Thursday, August 28, 2014

We Are Ready For Some Football

We enter the 2014 college football season with a ton of additional pregame and weekly programs on the various regional and national sports networks, as well as the debut of the SEC Network. This will be the first season in which the three largest conferences, the Big Ten, SEC, and PAC 10 all have their own networks to televise their games and provide surrounding programming to fans around most of the country.

On top of those, ESPN has announced a 13-year extension of its rights to the MAC (Mid-American Conference), maintaining "ownership" rights to every conference controlled football and basketball game through the 2026-27 season.

Fox Sports 1 begins a new studio program "Countdown to Kickoff" which will air almost every hour from Friday night until Noon ET on Saturdays in one hour segments, mostly repeated. They are guessing that a few people at a time will watch for an hour. Incredibly, Fox Sports "announced" that the show will be "hosted" by a variety of analysts and "insiders", rather than naming a formal host.

This, while ESPN continues its Game Day program which originates from a different game venue every Saturday and provides live reports from around the country. Now, Fox Sports counters with hours of a replay of a show with whoever shows up in their studio. It is along the same lines of how FS1 is going after ESPN with its MLB Whiparound show, that always seems to be up against ESPN Baseball Tonight during the week. If only they would come up with a reason to tune in.

Also at ESPN, they have decided that "Olbermann" is better suited to its daytime lineup instead of being moved around during its late night run. The show is moving to 5 PM ET Monday through Friday starting on September 8th. However, it will be shortened to a half-hour show from its current one hour length. The feeling here is that airing at a consistent time and being immediately better than anything else on sports networks going against it will outweigh the reduced length. The show will rarely be up against live sports during the week. No more problems such as Olbermann's excellent Pete Rose special (which debuted on Monday 8/25) airing from 10 minutes after one hour into the next, for example. I can hear Keith's opening statement on his daytime show, which will probably be something like "Surprise! We'll be here at the same time now."

ATLANTA: In the local radio version of the no-huddle offense, the Falcons changed FM flagships stations in between exhibition games last week. After the first two games this month aired on WSTR Star 94 (a music station), the games were moved (on less than two days notice for the 8/23 broadcast) to WZGC The Game 92.9. While it is understandable that CBS wants the Falcons on its FM sports station in an attempt to give it a pulse for the ratings, the AM station airing the same broadcasts is its competition. WQXI 790, which has less than half of the total overall audience of The Game, is the local ESPN Radio station.

It will be interesting to listen for the promotional announcements during the Falcons broadcasts when the regular season starts, since WQXI (ESPN) is technically the flagship station. Although CBS is probably doing this in order to get a foot in the door for future rights, there is the possibility that The Game could be airing mentions of its nearest competitor during these games.

LOS ANGELES: KFWB 980 decided not to wait until next week to convert from News/Talk to sports, having done so on Monday (8/25). However, the CBS Sports national feed will run exclusively for at least these two weeks before a little bit of local programming finally turns up. The station will air NFL games on Sunday evenings, Monday, and Thursdays via Westwood One, some "national" college football on Saturdays, and, of course, remains the flagship station of Clippers basketball.

CHICAGO: With host Dan McNeil not returning to WSCR 670 The Score, the station has added just retired Chicago Bear Patrick Mannelly as midday co-host. Mannelly joins Matt Spiegel starting on Tuesday (9/2) from 9 to 1 PM weekdays.

HOUSTON: KILT 610 has come up with an effective use of the station web site, by now streaming its midday show with Mike Meltser and Seth Payne. The show has led the station's ratings growth of the past year. In an even nicer innovation, the stream simulcast includes a scroll of sports headlines at the bottom.

PHILADELPHIA: Temple University football games begin airing on WPEN 97.5, and will continue to have Harry Donahue calling play-by-play for at least this season. Donahue will keep this position even though he retired last week (8/22) after 35 years on the morning show of KYW News 1060 and more than 40 years total with that station.

PITTSBURGH: WBGG 970 has announced that Duqesne University football broadcasts which have scheduling conflicts will result in those games airing on WJAS 1320 this season. In addition WBGG will be airing weekly coaches shows for both football and basketball.

NASHVILLE: Three hosts in the afternoon proved to be too many. For the station, not for the listeners. Despite ratings success, Clay Travis is officially out from 104.5 The Zone and its afternoon drive "3HL Show" after contract negotiations stalled. Travis reportedly wants to stay in local radio but has a 90-day non-compete clause to contend with. Brent Dougherty and (former Titan) Blaine Bishop remain as the two co-hosts for the show. Travis will continue as an analyst with Fox Sports for the football season.

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