Tuesday, November 25, 2014

If Networks DISH It Out, Who Can Take It?

The public has no say in the matter of DISH Network potentially dropping several of its networks in the very near future, yet the networks and carriers involved seem to think consumers can make a difference. The media's purpose should be to report on sports and programming, and not use its airwaves to determine who receives it and when.

Briefly, some of the regional sports networks, including CSN Mid-Atlantic and CSN Chicago, have contracts to be carried on DISH Network which expire before the end of this year. In response, each of those networks has put up a (separate) web site for consumers to complain to DISH Network. At the same time, CBS Network is threatening to pull its owned stations (such as WCBS-TV New York and WBBM-TV Chicago) from Dish unless they (CBS) begin receiving increased compensation.

What has me even more concerned is that CSN Mid-Atlantic has gone to using even more than their own airwaves to bring this to the public's attention. CSN Mid-Atlantic has resorted to PAID digital and social media, along with some paid radio (although some of their radio time is generally in trade) to spread this message. Let's get this straight. Here we all are as consumers paying increasing monthly fees to cable/satellite providers to watch these channels. Now at least one has the nerve to spend some of that money to advertise against one carrier not compensating it enough.

This situation is not like the L.A. Dodgers local TV situation, for which the majority of fans willing to pay the fees still cannot receive the telecasts. In this instance, customers of DISH Network can easily go elsewhere if they no longer have the package of channels they wish. It is that simple. If a large enough percentage of subscribers abandon DISH over losing a regional sports network and/or their local CBS station(s), then DISH will need to take action on its own one way or the other.

Although this is a sports media column and not a consumer blog, there is a point to be made. This matter is taking up air time (including CSN Regional nightly sports shows including this information within their "news" time) to present the CSN version of the story. We should be getting actual news and reporting about the teams these networks cover instead. For what we are all paying to receive these channels, we are entitled to better. Which carriers are involved is not our problem.

CSN Mid-Atlantic announced an expanded college hoops schedule for the new season with 119 men's telecasts on their schedule. These will feature Atlantic Coast Conference, Atlantic 10, and Colonial Athletic Association contests.

Elsewhere, we only have preliminary numbers at press time, but, as expected, the snowbound residents of the Buffalo area were watching the rescheduled to Monday night (11/24) Bills game vs. the Jets. Early numbers show an amazing 37.8 rating and 52 share for the Buffalo market, compared with an 11 share from New York City. One can only imagine what the Buffalo numbers would have been had it been a close game!

Next weekend (Sunday Dec. 7th) NFL ratings for New York City and nearby markets will be extremely interesting. With NBC sticking with its originally scheduled New England at San Diego telecast, it means that the Giants and Jets will both play at the same time. This rare occurence will take place during the early games. Fox will show the Giants at Tennessee while CBS shows the Jets at Minnesota at 1 PM ET.

It is expected that the Giants telecast will produce higher ratings, especially since neither the Jets or Vikings figure to be in the running for the playoffs. Fox also gains since its Seattle vs. Philadelphia doubleheader telecast will follow.

At that same time, many fans in the midwest will need to be aware that the Indianapolis at Cleveland telecast (also 1 PM ET) has already been flexed from CBS to Fox.

There was also a rather quiet story from the previous week about NFL players complaining loudly about in-game scoreboard distractions, even for the home team. While we understand and appreciate the efforts by teams management to enhance the experience for those at the game, even the likes of Peyton Manning spoke publicly about the need to tone it down.

ESPN has already reported that Broncos President Joe Ellis spoke with the team's scoreboard operator after Manning complained about how the playing of music and showing of players dancing fired up the local crowd (during the Oct. 23 game vs. San Diego) and caused a false start penalty against the Broncos.

The latest monthly radio ratings are being released, and while the Boston ratings (WBZ-FM vs. WEEI-FM) are not available at press time, it seems the San Francisco Giants also won a championship for flagship station KNBR 680. During the World Series run and surrounding weeks, the station showed more than a 30% overall audience increase from the previous month to become a more commanding #1 overall (by more than three full ratings points). The San Jose ratings also show KNBR with its strongest ratings ever in that portion of the market, making it #1 in both places.

The Cowboys continue to be "The Ticket" in Dallas, as flagship KRLD-FM increased by .4, the exact same ratings percentage that KTCK The Ticket fell from the previous month. KESN ESPN also showed a slight decline.

In Chicago, WSCR The Score 670 dipped slightly overall while WMVP ESPN 1000 showed another slight increase. In Los Angeles, while it is too soon to judge KFWB 980 and its new run as a sports station (and the Clippers flagship again this season), it came in at a mere 0.3. Without post-season baseball, Dodgers flagship KLAC showed a 40% overall audience decrease from the previous month.

For those paying attention to it, CBS Sports Radio is making daily lineup changes for the coming new year, including the outster of John Feinstein from his late morning show. Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney move to late mornings, while Gregg Giannotti and Brian Jones will shift to morning drive.

CHICAGO: Well, it's actually Champaign. The University of Illinois football broadcasts will have a new analyst starting for next season, as the former QB has decided not to return for family and business reasons.

CLEVELAND: Browns fans are finally not simply looking toward next year, but the preseason games which are not nationally televised will have a new home. WEWS-TV 5 will replace WKYC-TV with the local telecasts. No additional details yet, but this change makes it likely that Jim Donovan will not be back on play-by-play since he remains under contract as the primary sports anchor on WKYC.

GRAND RAPIDS: WBBL 107.3 continues its rotation of co-hosts for its local morning show. Ray Bentley, who has been a college football analyst on ESPN since 2002, was dismissed from the morning show last week. The announcement came while Bentley was away from the station to work the Bowling Green vs. Toledo game for ESPN2.

Bentley's co-hosts included Bret Bakita, Tim Doctor, and Ryan Schuiling. Until or unless a replacement is named, Schuiling and Shaffer Abraham are co-hosting the show.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

CBS Telecast of Bills Likely Shuffled Off From Buffalo

It is quite probably, as of press time, as the monster snow storm in the Buffalo area this week has many convinced that the NFL game scheduled for Buffalo on Sunday (11/23) will be moved to another city outside of New York (state) and also be pushed back to Monday night.

If that happens, it means that CBS would lose the telecast and that ESPN would gain the telecast. ESPN would then show the game only on a regional basis (throughout much of New York state as well as nearby New Jersey and Connecticut cable/satellite systems which are considered as NYC primary), while the scheduled Monday Night Football game would air as usual everywhere else on ESPN.

Moving an NFL game to another venue and from Sunday afternoon to Monday night has only happened once in recent memory, which was a couple years back when the Metrodome roof collapse forced the Vikings to scramble to get their next home game played.

If and when this Sunday's game gets moved from Buffalo, it would actually mark the second Bills telecast which CBS will have lost for its home market. The Bills' season opener in Chicago was flexed over to Fox in return for CBS taking the Chicago vs. Detroit game on Thanksgiving Day (next week). Now, CBS would lose this telecast because of the likely move to Monday Night, when ESPN takes it over.

It will also be interesting to see how Fox Sports would or would not react for the Buffalo and Syracuse markets if the Bills game moves to Monday. As of press time, the Fox schedule for both markets has the Arizona at Seattle 4 PM telecast scheduled as its only game of the day. This was planned based on the Bills vs. Jets being in the 1 PM time slot. Among the early regional games on Fox is Detroit at New England. In addition to being a battle of two contending teams, it is a rare chance for the local Fox affiliates to have a Patriots telecast.

CBS has the doubleheader game on Sunday (Miami vs. Denver), which would seem to make such a change by Fox to the earlier (and better game) telecast possible. And let's face it. That part of the country should produce astronomical ratings for football (and probably for all live sports) this weekend with so many people being snowed in.

DALLAS: Normally a radio broadcast of the University of North Texas hosting Florida International, especially late in the season with both teams having losing records, would not be noteworthy, but this Saturday (11/22) is an exception.

UNT play-by-play voice George Dunham (for the past 25 years) will be calling the final home game of the season, and thus the final home game of his son Blake Dunham, the team's long snapper. Dunham, who also appears as a host on KTCK 1310 The Ticket, has been able to call every moment of his son's college playing career, as well as travel with him to and from the games.

The team's regular season finale will be the following week, on the road at U-T San Antonio.

CHICAGO: The recent ratings increases for WSCR 670 The Score and WMVP ESPN 1000 appear to have caused WGWG 87.7 The Game to reconsider. After finishing in 38th place overall in the most recent ratings with a dismal .5 rating, the station will be gone as a sports talker before the end of the year. The "Kap & Haugh Show" with David Kaplan and David Haugh is, however, expected to continue as a TV only midday show, airing from 9 AM to Noon on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Congrats to David Schuster of WSCR The Score on being named the "Harry Caray Sportscaster of the Year" for 2014. His 36 years of covering sports in Chicago no doubt contributed to this honor. I first knew and worked with him in the early 80's in Chicago, and could tell even then that he held the knowledge, expertise, and patience to cover the day-in day-out practices, press conferences, and games.

CINCINNATI: The strong season for the Bengals has propelled their radio contract to another extension through the 2019-20 season as a "triple cast". WCKY ESPN 1530 and WEBN 102.7 will continue as flagship stations, with WLW 700 also airing every Bengals broadcast which does not conflict with its Cincinnati Reds coverage.

The stations also announced that Dan Hoard will return as play-by-play voice, with 2015 being his fifth season in that role. Even more significant is that Dave Lapham will be back as analyst, with the '15 season making it 30 years for him in that role. The team related programming and coverage will continue on WCKY as well.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A "Silver" Lining For The Print Media

The publishing of a commentary by a pro sports commissioner is always huge media news regardless of the content. In this case, the opinion piece written by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also happens to take a unique stance regarding the future of sports betting in the U.S.

Whether you agree or disagree with Silver's stance on betting, there is a lot to be said about his doing this at this time, especially from a sports media standpoint. Silver's thoughts did not come from a press conference or a scheduled media interview. Instead, they showed up unannounced in the New York Times on Thursday (11/13).

This is a nice boost for print media. By doing this, Silver was not mis-quoted and not taken out of context. He had the time to put his thoughts into the exact words he chose, as well as to reach a wide general audience. Had Silver made these comments on a TV or radio show, especially a sports show, there could have been a much different spin placed on this.

It is interesting that Silver did not use any of the media outlets which are league partners to make these important thoughts known. I'm sure that executives at ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports are especially miffed that they were not "chosen" to be the first to air a commissioner talking about the need to regulate sports betting. But it is quite understandable.

This matter is really not strictly a sports issue even though the ramifications could highly impact the sports community. Cheers to Silver for being the first in his position to tackle this head on, and do so in the best manner possible.

Meanwhile, Sports Business Journal reports that the media rights dispute between MASN and Major League Baseball will still be heard by the New York Supreme Court, although the proceedings have been delayed from next month (12/15) until March. The report indicates that the Orioles are looking to explore the role that MLB Commissioner-Elect Rob Manfred may have played in the dispute.

Over at ESPN, it's college basketball mania as the regular season gets underway this weekend, even to the point of ESPN not doing a Friday night NBA telecast this week.

ESPN still won't get rid of Bobby Knight from its roster of analysts, however. Then again, if they didn't fire him after he uttered a profanity on the air and never apologized (among his other antics), I suppose they aren't looking to. At least the network has downgraded his assignments to "third man", working behind Len Elmore while Mike Patrick does play-by-play. This team will only be seen on select American Athletic Conference telecasts which will appear on ESPN2 or ESPN3.

On the MLB side, ESPN has announced that its 2015 MLB season opener will take place, weather permitting, from Chicago on Sunday April 5, 2015. With the World Champion Giants opening on the road for the first week (thus no ring ceremony on opening night), the network has selected the St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field as its opener. This rivalry game will feature the debut of Joe Maddon as Cubs manager.

Over at NBC, the Saturday telecast of Notre Dame Football will have one slight change that could be an indication of things to come starting next year. Doug Flutie, who has been getting increased exposure within the NBC and Comcast SportsNet family of late (such as analyst appearances specific to CSN Chicago), appears destined to be moved up to the primary analyst role on the N.D. telecasts.

The Nov. 15 telecast against Northwestern will have Flutie in the booth with Dan Hicks, while Mike Mayock is, literally, sent to the sidelines for this one. Unless Flutie fumbles, this looks to be his opportunity to become much more of a presence with NBC.

At CBS, the network has chosen its next two weeks of SEC game telecasts. Ole Miss vs. Arkansas airs on the network on Nov. 22, while the rivalry game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State airs on the 29th.

NEW YORK: The Mets radio team of Josh Lewin and Howie Rose will remain in place for at least the 2015 as the team's broadcasts begin their second season on WOR.

CHICAGO: Even as ESPN is ready for the Cubs by moving their opening game to Sunday Night April 5th, the Cubs still (as of press time) do not have an over-the-air TV deal in place for the coming season. The announcement that the team was parting ways with WGN-TV after 60 years could even be taken back within the month. It appears that the two local Fox TV stations (the heavily rumored destination for weeks) have backed off, as has Weigel Broadcasting which owns local independent stations. With nowhere else to turn, the Cubs might have to settle for a revenue share deal and have even fewer games televised over WGN-TV.

AKRON/CANTON: Sam Bourquin will be starting as afternoon drive host, and Sports Director) of WHBC-AM Canton starting next week (11/17) from 2 to 5 PM. In addition to local play-by-play, Berquin handes the Public Address for the NFL Hall of Fame Game each August in Canton.

Finally, for those who haven't seen it, here is the link (which was still valid at press time) to the Adam Silver piece in the New York Times:


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rockets Fans To 'Root' For New Launch

Finally some good news coming for Houston sports fans, as the path seems to have been cleared for Root Sports to begin a new regional sports channel to include the Rockets and likely the Astros telecasts.

Although this story was still breaking at press time, reports on the afternoon of 11/6 indicate that Comcast is more concerned with recovering money invested than preventing another provider from handling the telecasts.

This looks to be excellent news for Rockets fans, considering the team's undefeated start in the new NBA season and likely solid ratings as soon as fans can see the majority of the games. This could be another story for Astros fans, as revenue from Root Sports will likely be much less than promised from the now defunct Comcast SportsNet package, while millions of dollars in revenue could be in dispute for months to come.

LOUISVILLE: A sad day last week when the "Joe B. and Denny Show" radio show signed off for the final time after a run of more than ten years. Joe B. is Joe B. Hall, former coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats and Denny is Denny Crum, former coach of the University of Louisville. During their respective prime years, the rival schools wouldn't even think of playing each other and fans of both teams were passionate against the other team. Yet, in later years the two became good friends and it came across on the air as well.

To the show's credit, they treated that final broadcast last Thursday as a special event. Hall, in the Lexington studios of affiliate WVLK-FM, had former players Kenny Walker and Kyle Macy with him. In the Louisville studios of WKRD-AM, Crum had Darrell Griffith and Jerry Eaves with him.

The final show aired on the 18 station network the show had throughout Kentucky.

Not only will these two legends be missed by listeners, but the concept of former rival coaches analyzing and interviewing former players remains something that a lot of sports radio stations could and should be using.

CLEVELAND: The latest "decision" by LeBron James to return to Cleveland is already paying off in terms of ratings, and not just in the Cleveland/Akron area. The Cavaliers' opening telecast on TNT finished with 50% more viewers than its second night of NBA games last season. Even more significant is that the national rating was more than 110% higher than the "average" TNT audience for regular season games last year.

Locally, the same effect exists, which is a lot less surprising. Even with somewhat better expectations for the Knicks (the opponent for that telecast), the Cleveland/Akron market had a rating more than three times higher than the New York City market.

DALLAS: CBS Radio, which earlier this year added the Chicago Cubs broadcasts (starting next season) to its local sports portfolio, has now added the Rangers play-by-play for KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan, beginning a multi-year deal in the spring. The Rangers had been airing on KESN 103.3 ESPN since the start of the 2011 season, following a 15 year run on KRLD-AM prior to that.

Since KRLD-FM is also the Cowboys flagship, conflicts will result in the Rangers airing on KRLD-AM. Eric Nadel and Matt Hicks remain as the play-by-play team. The station is also expected to announce more Rangers specific programming to be added to its schedule.

St. LOUIS: Not that anyone doubted the Cardinals for even one second for having moved their games back to KMOX a couple of years back, but there is even more proof now that the move was the best one for all concerned. The former KFNS 590, which aired the Cardinals (which owned part of the station at one point) for the non-KMOX seasons, has gone completely off the air with the station owners more than one-half million dollars in debt.

St. AUGUSTINE FL: It is rare to find a small market taking such an outrageous approach to a local sports show, but 96.5 FM is doing just that. Long time broadcaster Dino Costa returns to the market and begins a 2 PM to 5 PM weekday show with Pat Paolini as co-host. Paolini owns a local sports bar, but is also known for a one-hour show he has done on the station for nearly three years.

The pair are calling the show "The Sports Radio Mafia", and plan to discuss national sports from a local perspective. If that title sticks, it shows how far along the media has come over the years. Can't help but recall how the demise of then prominent CBS-TV sportscaster Jack Whitaker began after he referred to the crowd at one of the holes during a CBS telecast of The Masters as "a mob". Now, these hosts and the station will be mentioning "Mafia" on a regular basis.

Then again, in some markets, it is rare to find ANY approach for local sports radio programming.