Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Let's "Kick Off" The New Year !

While we wait to see how the viewership will be for the college football playoff games on New Year's Eve and whether or not those will impact the ratings for the New Year's Day bowl games, it has been quite the media week for the active pro sports.

NHL fans in the U.S. got a holiday gift that will last for a long time with the surprising announcement that the TuneIn app is making NHL games available at no cost. TuneIn will offer both the home and away feeds, including multiple languages when available. The app will soon have a TuneIn player on NHL.com as well, and promises to have "Hockey Channel 30" up and running shortly, which will be available 24 hours a day.

This is a wonderful change from the app's NFL offerings, which are only available on a "premium tier" for which users pay $7.99 per month. It will be interesting to see how much this impacts the future participation of SiriusXM satellite radio, which, until now, had been the exclusive home of audio feeds of every NHL game.

It was a good Christmas holiday for NBA games, as ABC/ESPN showed a 6% increase in viewers of all five games aired consecutively on those networks on Christmas Day. The marquis matchup of Cleveland vs. Golden State was the most watched Dec. 25th telecast since 2011, which was part of the delayed season opening day. Keep in mind that ABC will not be airing Sunday doubleheaders during the second half of the season and will have options for which Sunday game to showcase unlike past seasons. Instead, ABC will begin its Saturday prime time series next week.

NFL fans having a day (Saturday 1/2) to recover from all of the college football telecasts on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, along with several games with playoff implications, should make for a strong Sunday (1/3) viewership. NBC has flexed the Green Bay vs. Minnesota game to Sunday Night Football in a battle for the NFC North title. Fox will be able to cover the race for best record by having both the Carolina and Arizona games as doubleheader games.

New York fans will again have the Jets and Giants playing at the same time on competing networks, although the Jets telecast figures to crush the ratings for the Giants game. As it was, this past Sunday (12/27) Night Football telecast of the Giants against the Vikings had the New York City market finish 21st in audience ratings among the major markets despite the Giants being the local team. The Minneapolis/St. Paul area, with a huge following for the surprising Vikings, finished first among all markets, with an impressive 42.5% of homes tuned in at some point.

Let's give a ton of credit to the NFL Network for staying at the stadium after the end of the overtime game between San Diego and Oakland on Christmas Eve. Despite the limited national interest in the game, it being played on Christmas Eve, and running well past midnight in the Eastern time zone, the crew knew to stay with it and capture the moment for Charles Woodson's final home game of his amazing career. The crew was ready and picked up Woodson's brief talk to the crowd at the stadium with no hesitation and no technical problems at all in a class move.

For baseball fans, as wonderful as it is that ESPN is giving us three live games on Opening Day Sunday in April, one of the network's "traditions" just won't go away. Granted, the Yankees and Red Sox could both be back in the A.L. East race at the same time in 2016. But ESPN continues to appear obligated to show the teams head-to-head no matter what the circumstances.

Two of the first six weeks of Sunday Night Baseball will feature, you guessed it, Yankees vs. Red Sox, which will be back-to-back weeks on May 1 and May 8. It doesn't stop there, as the same two teams have already been scheduled for July 17th, even though six Sundays before that have not yet had games scheduled.

By the way, the World Champion K.C. Royals have been scheduled a grand total of ONE time during that stretch, and that will be Opening Night, Sunday April 3rd vs. the Mets.

ESPN has scheduled its first ever Sunday Night Baseball doubleheader. On June 12th, the Pirates and Cardinals will be shown starting at 5 PM ET followed by the Giants vs. Dodgers at 8:30 PM ET.

SAN FRANCISCO/SAN JOSE: While KGMZ 95.7 The Game struggles to make a dent against the ratings of KNBR 680, The Game has decided to drop its ESPN Radio affiliation as of the first of the year. It's not because of local programming. The station is replacing with Fox Sports Radio during the 11 AM to 3 PM weekday spot, as well as during the 3 to 6 AM period and most of its weekend programming. No word yet on where ESPN Radio will be heard in the Bay Area.

KANSAS CITY: It's the same people hosting the same shows on the market's sports talkers, but clearly it is the sports scene that shapes the ratings. As much as the locals love their Royals, the off season clearly shows. The latest Nov.-Dec. ratings showed KCSP-AM losing literally more than two-thirds of the total audience it had from the Oct. - Nov. ratings during the Royals' championship run, going from a 10.6 to a 3.0 in the Nielsens. WHB-AM dipped from a 5.3 to a 2.9 during the same time frame, with the stations finishing #18 and #19 in overall market rank.

St. LOUIS: KFNS 590 continues its efforts to return to sports talk radio, adding Bob Ramsey and Jeff Vernetti to its lineup starting next week (1/4). They won't have much air time, at least not yet, as they will air from 11 AM to 1 PM with Howard Balzer now airing from 1 to 3 PM.

Ramsey and Vernetti move up the dial from WGNU 920, which will begin a Noon to 2 PM show with Chris Gardner and a blend of local writers including Benjamin Hochman and Ben Frederickson.

WGNU listeners will have to know what day of the week it is from 2 to 3 PM on weekdays. The station has chosen to go with "highlights" of its morning show in that time slot on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. On Mondays and Fridays, Kelly Chase, the voice of the Blues, will host his own show.

CHICAGO: WBBM-TV got some well deserved flack this past Sunday (12/27) for its NFL telecast decision. Most Sundays, no one would question the station's decision not to even try to compete against the popular Bears telecasts on Fox. But this was clearly not "most" Sunday.

Even though the Bears vs. Tampa telecast on Fox featured two teams already eliminated from playoff contention, WBBM-TV decided not to carry an early game, such as New England vs. the N.Y. Jets.

Instead, WBBM-TV aired the only game it could during the late afternoon slot, which was Jacksonville vs. New Orleans. This while WFLD-TV (Fox) aired the Green Bay vs. Arizona doubleheader game against it.


Ft. LAUDERDALE: The latest chapter is over for long time New York and Florida sportscaster Sid Rosenberg, who is suddenly no longer with WMEN 640. No reason was given, although the station was extremely fast in removing Rosenberg from its web site.

ATLANTA: 92.9 The Game has reportedly dismissed long time host (and former NFL analyst for CBS and NBC) Randy Cross from its midday show, according to Rodney Ho of the Atlanta Journal Constitution just before press time. Cross, a part of the morning show for about three years since 92.9 went to sports in 2012, had been shoved to middays earlier this year.

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When Will The Warrior Watch Begin?

As the NBA and its biggest fans prepare for the 5 live games on Christmas Day, it is interesting to note how the Association and its TV partners are not pumping up the incredible start by the Golden State Warriors as much as they should be. It would appear that the Warriors could become only the 2nd team in league history to win 70 games, and the possibility exists, as of now, of challenging the all-time season victory mark of 72 wins.

Because the NBA, as do the other pro leagues, limit the number of times each team can appear on national telecasts over the course of the season, you would think that exceptions could be made with the possibility of huge ratings and revenue for all concerned. Already, the NBA League Pass package has a record number of digital subscriptions, and the season is less than half finished. The latest single game choice list for this season is, of course, led by Warriors games.

Yet, as of press time, there are only five of their January games scheduled for the national platform, with three of those five being late night (10:30 PM ET) on weeknights. Two of those telecasts are on NBA-TV, those being Jan. 5 (vs. Lakers) and Jan. 25 (vs. San Antonio). The others are TNT telecasts on Jan. 14th (also vs. Lakers in a late game) and a major matchup vs. Cleveland at 8 PM ET on Jan. 18th. ESPN will air the Warriors at Chicago on Jan. 20th at 8 PM ET.

There is the valid argument that the networks would rather not risk flexing and using up their Warriors telecasts in order to save them for a possible 70th win and season record run in March and April. Here's hoping the Association and its TV partners will make some exceptions and jump aboard the "must see" bandwagon sooner than that, if the Warriors maintain their tremendous pace.

On the baseball side, Fox Sports is already planning a change in their MLB booth for the 2016 season, moving John Smoltz into the lead analyst role to work with Jack Buck for its lead games. Smoltz will replace Harold Reynolds, who is expected to continue with Fox's MLB coverage, whether as a studio analyst or moved to a regional broadcast team. Gone from the booth is writer/reporter Tom Verducci. It is great to see a network go from three back to two men in the booth.

If only these networks would start to reduce from seemingly hundreds of studio analysts, and give the best one a chance to talk for more than a few seconds at a time.

For all of its problems, Fox Sports did make a success out of their college football package this season, showing a roughly 15% increase in viewership over 2014. Helping the most were the Stanford vs. Notre Dame telecast on Nov. 28th and the Big Ten Championship game between Michigan State and Iowa.

Although the November into December radio ratings are, once again, swayed by listeners switching over to holiday music, it was not good for sports radio. One major exception is Boston, the leader in sports radio. Incredibly, both WBZ Sports Hub and WEEI-FM came in with their same ratings as last month, with WBZ-FM again finishing #2 in the market and WEEI-FM again at #6 in overall audience.

In New York City, WFAN has fallen from a 4.2 to a 3.2 Nielsen rating since October, while WEPN dipped .4 from the previous month. In Chicago, WSCR The Score 670 held steady, but passed up WMVP ESPN 1000 which dipped .5 from the previous month.

San Francisco's KNBR is still a solid #6 overall in the market, but is down 1.1 since October, while KGMZ The Game is down .3 from November. Dallas' sports stations were hit hard, even with the Cowboys' disappointing season. KRLD-FM remains the leader of the three sports stations, but has dropped from a 4.0 October rating to a December 2.6. The little bit of momentum starting to show in Los Angeles has stopped, with all four sports stations dropping over the past month.

CHICAGO: It took just over two years, but Kendall Gill has returned to Comcast SportsNet Chicago as a studio analyst for its Chicago Bulls telecasts. Gill had been involved in a physical altercation in late 2013 with a reporter who disagreed with his analysis. Now, all is forgiven, and Gill is back, now sharing the role with Will Perdue.

DENVER: It gets confusing, but KKZN 760 will soon become KDSP Denver Sports 760 and will air mostly Fox Sports Radio programming during the key weekday times. It appears that only the 10 AM to Noon slot with Dan Logan and Susan Wargin will be the only local programming during the week. ESPN Radio will move over to The Fan 104.3 and/or KEPN The Zone 1600.

LUBBOCK: Actually, this is even more confusing than the affiliation switch in Denver. What was KTTU Sports 104.3 has been moved over to 97.3 KLZK as of last Friday (12/18). A swap of stations between two owners resulted in a total of five stations in the market moving to new frequencies on the same day. If you think the listeners have it bad, consider the advertising agencies that have to deal with different stations handling the various formats.

And on that note, have a Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The NFL Revenue "Stream" To Rise

As we suspected it would, the NFL is already taking steps toward additional free online streaming of selected games as quickly as next season. The success of the Yahoo stream of the unattractive matchup of Buffalo vs. Jacksonville from London back on October 25th in generating a significant audience in the 9:30 AM ET time slot has the NFL salivating.

According to Sports Business Daily, the NFL, while preparing to accept bids from the major networks for the Thursday Night Football package for 2016, has sent specifications for streaming rights to the likes of Yahoo, Google, and Apple for the entire package. The speculation is that a streaming package would include the same advertising as will appear on the "winning" network telecasts as well as on NFL Network.

What that method would do is protect the "winning" TV network by providing the additional exposure for advertising it secures, instead of taking away from it, and provides an added incentive for the networks to perhaps bid even higher.

The "winning" streaming service would be able to sell advertising minutes within the positions which are allotted for local TV stations (and local cable/satellite systems when only on NFL Network), and thus be able to generate significant revenue, along with visitors, from their rights fees. Of course, the NFL sits in the position of not having to accept a streaming bid, although that is highly unlikely. Yahoo reportedly paid $15 million for the streaming rights to the one telecast this season, which was, in reality, not an attractive game. That would be huge dollars over a 16 week package (not including
Thanksgiving night on NBC as part of its Sunday package).

It appears that the NFL would like to have its decision on its Thursday Night Football network in place prior to the upcoming Super Bowl. The package would be the same as this season and in 2014, with the over the air network airing eight of the 16 weeks in simulcast with NFL Network, and NFL Network airing the remainder nationally along with stations in the local markets each week.

This week (Dec. 19/20), NFL Network airs two games, adding Saturday's N.Y. Jets at Dallas game in addition to the Thursday (12/17) game. As a result, it's double duty for the lead announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. The pair will call the game in Dallas on Saturday night and then be in Pittsburgh on Sunday for the CBS doubleheader game against Denver at 4:25 PM ET.

Next week, Nantz and Simms are expected to call the Thursday Night (Christmas Eve) game between K.C. and Oakland, although CBS has yet to reveal their destination for Sunday Dec. 27th as of press time.

Some bad news this week about a couple of significant sports media personalities. We wish a speedy and full recovery to John Madden following open heart surgery. San Francisco Bay Area fans noticed that Madden was not making his usual weekday appearances on KCBS 740 over the past month, which turned out to be because news of the surgery was kept under wraps.

Sorry to learn of the passing of long time baseball reporter Phil Pepe, who died at the age of 80 from a heart attack last weekend. Pepe covered the Yankees for two major NYC papers from 1961 (the Roger Maris year) through 1989, when he handled morning sports reports for WCBS Radio for another 15 years.

Long time baseball fans who enjoy biographies also remember Pepe as author and/or editor of books about Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Gary Carter, and Tim McCarver among others.

CHICAGO: It went from "no word" to "no doubt" on the announcement that Ron Coomer is returning to the Cubs' radio booth as analyst for his 3rd season in that role. Speculation had been that the Cubs were considering a replacement to work along with Pat Hughes with the games moving to WSCR 670 The Score starting in 2016.

SAN DIEGO: Fox Sports San Diego has added Julie Alexandria to its coverage of the Padres games starting with the coming season. Alexandria previously hosted Mets Weekly for SNY and been a part of MASN's coverage of the Nationals.

ATLANTA: Aiyana Cristal is joining WGCL-TV as a reporter, starting early January. Cristal was most recently with Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

HATTIESBURG MS: A sad story for WFOR 1400, as the sports station remained off the air (at press time) for more than 36 hours with no timetable for returning to the airwaves. The building including all of the studios was destroyed in a fire earlier this week (12/15), while a local firefighter was injured during the battle. The station is streaming Fox Sports Radio until the situation can be remedied.

TOLEDO: Another of those "only in radio" stories for WLQR 106.5 The Ticket. The station is owned by Cumulus which has a partnership with CBS Sports Radio. Yet, and actually to its credit, WLQR dumped CBS Sports Radio because it was able to pick up ESPN Radio. Then again, this station dumped ESPN about three years ago to pick up CBS Sports. Also to its credit, the station continues with Bob Frantz and Mike Miller (local) for afternoon drive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Leagues Bringing The Content

Even with the concern about leagues and teams taking control of more and more content aimed toward fans, some of it appears to be a positive instead of reducing the negative.

MLB Network, which is delivering on more than 30 hours of live coverage from the Winter Meetings in Nashville, is also set to debut some of the specials it has been producing over the past few months. Later this week (Thursday 12/10) brings the initial showing in prime time of "Royal In Kansas City - 30 Years Later". The documentary includes recalling the team's 1985 World Championship run and then goes current day to feature the team's run to the current World Series championship.

On Friday (12/11) it will be the debut of a documentary about Lenny Randle, one of baseball's biggest characters in the 70's and 80's.

Perhaps even more interesting will be the special about the Astrodome in Houston, which opened 50 years ago, and will also include special events held there in addition to baseball. This show will debut on Tuesday (12/15).

The NBA has partnered with an international digital technology company to develop what it terms an "instant" and custom highlights opportunity. Among the eventual capabilities will be the ability to quickly provide custom highlights during and after games tailored to include specific players. One application reportedly being planned would allow players from foreign countries to be highlighted during and after their games specific to viewers in their home countries.

The "Avgen" platform will also be used to provide alerts and highlights for special accomplishments, such as when a player scores 40 or more points or sets a team or league record.

NBC Sports took the "How quickly they forget!" approach by flexing its Sunday Dec. 20th game, dropping the originally scheduled Cincinnati at San Francisco telecast. It wasn't that long ago when the Bengals were among the league's unbeaten teams, but are now looking to stay ahead of Pittsburgh to win their division. 

This move leaves CBS with the Bengals at 49ers game AND Denver at Pittsburgh among its late game choices. It will be interesting to find out early next week which game will get the bigger priority. NBC picked up the Arizona at Philadelphia telecast to make for a rare national showcase of the Cardinals.

NEW YORK: It has been so long that it doesn't seem like that big of a deal anymore, but Mike & The Mad Dog have agreed to reunite on the air - for one night only. At least as of now. Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo will co-host a charity event at Radio City on March 30th. The pair were, of course, long time co-hosts on WFAN for many years. Francesa is reportedly under contract at WFAN through 2017.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Sorry to learn of the passing of long time sports talker Ken Beatrice, who passed away on Sunday (12/6) at the age of 72. Beatrice is best remembered for his 18 years on WMAL's Sports Call, especially when it came to the NFL.

PHOENIX: Mike Ferrin has been added to the Diamondbacks radio team for the coming season. Ferrin will call some innings to spell Greg Schulte, as well as host the pre and post-game shows on the Diamondbacks Network. He is expected to give up his hosting role on MLB Radio Network, although nothing official has been announced yet.

DENVER: KKFN 104.3 The Fan has chosen its new Program Director. Armen Williams will begin in that role after the first of the year, but is not expected to host a regular air shift. Williams is leaving San Antonio's WTMM 104.5 where he co-hosted afternoons for the past three years.

COEUR D'ALENE: KVNI-AM has dropped its sports talk programming in what is reportedly not a temporary move. The station's transition to all Christmas music is expected to switch to an 80's music format late this month. The station is, as of now, expected to continue to air Seattle Mariners baseball, but no word yet about continuing its University of Idaho football broadcasts next season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What You See Beats What You Get

It's wonderful to see even more of the technology available being used to help us as sports fans, especially in terms of game coverage. We have seen two more instances within the past few days.

Let's start with NBC and how it helped viewers to watch the all-important New England vs. Denver game this past Sunday night (11/29).

Perhaps as important as the result (with New England losing its first game of the entire season) was how NBC used its virtual "field technology" to show viewers the yard line numbers over a snow covered field. Fans in attendance could not see any of the yard line numbers as they watched, while millions of viewers could. While we certainly understand that the networks use virtual technology a lot more often to be able to change advertisements only visible on the telecasts, using it to enhance the actual game telecast made a big difference.

Another use of game related technology is being implemented by Rogers Communications for NHL fans, targeting its NHL GameCenter Live feature. Granted, this is a subscription service (at this time) enabling fans who stream out of market NHL games not available via TV at the time.

Some will say that this adaptation of the technology is intrusive, and that is a valid argument. Some fans will love this. Rogers Communications has a deal in place enabling the targeting of users who are online but not currently watching an NHL game by "targeting" ads which say "See the goal you just missed!" within seconds after a goal has been scored.

The company is experimenting with this feature at pre-determined times each week through December and plans to re-evaluate. From here, this is a great idea but needs to be used differently.

This could be better used as a separate feature, either subscription or advertiser based, for which fans could sign up for and be able to track favorite teams and/or fantasy players.

Either way, this is another positive use of available technology by the sports media.

Although advertising a movie is hardly sports media, it is most interesting to note how the major networks which spend billions for NFL telecast rights are generating income from taking ads for a movie which the NFL will not like. The movie, "Concussion", which opens on Christmas, focuses on a doctor who fought against the NFL with his research on the effects of long term injuries and medical issues on former NFL players.

Yet, research by iSpot.tv agency shows that the movie has already spent more than $1 million for ads on CBS, and more than $900,000 for ads specifically on ESPN, including inside of NFL game programming. Commercials are also appearing during NFL games on NBC and Fox, as well as during select college football telecasts and some NBA games.

Thanksgiving NFL proved to be red hot for NBC and CBS last week. The Carolina vs. Dallas game on CBS came in as the most watched NFL game of the season thus far, including prime time. (Fox certainly isn't happy about that, considering that they would normally have had this NFC matchup, but it was moved to CBS because of the "all NFC Thanksgiving".)

The prime time matchup between Chicago and Green Bay then finished with the largest Thanksgiving prime time audience ever (with this being the 10th year of the prime time turkey matchup). It now stands as NBC's 2nd most viewed prime time game, being only the memorable 2012 battle between Dallas and Washington for a playoff spot.

BOSTON: Going back to last week, it's interesting to note that sports radio continues strong like no other market, with the two sports stations again holding down two of the top five stations in the market for the October-November radio ratings. WBZ-FM Sports Hub is now #3 overall even with a slight drop from the previous ratings period. WEEI-FM also dropped from the previous month, but holds at #5 in the market.

Word is, via the Boston Herald, that WEEI-FM is in the process of re-working its deal for the Red Sox games, which reportedly has been costing the station upwards of $17 million per year. Nothing official yet, but this story came out just days before the Red Sox signing of free agent David Price at a price of well over $200 million dollars over the long term.

Given the fierce competition between WEEI and WBZ for the sports audience, and this major expense for the Red Sox, it will be interesting to see how far the current negotiations go, and how much WEEI can spend to retain the broadcast rights. One more factor is the replacing of Don Orsillo in the TV booth with Dave O'Brien from the radio booth. Looks like WEEI may be facing its biggest challenge in quite some time.

MIAMI: Whatever the reason, Marlins fans are disappointed at the team's (reported) decision to drop Tommy Hutton as an analyst for its telecasts on Fox Sports Florida after 19 seasons. Fox Sports Florida issued a statement claiming the decision was a "joint decision" between the network and the team, while Hutton immediately indicated he does not plan to retire, even with more than 50 years in baseball including his playing career.

MILWAUKEE: The Bucks are setting up for a local media battle with their new "official" participation with The Fan 105.7/1250 along with sister (music) stations WMYX 99.1 and WXSS 103.7. The Fan will air all Bucks games which conflict with other local play-by-play airing on current and long time flagship WTMJ 620. With the new agreement, The Fan will also air extended Bucks post-game shows and will be adding regular Bucks related programming, including scheduled coach and player appearances.

The team reportedly buys its air time to appear on WTMJ again this season, but also sees the promotional benefits of partnering with the group of stations.

However, WTMJ continues its strong ratings over the years, and is dominant in the team's target audience. Our thinking is that if (or when) the team moves over to The Fan and the other group, that WTMJ would be likely to minimize its coverage of the Bucks and cost the team the significant local exposure it currently receives. WTMJ would be able to cover a lot more of the Brewers and Packers, and barely mention the Bucks, giving the appearance that interest in the team has faded.

We will find out within the next year is WTMJ goes along with a more beneficial deal for the team in order to maintain the Bucks flagship status, or lets them go and dumps the coverage.

Monday, November 23, 2015

College Football Ratings On The Rise As Well

It appears that it's not only the NFL enjoying strong ratings this football season. Even college football is making a bigger impact on the TV ratings this season.

The Ohio State vs. Michigan State showdown this past Saturday (11/21) serves as another solid example even though it was played in the late afternoon time slot and not in prime time. ABC/ESPN came away with its highest rated late afternoon game since November 2006 (Ohio State vs. Michigan) and its highest rated college football game of this season to date.

Four of the top five best local ratings markets were, as you would expect, in Ohio, with the 42 rating for Columbus finishing ahead of Dayton, Cleveland, with Cincinnati finishing at #5 among local markets. The #4 ratings market was Detroit, the largest Michigan State market. Clearly the network benefitted from the game being tight all the way to the end. That this game had higher ratings than the Alabama - LSU game the previous week also speaks well for the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, the rumblings have started about the NFL's Thursday Night Football package, since the CBS contract for the first half of the season is now completed. The two contracts for one year each which CBS had were both announced in January. The Hollywood Reporter says that Fox, NBC, and Turner Sports have already expressed interest in bidding, along with CBS.

No indication at all from the NFL yet as to whether they will seek still another one-year deal or go for the long term. More importantly, there is no indication yet as to whether or not CBS will have an exclusive bidding window and/or the right to match another offer based on having had the package for these past two seasons. We also don't know whether or not NFL Network will continue to simulcast these games.

On the regional level, the fighting continues between Comcast (cable provider) and YES Network and it appears this could go on for a while. Nearly 1,000,000 subscribers in New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and parts of Delaware have been without YES Network for about one month in a dispute over costs.

There is the possibility that Comcast is saving money by not paying YES Network to air the channel until March when spring training telecasts begin, even though YES also shows the New York Nets NBA games. At least this is not like the L.A. Dodgers situation, because subscribers have the option of switching carriers to continue to watch the YES Network at any time.

ESPN has worked with MLB to make the opening of the regular season into a special event more than ever starting with the 2016 season. The network revealed that it has moved two more opening games up to Sunday April 3rd and will, weather permitting, air a live triple header of opening games that day. In addition, ESPN continues its plan to air four live opening games on Monday April 4th.
The Sunday 4/3 games will be St. Louis at Pittsburgh at 1 PM ET, Toronto at Tampa at 4 PM ET (which will be played since it's from an indoor stadium), and then the Mets at Kansas City at 8:30 PM ET in the first-ever Opening Day rematch of World Series participants.

On the radio side, the ratings for the October-November 2015 period are being released this week. Although the Boston ratings were not released as of press time, there are a couple of interesting developments from the larger markets.

In Chicago, WMVP ESPN 1000 jumped to #18 overall, having risen .9 in just the past two months. As a result, it has clearly passed WSCR 670 The Score, which has held steady during that same period, finishing this ratings book at #22 overall. This jump comes during the first full ratings period with David Kaplan as an early afternoon host and with the Bulls NBA season underway in WMVP's final season as flagship station.

San Francisco's KNBR dropped by .9 since the previous ratings period, although it still finished in the top five stations. KGMZ-FM The Game increased by .6 during the same time to its best ever showing as a sports station.

In Dallas, KRLD-FM dropped in its rating from the previous month, but finished #9 overall in the market, well ahead of WTCK The Ticket (which dropped) and KESN-FM which held steady.

DETROIT: The Lions will be making a major off-season move, but this time it will be on the radio dial. WJR 760 has a new five year contract to become the flagship station once again beginning with the 2016 season. The Lions were heard on WJR from 1948 through 1988.

What makes this significant is that the Lions become the 2nd major Detroit franchise to break away from WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket within the past few months, as the Pistons have just moved over to WMGC-FM 105.1 The Game as well.

The Ticket continues to air the Tigers and Red Wings, but has also released Mike Valenti from his afternoon hosting duties. What makes the Valenti dumping interesting is that co-host Terry Foster announced his intention to remain with the 2 to 6 PM show at the same time. In fact, Foster is giving up his reporter position with the Detroit Free Press after nearly 27 years with the publication in order to remain with The Ticket.

There are some expressing the thought that the Lions left The Ticket (often the #1 station in the market) because of the increased amount of on air criticism of the team (which, as of this week is 3 - 7 for the season), and that it also led to the dumping of Valenti. Yet, if that was the case, the move would have been to let Valenti have his say about the team and give his audience even more reasons to tune in after Lions losses.

PITTSBURGH: No change in radio station status for the Steelers, as WDVE 102.5 and WBGG ESPN 970 have a new three-year extension to continue as the flagship station. As part of the new deal, the "Steelers Nation" HD Radio channel on WDVE HD2 will expand to eight hours per day of "original" content. WDVE has served as the flagship station since 1999.

PORTLAND: A four year contract is a rarity, especially in the world of sports talk radio, but The Game 750 and 102.9 has signed John Canzano to an extension to retain his Noon to 3 PM show, which is the longest running show on the station (since 2008). Canzano is expected to continue his reporting duties for KGW-TV, which is a separate deal.

Happy Turkey to all!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Teams Far From Technically Challenged

It's an interesting trend that while the technology that fans enjoy and the media utilizes in its sports coverage is also becoming more significant among leagues and teams at the same time.
Looks as though the leagues and teams are becoming concerned about even more than trying to control the content which the fans get to see well beyond the increased number of "team produced" features.
Within the past week, both Bloomberg and ESPN have reported about a new partnership between MLB and a company called Sport Integrity Monitor. The London based company now has its first U.S. based league as a partner. In this instance, the public is not a part of the partnership, as the purpose is to provide real time monitoring of betting lines to league officials.
Basically, this service will allow MLB officials, starting with the 2016 season, to have up-to-the-minute data from sportsbooks and what it terms "wagering outlets" from around the world. The reasoning behind that is that MLB officials could detect if there is a major discrepancy in the betting lines among sources within the betting lines, and be able to track when such changes were made.
This is designed to be an investigative tool to allow MLB to monitor in the event of leaks of inside information which could suddenly change one or very few of the betting lines but not all. This is done with the integrity of the game in mind.
Although nothing yet has been announced of a similar nature from any of the other U.S. pro leagues, this does bring to mind the N.Y. Times column from a few months back written personally by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The column included Silver making a reference to the need to have "mandatory monitoring" of unusual betting line movement.
With this action, and the recent news regarding the future of the major daily fantasy sites, it shows that technology is serving multiple purposes for the teams as well as the fans.
Along these lines, leagues and teams continue to announce technology advances in order to increase and enhance their presentations to the fans, occasionally overstepping media boundaries even though major media sources are paying them a combined billions of dollars.
Fans could also benefit from some of this, although media rights fees and restrictions are likely to add a middle level and probably additional challenges in order to do so. One of the most interesting of these is from a company called Thuuz, which is a take on the word "enthusiastic". The company is in the process of forming partnerships with TV providers and wireless carriers to distribute an app to sports fans.
For example, as a subscriber to a partnered cable/satellite service, your phone could receive instant alerts about scoring plays and key developments from games which are being shown on networks and local stations currently airing on that service. The app they have developed allows users to set up custom alerts for favorite teams and/or games. The "catch" for fans is that they will not be able to acquire the mobile app directly, as it will need to come through a marketing partner.
Several pro teams have already started or are in the final planning stages of enhanced technology within stadiums and arenas as a boost to the fans actually attending the games. Things have come a long way since the days of baseball and football fans bringing a portable radio to the games to listen to the radio call while they watch.
During the World Series, Snapchat, with assistance from STATS, began a feature allowing Geofilters users attending the games to add real-time scores to their photos and some video snaps. This is also available now in a couple of NBA arenas.

The NBA has a new media rights partnership which enables some live telecasts to be available on several international airlines, along with NBA news and related content. This service also includes the English Premiere League and Rugby World Cup. Along these lines, the Sacramento Kings have partnered with a company which allows virtual reality streaming of home games to various parts of the world, targeting fans who could not possibly come to the games.
The Brooklyn Nets are among NBA teams promoting free Wi-Fi in the Barclays Center, basing that on the theory that fans commenting about the game and the arena experience immediately on social media is helpful for ticket and merchandise sales.
At the Verizon Center in D.C., the Wizards and Capitals offer a virtual reality station for fans can put on a special headset during intermissions or before a game and access game and player related content, which the teams also promote via mobile and social media they originate.
Some NFL fans are enjoying in-stadium mobile technology at Levi's Stadium (49ers), with an app showing fans the waiting time at concession stands and restrooms.
This all should raise the question about team and league controlled content and the control about what is being reported to the fans.

LOS ANGELES: Joe Davis, handling play-by-play of baseball, football, and basketball in the relative obscurity of Fox Sports 1 has landed a plum assignment for the 2016 baseball season. Davis has been named to handle TV play-by-play for 50 of the Dodgers road games next season as fans begin to brace for having Dodgers baseball without Vin Scully after next year. The 27 year old Davis is expected to continue with Fox Sports next fall, but chances are a good performance could change all that if the Dodgers wish to retain him. Charlie Steiner will handle the lead TV play-by-play role for the remaining road games, except for those within California which Scully will probably travel to.
It remains to be seen (literally) whether or not more than 30% of the L.A. market will even have access to the team's TV games by next season.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Same Time Same Network in Baltimore/D.C.

As we suspected, the local fallout in the Baltimore/D.C. market from last week's court decision regarding rights fees for the Nationals from MASN is having an impact on two other pro sports teams which serve that area.

Prior to last week, the speculation was that The NBA Wizards and NHL Capitals could become a part of the Monumental Network, which is owned by Ted Leonsis, who happens to own both teams. Talk was that these teams would be headed for a controlled package for their games including streaming, which would abandon CSN Washington as soon as each team's current contract allowed.

Since the court ruling (which we covered last week - see below), the word is (as also reported in Sports Business Daily) that Leonsis is now planning to partner with CSN Washington instead of forming his own network. The SBD report claims that Leonsis would gain 33% ownership in the network and will enter in to a lon term agreement through the 2031-32 seasons. The Wizards would generate more than double their current TV rights fees in the process.

Such an arrangement would be nothing new for Comcast SportsNet, which has partnered with teams in other markets, usually with success. Chicago is a positive example, with the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox each holding what is are believed to be 20% equity each. Houston was not a good example, with CSN Houston folding and ROOT Sports taking over the telecasts for the Rockets and Astros last year.

It would seem that MASN, which struggles for quality programming during the baseball off-season while being overloaded with both Orioles and Nationals telecasts in season, was either not in consideration by Leonsis or did not make a worthwhile bid for the rights to one or both teams.

As a result, Baltimore/D.C. area fans will be asked to pay for these two networks, likely whether they want to or not, even though both will have a string of months with little to no quality live telecasts every year. The ideal result, which most likely would never happen, would be for MASN and CSN Washington to do a swap of one team each. If one network had, say, the Orioles and Capitals while the other had the Nationals and Wizards, each would have year-round live pro sports. Instead, they'll both be regional networks with what we could term "regional calendars" for years to come.

CBS-TV hit the jackpot with its LSU vs. Alabama prime-time telecast last weekend (11/7). It finished as the most watched college football game of the season to this point, with a ratings and viewer increase of more than 20% over last year's matchup of these two powerhouse teams.

SAN FRANCISCO: As the Warriors begin defense of their NBA Championship, the local fans have taken notice. It's only a couple of weeks into the new regular season, and the TV ratings for the Warriors telecasts are already up an average of 47% compared with the same time frame of last season.

CHICAGO: DePaul University basketball will return to WSCR 670 The Score for its 19th season, although the announcement was only made within the past week. Actually, WSCR will air 22 of the games, farming out the rest due to conflicts. Zach Zaidman returns for his 11th season on play-by-play, while local sportscaster Jeff Blanzy returns for his 5th season as analyst.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Two MLB Teams Still Fighting Over $20 Million In Media Rights

The media war between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals reached the New York Supreme Court this week until Justice Lawrence Marks vacated an earlier arbitration decision regarding the TV rights dispute between the two teams. At issue is what would amount to $20 million in additional annual revenue for the Nationals from MASN, the regional TV network which televises both the Orioles and Nationals games within that combined market.

MASN has been paying about $40 million per season for the Nationals TV rights, with the arbitration decision to have been made as to whether or not this amount should increase to $60 million. The court ruling, however, does not mean that the Nationals cannot or will not receive the additional amount, instead meaning that the Supreme Court will not issue the ruling.

Sports team owners are, of course, expected to be disappointed with this decision, while MASN and other TV networks will react positively from this decision, which potentially saves them millions of dollars.

This is, at this stage, more of a positive for fans and for consumers. If the TV network needs to pay out an additional $20 million for one year, it sets up still another fee increase for carriers, which, of course, results in even higher monthly costs for consumers for their cable/satellite, whether they watch either team's games or not.

Ever since Washington got the Nationals prior to the 2005 season, the Nats and Orioles have had their share of disputes as the O's have fought to maintain their territorial rights. The Orioles own the majority of MASN, with the Nationals under an arrangement to eventually own 33%, but no more of the network. Even under those ownership circumstances, both teams were paid $40 million per season under the current arrangement.

From here, both teams generating the same revenue from the network seems justified, especially given the majority ownership of one of the teams.

While the World Series brought Fox Sports a nice ratings return, it's already back to "normal" this week. Now Fox Sports 1 brings us still another new show, starting next week (Mon. Nov. 9th). Technically Tuesday Nov. 10th, since the new show will air at Midnight ET. For some reason, FS1 will debut "TMZ Sports", a nightly half hour show spotlighting the "celebrity and lifestyles" of current and former sports personalities.

Oh well. At least Fox blessed us by putting all five World Series games on the main network and not on Fox Sports 1, allowing more fans be able to find the telecasts.

Even with Game 5 of the World Series on this past Sunday (11/1), NBC lucked out by having one of the NFL season's marquis games on against it when then unbeaten Green Bay took on unbeaten Denver. The 23,000,000 viewers of Sunday Night Football made this the highest ratings ever for a SNF game up against a World Series telecast.

Fox Sports acknowledged such on the air, as those already watching the finale between the Royals and Mets were given a sudden on-screen game recap, while Joe Buck said, "For those who watched the football game.......".

Yet, there is one curious part about that. I happened to have been watching the World Series telecast at that point, since the outcome of the football game had been established well before that. Most fans know that Joe Buck calls the lead NFL game for Fox (except during World Series time). However, Buck never mentioned which football game, or, more importantly, the final score. I'm certain I wasn't the only sports fan who, upon not being told the final score, was curious as to how the football game ended, and switched over to NBC to find out that score.

All Joe Buck had to do was say something like, "as Denver handed Green Bay its first loss of the season by a score of....." and he would have held more viewers. Granted, Buck could well have been under orders from the network not to do that, but this was the perfect time to promote upcoming NFL telecasts on Fox. Keep in mind that this coming Sunday (11/8), Buck and Troy Aikman will call the Green Bay at Carolina game (with Carolina coming in unbeaten) to the majority of the country, including Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, and Seattle, with are leading baseball and football markets. Still another missed opportunity by Fox Sports.

NBC also chose to flex schedule for its Nov. 22nd (Week 11) SNF telecast, understandably picking up the Cincinnati at Arizona game. As a result, CBS picked up the Chicago at St. Louis telecast as an early regional game on Nov. 15th, taking that one away from Fox. That will be a big ratings win for WBBM-TV Chicago for November, as the station will now have the Bears games on consecutive Sundays, as the Bears host Denver in a CBS early regional game the following week.

WASHINGTON D.C.: No more "Man Cave" for The Team, as WTEM ESPN 980 dropped its local morning show right in the middle of the Redskins' season, admitting the ratings were not strong enough. Although the station plans to include some specific local content during morning drive, it is back to airing Mike & Mike. The "Man Cave" just started early in 2015, with a quick check of the ratings showing some growth within the past three months in 25-54 males. It will be interesting to see if anyone else in the market picks up on (former) co-hosts Chris Paul and Jason Reid. This is a clear victory for WJFK-FM 106.7 The Fan and it's "Sports Junkies" show, which is local.

DETROIT: WMGC 105.1 The Game, while getting crushed in the ratings by WXYT 97.1 The Ticket, is adjusting its weekday lineup in an effort to grow its audience. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press has joined Matt Dery to co-host the 3 to 7 PM spot. The Noon to 3 PM spot now has three co-hosts, Sean Baligian, Tom Mazawey, and Marc Fellhauer.

CHICAGO: Sorry to learn of the passing of long time Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Markus at the age of 81. Markus wrote for the Tribune from 1959 into 1996, and definitely fit into the "nice guy" category. My favorite memory of him was the time during the late 70's when he was asked to fill in as an analyst for a local college basketball telecast. Always one to thoroughly prepare for an assignment, he came up with some amazing insights during the first few minutes of the game, and then stated the obvious the rest of the way. After the game, he admitted that "I used up all of my notes in the first two minutes!".

KNOXVILLE: Russell Smith and Rich Daugherty quickly found a new radio home, taking over 3 to 6 PM on Fox Sports Knoxville 1340. Their show had been airing on 94.3 FM which changed format a couple weeks back.

JACKSONVILLE: WJSJ 105.3, which had been completely silent since April, has returned to the airwaves, becoming CBS Sports 105.3. However, this becomes the third sports station in the market, and it's not as if the Jaguars are the talk of the town this season. The market already has WFXJ SportsRadio 930 and WJXL 1010 and 92.5.

BEMIDJI MN: From this small market comes another classic radio management story. WBUN-FM 104.5 is new call letters and a new format as its music format has moved and the station is now all sports. At this point, the station is picking up KXFN The Fan from Minneapolis for the majority of its weekday programming. Why is this a "classic" story? Because Hubbard Broadcasting, which now owns the Bemidji station and made this decision, does not own KXFN Minneapolis. It does own Minneapolis station KSTP 1500, which airs (Are you ready for this?) all sports programming.

Adding to the fun is that Bemidji already has a local ESPN Radio outlet which airs on 1450 AM and 94.9 FM.

BENTON HARBOR MI: What a nice idea! WSJM 1400 Sports Radio aired its morning show this past Friday (10/30) live from Benton Harbor High School. The reason? To salute the school's football team prior to its playoff game.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two National Telecasts - Two Mishaps On Same Big Night

Two games on national TV on competing networks on Tuesday (10/27) night, and two screw-ups to report. Obviously, the Fox Sports mishap with the power outage in their production truck during Game 1 of the World Series tops the list. That wasn't their fault, but it was ironic that it happened during one of the few times they had a big audience and didn't bury a post-season telecast on FS1.

They had an audience indeed. The overnight rating was 31% higher than last year's Game 1, and the highest Game 1 since 2009 which had New York (Yankees) playing Philadelphia. While NYC had a nice 26.2 rating and 43 share, Kansas City went bonkers, with an astounding 57.3 rating and a 78 audience share.

In Texas, where both the Rangers and Astros were long gone from this post-season, the overnight numbers showed at Austin actually had higher viewership than Dallas (for Game 1) while the Houston's audience came in as only the 54th highest rated market.

Over at TNT, about an hour after the Fox truck power loss, the network was showing its NBA season opening game from Chicago against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, which was a tight game going into the final minute of the 4th quarter and Chicago barely holding on to its lead. A basket by the Cavs, which was from near the three-point circle but a two-point basket, actually made the score now 97-95 in favor of Chicago.

Yet, the on screen score changed to 98-95. Seconds later, it changed to 100-92. As play continued with Chicago in possession, the score then changed to 98-95. Play-by-play voice Kevin Harlan (fresh off the Sunday NFL webcast from London) admitted the confusion about the actual score. Finally, the score was changed to the correct 97-95. Good thing it did. That wound up being the final score of the game.

Then, in the usual hurry to sign off right after the game (without an instant interview even though the game ended before the bottom of the hour and in plenty of time for the Golden State game telecast to begin), there was not even an apology or acknowledgement of the graphics mishap.

One other things both Fox and TNT had in common that night. They both insist on having a cast of thousands in the studio for analysis. By the time they introduce their studio cast and joke around during the studio segments, each analyst only gets a few seconds to chime in about each topic. Too many cooks, and not nearly enough food.

The latest radio ratings, these for the September/October 2015 period, show just how sports crazed the Boston area is with amazing ratings for both of the rival sports talk stations. Even the biggest of sports fans couldn't have dreamed that two of the top four stations (and this is overall audience, not just males 25-54) in the marketplace.

WBZ-FM Sports Hub jumped to a 7.1 rating (from a 4.9 just two ratings books earlier) and placed at #2 overall in the market. Yet, rival WEEI-FM showed a similar rise, going from a 4.6 to the now 6.3 rating this month, coming in at #4 in the market. That is nothing short of amazing, representing high points for both stations.

This helps to prove my point that content makes the difference for sports stations ahead of specific hosts and shows.

New York City also shows this trend, with WFAN 660 showing a one-half point rating increase over the previous month during the Yankees run to the post-season. (This was The Fan's first season as Yankees radio flagship.) WEPN ESPN 98.7 also increased, by .4 and had its best showing since May 2015. While WOR 710 is not sports talk, the Amazin' Mets made a huge difference. During this year 2015, WOR has more than doubled its overall audience, now riding its tenth consecutive ratings book with either an increase or holding steady.

In Chicago, WBBM 780 has ratings gold with the Cubs (1st year as flagship station) in the post-season throughout the ratings period and the always popular Bears football broadcasts. In fact, on Oct. 7th when the Cubs played Pittsburgh in the National League Wild Card playoff, the radio overnights showed 28.5% of radio listeners tuned to the game, combining the local WBBM broadcast with ESPN 1000 airing the national feed. This helped WBBM tie for #1 overall, with well over double the total audience of both WSCR 670 The Score and WMVP ESPN 1000. It will be interesting to see how WSCR and WMVP do over the next couple of rating periods, as each station is ahead of the other in key dayparts and demographics, while WMVP begins its final season as flagship for the Chicago Bulls.

This ratings book was also good for a few other large markets. In San Francisco, KNBR came in at #2 overall, still with more than three times the total audience of KGMZ-FM The Game, even though The Game was up slightly.

In Dallas, KRLD-FM rides those Cowboys to #8 overall in the market, its highest rating ever. The significance here is that KRLD-FM did not take away from its competitors. KTCK The Ticket and KESN ESPN both showed audience increases of at least 10% over the previous month. Philadelphia's WIP-FM rose .8 of a ratings point to finish #7 overall in that market.

Baltimore's WJZ-FM also rose .8 for the month, and came in at #6 overall, while Denver's KKFN The Fan rose more than a full ratings point. While at #13 overall in the market, the Broncos' start helped them to this impressive jump.

A couple of markets that usually don't make a splash came up positive for their sports stations as well. In Atlanta, which has not exactly been a force in sports talk over the years, WZGC-FM The Game has risen to #15 overall, increasing by a full ratings point over the past two months. And in Minneapolis - St. Paul, KFXN The Fan went up an astounding TWO ratings points over the previous month, showing up at #4 overall. The station now has six times the audience size of KSTP, which held steady. KTWN the music station which is the flagship for the Twins (who finished their improved season during this rating book) dropped .3 overall.

While most L.A. Dodgers fans still have nothing further in terms of being able to watch the local telecasts in 2016, the fallout from the Time Warner Cable mess is growing again. Now the L.A. Times reports that Time Warner Sports President David Rone will be gone by the end of 2015, adding that TWC "has no plans for a replacement". The Dodgers Channel is reportedly losing another $100 million just for 2015 alone, while its Lakers channel is suffering as the team sinks slowly in the west.

Speaking of fallout, the fantasy sports controversy continues to extend to the media. Over the past few days, the NCAA has officially notified the major networks that it has "banned all sponsorship/advertising activity in televised college sports championships" for DraftKings and FanDuel. The "request" also seeks to have these services stop offering fantasy contests based on college sports.

By the way, the new college football playoff system for this coming December-January is NOT overseen by the NCAA.

ESPN has not commented on its position for those playoffs, but did report that FanDuel has issued a legal response that it has no plans to change its offerings.

Of course, ESPN also has its ties to the NFL and advertising revenue for those games as well. Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, was quoted as defending his investment in DraftKings, which is a personal investment, since NFL teams are "not allowed" to invest in fantasy sports companies. Yet, The Kraft Group, comprised of the Kraft family (and others) which own the New England Patriots, also owns a stake in one of the major fantasy sports companies. Jonathan Kraft went as far as to appear on WBZ-FM Sports Hub last week to comment about how the fantasy sports industry remains unregulated.

BOSTON: While fans mourn the loss of Don Orsillo from the NESN TV booth, there will be more changes for next season along with Dave O'Brien moving over from radio to handle the play-by-play. The phasing out of Jerry Remy is starting, in a move which will also not go over well with the fans. Remy will now work "about 100 games", which is a reduced work load (about 30 to 50 games less) from this past season. NESN is adding Dennis Eckersley and Steve Lyons as regular game analysts as scheduled, including a few games in which there will be three in the booth.

CHICAGO: WMVP ESPN 1000 needs to listen to Bristol (ESPN headquarters), which is certainly "talking". The station is forced to air the World Series radio coverage (which is not a priority in Chicago where Cubs fans lost interest after the Mets swept them out of the playoffs) in place of up to three Bulls regular season broadcasts.

Even though this is the final season as Bulls flagship, the conflicting broadcasts are being moved to WLS 890, which takes over in 2016-17 as Bulls flagship. During the same week this was dictated, ESPN announced that John Cravens, who had been with WMVP for more than 10 years, is no longer with the station, with no talk of a direct replacement.

The station also re-upped to air 15 games (out of a 30 game schedule) of the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) basketball team. They have aired some to all of these games since 1997 (with the exception of one season). Jonathan Hood takes over as play-by-play voice for these broadcasts, replacing Dave Juday who left the station earlier this year.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago has added Leila Rahimi to its anchor and reporter staff starting this week. Rahimi is making the CSN rounds, having most recently held similar duties for CSN Philadelphia, and before that with CSN Houston going back to 2012.

MONTANA: Still no reason known for the sudden and unexpected "parting of the ways" between Mike Holien and the University of Montana football and basketball play-by-play position he held for the past 22 years. All we know for sure is that it has nothing to do with the entire broadcast crew, since Greg Sundberg continues as analyst and Adam Painter remains as sideline reporter.

U. of Montana games continue to be streamed (in addition to the large statewide radio network) at GoGriz.com.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fantasy Sports To Produce Media Winners & Losers

My hunch is that many NFL and TV network executives are stressing out about recent developments from this season. Not the ones on the field even with a record number of unbeaten teams six weeks in. You can bet (pun intended) that the recent barrage of legal questions surrounding FanDuel and DraftKings and daily fantasy in general is their real "top story" of the week.

Maybe the news networks are reporting the story accurately, but maybe they are not. In recent weeks, the two fantasy "services" have been among the top three biggest national advertisers on the networks, bringing in millions of advertising dollars to the networks spending billions for the rights to televise NFL games. The more revenue the networks bring in, the higher the rights fees to renew the next contract.

If daily fantasy is not legally allowed to continue, the results would probably be millions in lost revenue to the networks. (I say "probably" because if there will be a loophole, it will be found.) Because of all of this, the NFL would stand to lose out on millions in TV revenue if the networks aren't taking in as much. In addition, the existence of daily fantasy entices even more fans to watch and follow each week's games above and beyond the numbers from 'season long' fantasy participants.

How this ongoing story will be covered by networks such as CBS, Fox, ESPN, and NBC, will be interesting because of how much their revenue could be impacted as a result.

Leave it to the NFL to create tremendous hype for a "filler" game between Buffalo and Jacksonville this week. The Bills have surprised and are holding on at .500, while the Jaguars have won one game so far this season. Fans of both teams are probably glad the game is being played in London and that it is not on one team's season ticket plan. Those in Buffalo and Jacksonville will see the game "over the air" at 9:30 AM ET on Sunday morning, and will probably be glad it will be over before the interesting games are played.

However, the tremendous hype comes from what is sure to be a large audience because of the NFL allowing this game to be streamed live nationally via Yahoo and its various platforms. Look for a large audience to give it a try by watching live action online ahead of the endless hours of pre-game programming at the same time. Of course, if this were played in either city and an early CBS regional game, fans in those market areas would likely do what they could to watch a different game.

As ESPN continues to crunch the numbers due to their spending for broadcast rights while consumers cut the cord, now ESPN Radio is feeling the effect. At press time, ESPN was beginning to issue a series of employee layoffs. Among the first set of casualties is Mike Thompson of KSPN 710 Los Angeles, who has been let go from his Program Director duties. The hunch here is that ESPN will reduce to having a single Program Director handle the large market ESPN stations, combining the responsibilities to include KSPN, WESN New York, WMVP Chicago, and perhaps one or two other top 10 markets.

The song title from the 70's, "It's A Strange Way To Tell Me You Love Me" by Firefall seems to apply to Fox Sports regarding its ALCS coverage. Even in prime time on Monday (10/19), the network stuck the Kansas City at Toronto Game 3 on Fox Sports 1, where fewer people knew to find the game. I have no idea how having only one of the five games in the series (as of press time) on Fox Sports and burying the rest on FS1 helps to promote the network having the World Series on.
Now that FS1 has a couple of years behind it, many more fans know it exists, but seem to forget about it because they have so little to offer on a consistent basis.

For example, last week's Game 5 between Texas and Toronto showed only a 10.9 rating in the Dallas market, even though it was a deciding game and was mid-week (with no competition from the Cowboys or college football). The following night, the same market showed a rating of 0.7 for some UFC show it aired. Probably came from casual fans checking in to see if a baseball game was on.

Then there is the matter of Fox having a cast of thousands of studio analysis. Don't get me wrong. I find Raul Ibanez, Frank Thomas, Pete Rose, and the other guests to be interesting. But having four or five guys giving their opinions on every little thing doesn't give any of them the chance to explain or go into depth.

What is strange is having Tom Verducci as the third man during the actual games. I actually enjoy his analysis, so it is not as though he does not do a solid job. My problem is that during the game itself is when a former player/coach/manager should be in the booth to interpret the games for the fans.

It makes zero sense to have Verducci in the booth while Ibanez, Rose, and Thomas are in the studio having to wait a couple of hours to get 10 seconds to comment on the big play of the game. Then again, if a tree fell on Fox Sports 1, would anybody hear it?

For the "How Embarassing!" moment of the week we turn to CNN. The sister network to TNT which has aired the NBA for more than 20 seasons and which also partners for the league's official NBA-TV. While reporting on the sad story of the condition of Lamar Odom last week, the on-screen photo happened to be of LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland.  Not the same player.

Besides the concern about what other mistakes has CNN gotten away with (when viewers are not familiar with a subject), you have to wonder how a network with ties to the NBA could have this happen. Look how far down CNN has come since the days of offering regular sports coverage in the era of Nick Charles and Fred Hickman.

CINCINNATI: A great idea has come from picking up on the Bengals getting off to a 6 - 0 start this season. To let fans enjoy the highlights of win number six this past Sunday, Dan Hoard put up a stream of the scoring play calls from the broadcast of the 34-21 win over Buffalo.
It can be heard at:


WASHINGTON D.C.: Following the announcement of a multi-year radio agreement to air Georgetown basketball, WJFK The Fan 106.7 has announced the broadcast schedule. Rich Chvotkin begins his 42nd season of play-by-play with the majority of the games airing on 106.7 The Fan. However, since The Fan also carries the Wizards and Capitals games, the Georgetown games will air elsewhere for the 13 games which conflict. Eleven of the games will air on WNEW 99.1, while a couple of others, due to Wizards/Capitals conflicts, will air on 1580 AM. These days the challenge for fans is more to know which station to tune to instead of keeping track of the players.

TULSA: Congrats to Steve Braun, named as Sports Director of KTBZ 1430 The Buzz. It completes a wonderful "working his way up" story. Braun returns to the station in this capacity after having worked there from 2010 to 2012 as a board operator and then a show producer. His position is also expected to include a hosting or co-hosting role to be announced shortly.