during a rain delay and sticks viewers with a rerun. Where was any of their baseball crew? At the very least, they should have replayed the still timely segments from "Baseball Tonight" recapping the day's action and previewing the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby.
Over at NBCSN, they are getting ready to begin having what will be an extended post-game show following NBC Sunday Night NFL telecasts. The network "just happened" to have scheduled the NBCSN Sunday Sports Report for 11:30 PM ET, the time that their upcoming Sunday Night telecasts could end if the game is played at a reasonable pace. The show will actually debut on August 17th.
Once the NFL regular season starts, this should prove to be a good idea for NBCSN. Many football fans would prefer a national wrap up of the SNF game and other NFL action instead of the local news (on the NBC station) or alternative programming on the west coast.
PHOENIX: Three sports radio stations seems to be not enough for KTAR 620, which plans to take on ESPN Radio no later than mid-September. As a result, plans are reportedly in the works for KMVP 98.7 to take on being the primary station for the city's pro sports team broadcasts. This will mean that when there are no conflicts (of more than one local team playing at the same time) that the local play-by-play would be on the FM dial, while the AM dial would likely have THREE stations with seemingly the same "national" sports talk. In addition to KTAR, there is KGME 910 (Fox Sports Radio) and KDUS 1060 (NBC Sports Radio). Yikes.
DETROIT: During this time when 97.1 The Ticket is enjoying excellent ratings, it is now officially 20 years since full-time sports radio arrived in Detroit. It was July 11, 1994 when WDFN 1130 took the air in that role. The timing back then was impeccable. The Lions were about to begin their season under much-maligned head coach Wayne Fontes, while MLB was headed toward the labor dispute that stopped an exciting season which never finished.
Come to think of it, those are still more compelling topics right now than who will be the sideline reporter.