Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NFL and MLB Helping Radio Ratings

The radio ratings for August into September continue to show that the sports news and teams drive the ratings and not the hosts. Baseball continues to help in markets such as Detroit, San Francisco, and New York. The Giants' battle for first against the Dodgers kept KNBR 680 atop the San Francisco ratings with an impressive half point overall ratings increase for the flagship station. In Detroit, even with a slight overall drop, WXYT-FM The Ticket stayed on top of the ratings. The Yankees still had a chance to make the post-season during the ratings period, and WFAN finished #8 overall while WEPN fell by .3 in the ratings from the month prior and failed to finish in the top 20 in the market.

Nowhere is the local team impact on sports radio more obvious than Boston this time around, especially with WEEI finishing ahead of The Sports Hub for the previous few months. With the Red Sox being hopelessly out of the race, flagship WEEI-FM dipped down to #13 overall, while WBZ-FM Sports Hub, helped with Patriots broadcasts and coverage with high expectations for the team, leaped ahead to #9 in the market with an overall 25% ratings increase just from the previous month.

In Philadelphia, anticipation for the Eagles helped WIP-FM to move up to #12 with a more than 10% overall increase over the previous month. What makes this more impressive is that WPEN also increased by more than 10% showing this was not a case of listeners switching sports stations.

Even the Houston and Atlanta markets, which have generally produced lackluster ratings for their sports stations over the past couple of years, reflect audience impact due to hopes for their NFL teams. Houston's KILT climbed up to #17 overall (for a market which failed to produce a top 20 sports station for the vast majority of its ratings books) with a .7 rating increase since July. Even KBME showed a 30% audience increase and cracking the top 25 station list. In Atlanta, WZGC-FM The Game, now a flagship station for the Falcons, jumped up 70% overall and finished in the market's top 20, now with more than four times the audience of WQXI 790.

The one oddity continues to be Los Angeles, where having both baseball teams in contention and the only way for the majority of Dodgers fans to listen to Vin Scully continued to have no impact on sports radio ratings. KLAC, the Dodgers flagship, actually dropped nearly 20% overall, while KSPN and KLAA (which share Angels broadcasts) continue to produce overall ratings under one full point.

Speaking of baseball, let's hope that TBS picks up the pace on its telecasts of the post-season.  The fact that TBS only showed 13 games for the entire regular season was evident throughout the early innings of the Tuesday (9/30) American League Wild Card telecast from Kansas City. It was obvious the announcing team of Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling, and Cal Ripken had barely worked together all year. There was little to no flow between the three. Darling seemed to be purposely looking for reasons to question managerial moves as if his only role was to make controversy. They did start to get it together later on, helped by an exciting game lasting nearly five hours.

We'll also see what the ratings show for Fox, which is sticking with its plan of burying many of its first round playoff games on Fox Sports 1 instead of Fox Network. These are undoubtedly the biggest telecasts the struggling network is showing since its inception.

Speaking of Fox Sports, another "ooops" moment on Sunday (9/29) during its Tampa vs. Pittsburgh NFL telecast. Their scroll at the bottom showed the Steelers as "3-1" late in the 4th quarter, before Tampa scored in the final minute and held on to defeat the Steelers and put their record at 2-2.

Meanwhile, the FCC eliminating the sports blackout rules does not actually force a change in the current system. Of course, the NFL was really the subject of the original blackout plan from back in the 70's. As we all know, the NFL has structured its TV contracts in recent years to allow for local market blackouts when games are not sold out or close enough to it.

What was nice is that the FCC discussion was streamed live via the government web site, allowing fans to see FCC Commission board members talk about being football fans and understanding exactly what this means to sports fans. So from now on, if you are not able to see a local market game on TV because it did not sell out, you can only blame the NFL. And you should. Considering how much the NFL has contributed to the rise in cable/satellite TV for millions of consumers (whether fans or not), fans are entitled to the game(s) of choice on Sundays.

CHICAGO: As if there isn't enough NFL player news away from the fields lately, the Bears' Brandon Marshall made his own news with by holding a press conference (last week) to blast ESPN. Marshall presented court testimony and additional documentation which prove his innocense of accusations of domestic abuse filed by an ex-girlfriend. However, ESPN reportedly showed an "old" profile of Marshall which included said allegations and without any form of "updating".

Adding to the mix is that Marshall is under contract to do a bi-weekly radio show in Chicago. The contract is with WMVP 1000, which is owned and operated by ESPN Radio. His next show is scheduled for Monday October 6th. Considering that Marshall did not appear on the previous show (reportedly due to his injured ankle), it will be interesting to hear whether or not Marshall appears on the station as scheduled under these circumstances.

Perhaps a more anticipated local media appearance will take place beginning Thursday (10/2) on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The regional network has added an NBC analyst to its Sports Net Central show on Thursdays for the remainder of the football season. Not just any analyst. Former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt will be making weekly appearances. With all of the Bears related programming all season in Chicago, it is quite amazing that there are now two former head coaches (Wannstedt and Mike Ditka) with scheduled local weekly media appearances to analyze the team.

MILWAUKEE: Although full-time sports talk radio has yet to come close to catching on in the market, still another station is entering the mix. Sports Radio 105.7 The Fan brings a limited FM signal and will mostly simulcast WSSP 1250 and its CBS Sports Radio Network programming. The station will air the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. None of the three established AM sports stations in the market come even remotely close to the size of the audience for WTMJ, which is not full-time sports but continues strong with all of the local pro sports play-by-play.

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