Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If Turner Dishes It Out, How Are Sports Fans Going To Take It ?

Here we go again with the rising costs of sports programming having an impact on how much more consumers are being expected to pay. As of press time (10/21), Dish Network is no longer providing Turner Broadcasting channels to its subscribers. Let the mud slinging begin.

Subscribers lose out on TNT, TBS, as well as CNN, HLN, Turner Classic Movies, and a couple of other channels in the family. You can't tell me it is a coincidence that this happens one week before the start of the NBA regular season (with TNT again having a national package of weeknight telecasts). Especially since TNT just nearly tripled its rights fees to renew its NBA rights earlier this month. Already, efforts are underway to raise the price so that TNT can attempt a return on its investment. An investment no one forced them to make.

If you are not a Dish TV subscriber, do not think for one minute that this does not have an impact on you. Perhaps it won't over the next few weeks, but for sports fans around the country this is another story which bears watching.

Turner Broadcasting is a division of Time Warner Inc., which also owns the L.A. Dodgers channel which is currently distributed in less than one-third of available cable/satellite homes in Southern California after a nearly $2 billion dollar deal commited to by TWC. Now, we have a percentage of national subscribers to Dish Network who, for very much the same reason, could be shut out of NBA telecasts for the regular season as well as potentially playoff games if nothing is resolved by April.
While this is going on, the possibility still exists of a merger between Comcast/NBC and Time Warner Cable. he potential transaction still has not been turned down. If it manages to be approved, consumers would be faced with the vast majority of cable systems, internet providers, and sports rights being owned/controlled by the game giant entity. Along with a lot of the media which "reports" and covers the very same sports teams and leagues.

Meanwhile, as we write this hours before the 2014 World Series gets underway, it's interesting to note that San Francisco area radio listeners have a choice of radio broadcasts, since ESPN's national broadcast is not blacked out in either local team market. With the likes of Jon Miller and a high caliber broadcast team, it's highly unlikely that Bay Area radio listeners would go anywhere other than KNBR 680's game broadcasts. But it's interesting to note that the ESPN broadcast will be carried on KGMZ 95.7 The Game.

Ironically, KGMZ is also sports radio and averages only about 20% to 25% of KNBR's total audience. In addition, the station serves as the Oakland A's flagship station, with the A's having blown a big division lead and then losing out in their one post-season game this year.

On the football side, several radio stations which carry the Bob & Tom syndicated morning shows are being provided with specific songs geared toward the local pro or college football team in an interesting marketing strategy. Duke Tumatoe and the Bob & Tom Band are producing the songs from their Indianapolis studios. Cincinnati's WOFX Fox 92.5 was the first station to receive one, with a song specific to the Bengals. Their stations in New Orleans, Detroit, and Buffalo, and Green Bay are among those which will be airing custom pro team songs, while stations in Oklahoma and Nebraska will be provided with songs to promote their major college teams. Most of the stations which air the show are not sports stations and/or do not air the broadcasts for the teams being featured within the songs.

It's not exactly a draft, but CBS and Fox have been working to select specific NFL telecasts to "protect" from flex scheduling to NBC or another network during the final six weeks of the regular season. NBC has the right to select from certain games for its Sunday Night Football schedule, with the current contracts allowing for Fox and CBS to protect up to one telecast per week from Week 11 through Week 17 of the season.

Among the games Fox is holding onto are Philadelphia vs. Green Bay (week 11), New Orelans at Pittsburgh (week 13), Seattle at Philadelphia (week 14), San Francisco at Seattle (week 15), and, for some unknown reason, Detroit at Chicago for week 16. I'll take a stab at a possible reason for Fox to hang onto Detroit at Chicago late in the season. It is likely because Fox loses the Chicago at Detroit telecast to CBS on Thanksgiving Day (when CBS was flexed a telecast on an "all NFC" day), and wants to be sure it will serve both Top 5 markets with a local telecast. However, as of now, it doesn't appear that by Week 16 either team will be a major post-season threat.

CBS, on the other hand, includes Miami at Denver (week 13), New England at Green Bay (week 15), and Indy at Dallas (week 16) on its list. We certainly understand New England at Green Bay on this list. Even if the Patriots are out of the picture, a Brady vs. Rogers matchup is top-notch no matter what.

On the college side, ABC is certainly pleased that the Notre Dame vs. Florida State matchup last Saturday (10/18) was at Florida State. Because of that, ABC was able to televise the game, and scored the highest rating of the season (thus far) for a college telecast. The Chicago market, with a strong Notre Dame base, scored a 10.4 local average rating for the telecast.

CHICAGO: WLS-TV channel 7 named Dionne Miller as its new weekend sports anchor, which gives her the distinction of being that station's first female sports anchor. Miller had been with WFLD-TV in Chicago as a weekend sports anchor since 2012 and had worked at Big Ten Network prior to that.

CLEVELAND: The impact of LeBron James continues. In addition to the AM-FM simulcast discussed here last week, the Cavaliers games will also be broadcast in Spanish. WLFM 87.7 will air all home and road games, and has brought in Rafael Hernandez Brito to call the games. Brito had called the Brooklyn Nets games in Spanish during the two previous seasons. This makes the Cavs the sixth NBA team to air at least some of its schedule in Spanish, and the first in a state other than Texas or Florida. The others are Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Miami, and Orlando.

CANTON OH: WHBC 1480 has added Cleveland radio veteran Kenny Roda to its lineup, with Roda hosting 3 to 7 PM weekdays starting on Monday (10/27). This moves Sam Bourquin to the morning show, along with Gary Rivers and Pam Cook. In addition to the stronger Cleveland flavor by adding Roda (who was with WKNR from 1992 into last year), the station also airs the Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians broadcasts. The station also continutes its local flavor with numerous high school game broadcasts, some of which are called by Bourquin.

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