Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The High Cost of Free TV

For as much attention as the regional sports networks in L.A. and Houston are getting for the lack of distribution, the problem for fans has become more widespread this month. DirecTV subscribers in the New Orleans and Cleveland markets are, as of press time, dealing with a similar issue at the moment.

DirecTV and WVUE-TV New Orleans could not reach an agreement as of Monday (9/2) which could mean that subscribers would not be able to see the Saints opener against Atlanta on Sunday, and potentially miss out on Fox telecasts for as long as this dispute goes on. (This has nothing to do with home games being sold out or not.)

What makes this interesting is that DirecTV carries the NFL Sunday Ticket package, which is required to black out the local team telecasts. It remains to be seen whether or not the NFL would step in and allow Sunday Ticket to show the Saints vs. Falcons telecast locally, given the relationship that Fox has with the league. Last season, New Orleans had the highest local telecast rating of any NFL team, with nearly double the local audience of several NFL local team telecasts.

Same story, but a different station owner, for Cleveland Browns fans. Also as of press time, no progress between WOIO-TV 19 and WUAB-TV 43, owned by Raycom Media, and DirecTV. WOIO-TV will show the Browns vs. Steelers opener on Sunday. These negotiations supposedly have been going on for three months. WOIO-TV's web site now (as of press time) lists information on how to contact other cable and satellite providers while not mentioning DirecTV.

Unlike the majority of viewers in L.A. and Houston, fans in New Orleans and Cleveland have easier options to see the games. Even without switching to another provider, those with digital TV antennas can see the telecasts (as well as all station programming).

Many Cleveland fans may also face the disappointment of not having Johnny Manziel start at QB, although it is possible he could see some playing time. CBS is obviously disappointed as well, having switched announcing teams. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will call the game for the network, which was originally assigned to the #1 team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

Fans interested in the Buffalo at Chicago NFL opener on Sunday should keep in mind that the game will be shown on Fox even though it is an AFC road game. Fox gets the large Chicago audience on Sunday in return for CBS getting the telecast of the Bears at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

BOSTON: The radio ratings are in for August, and the trend of WEEI-FM coming back against the Sports Hub continues. WEEI-FM is now #10 in overall audience going from a 3.0 in July to a 3.3 rating for August, a 10% overall increase. This increase was not gained from the competition, however. WBZ-FM Sports Hub showed a slight gain as well going from 2.6 to a 2.7 rating.

DETROIT: A great month for 97.1 The Ticket which increased from a 7.2 to a 7.6 overall rating and an even stronger foothold on #1 overall.

MINNEAPOLIS: The ratings book was good for K-FAN 100.3 which showed a 1/2 point overall ratings increase even though rival KSTP-AM also increased by more than 10%. But while the Twins continue to struggle on the field, KTWN, which now airs the games, showed an audience drop of more than 20% since June.

LOS ANGELES: While only a percentage of Dodgers fans can see the telecasts, radio flagship KLAC showed a 20% overall ratings increase during August after holding steady for the first half of the baseball season. Yet, while the Angels' TV ratings have risen this season, KSPN (which airs some Angels radio) dropped 25% overall while KLAA held steady but with a dismal .4 overall rating.

Vin Scully has decided that he will travel for any and all Dodgers post-season road games this season, but now plans to scale back on even more road games in 2015. Unless he has a change of heart later in the season, the only "road" telecasts he will do will be when the Dodgers play the Angels in Anaheim.

WASHINGTON D.C.: WJFK 106.7 The Fan has extended its contract to air Virginia Tech football and basketball through at least 2018.

CANADA: Rogers Network has announced a couple of announcer changes for its local/regional NHL telecasts. Edmonton Oilers local telecasts will now have Kevin Quinn teamed with former San Jose Sharks analyst Drew Remenda, while Paul Romanuk and Dave Randorf will handle the call for Toronto Maple Leafs games. John Shorthouse and John Garrett remain with the Vancouver Canucks telecasts, while CBC's Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey will call the Calgary Flames this season.

COLLEGE STATION TX: Congrats to Chip Howard, who continues his afternoon drive show on KZNE 1150 The Zone this week, exactly 20 years after he started it. Howard estimates he has done more than 4,000 live shows, and has no plans to stop.

LANCASTER PA: WKZF 92.7 has become a sports station, airing ESPN Radio as of Wednesday (9/3) as the station dropped its music format and will simulcast WLPA 1490 most of the time. WLPA will continue to air Phillies baseball and Penn State football.

VICTORVILLE CA: KVVB 910 will air a series of 10 high school football games this season, starting next week, which will also be streamed. Eight games will be televised on digital channel 33.1. Dan Hubbard will call the games, which will feature several of the local schools. This is the third season of the radio broadcasts, and will be the first for the telecasts and the web stream. Nice idea.

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