Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Pro Leagues Generate Even More Sports Media Revenue....

Following your favorite sport is going from "You can't tell the players without a scorecard" to "You can't follow via the media without a scorecard". As we approach the Super Bowl, there seems to be this huge concern about multiple ways that fans can access highlights and updates, overlooking the fact that practically every TV anywhere will be tuned to the game as it happens.

NBC is promoting "Super Stream Sunday", allowing fans to watch the live stream of the game on desktop, laptop, and tablet computers with no "log in". This is also scheduled to include the pre-game and immediate post-game coverage. What NBC doesn't tell you is that it does not have the rights to streaming via mobile phone devices, and that is almost certain to cause some confusion and frustration among those fans who are away from a TV.

The NFL itself has also launched its own YouTube Channel which will include "in-game" highlights and eventually more features to it. What makes this curious is that the NFL has a revenue share with YouTube directly in this deal even though the highlights it will share come from its rights holders (TV networks) which have paid the NFL millions of dollars to have. The NFL gets by this because the 'in game' feature has to promote where local team viewers can watch the game, and make it appear this is a promotional vehicle for the network/stations airing the game. This deal also includes YouTube getting more prominent positioning for the NFL via Google, as if the league needs any more major visibility.

Along the media rights line, the NBA is also beefing up the attack, but in this instance it is international. The NBA has a new multi-season deal with BT Sport, which takes effect next season (2015-16). Up to seven live games every week will be shown in the UK and Ireland including every game of both conference finals and the championship series.

These are both instances where the leagues themselves are increasing direct revenue from additional vehicles to show their games to fans, ignoring the networks which pay them a collective billions of dollars. While consumers get asked to pay increased fees to the TV providers to watch the telecasts whether they are fans or not.

Speaking of the NBA, a great job by NBA-TV earlier this week of stepping in and changing its live game schedule at the last minute. Not long after the big blizzard caused postponement of Monday's (1/26) scheduled game in Brooklyn, which was scheduled to be picked up on NBA-TV, the league was able to substitute. The Minnesota vs. OK City game, while less compelling, was selected and scheduled, with the NBA web site showing the change several hours in advance, while other media was not able to update the information.

The NBA did get hurt, as it turned out, by not scheduling enough games on Super Sunday this year. ESPN/ABC had originally scheduled the Lakers vs. Knicks game for this coming Sunday (2/1). However, the awful seasons both teams are experiencing would indicate that just having L.A. and New York in the spotlight would not be enough to pull in viewers, and the national telecast has been canceled. Since there were no other worthwhile matchups on the NBA schedule for Sunday (clearing the path for the Super Bowl), the network will instead show a, get this, celebrity bowling event instead. Yikes.

And then, TNT followed suit and announced it has pulled the Knicks vs. Pacers matchup it had originally scheduled for this Thursday night (1/29) and replaced it with Denver vs. Memphis. The Denver vs. Memphis matchup is clearly a more appealing matchup for the fans, but it seems like a date worthy of historical significance since a Memphis game replaces a Knicks game on national TV and no one is complaining.

Elsewhere, a most interesting research report from SNL Kagan, a national research agency, regarding the increased cost of sports viewing. Although we are not able to provide the entire report, it bears out our expressed concerns over recent months about fans possibly becoming priced out of watching sports at home.

The report shows that the TV sports networks, including more than $6 per month per subscriber for the ESPN Networks, average collecting about $1.03 per month per subscriber. By comparison, movie channels average about 81 cents. The report also shows sports network costs rising at an annual clip of more than 5%.

Worse yet, these figures are from prior to Time Warner Cable's recent addition of a $2.75 per month "sports surcharge". In the Los Angeles market, where TWC runs the Dodgers Network and is part owner of SportsNet LA (with the Lakers games), the combined cost per subscriber (again, that is per individual subscriber) is now at $12.50 per month.

NEW YORK CITY: The Yankees and Mets will share the "over-the-air" local TV station this season, as WPIX Channel 11 has signed on to air about 20 Yankees games this season, as produced by YES Network. This marks a return to the station, which aired the Yankees from 1951 through the 1998 season. WPIX continues its deal to air 25 Mets games this year, as well as through the 2017 season (as of now). A similar situation exists in Chicago, where WGN-TV will again show a share of Cubs and White Sox telecasts during the upcoming season.

Len Berman has returned to the local airwaves, but now it is morning radio. Berman has been named, as of this week, co-host of WOR 710's morning show, along with Todd Schnitt.

CHICAGO: It's another adventure in the "nobody cares what's on the air" side of radio, but this one comes from a CBS station in Chicago. WSCR 670 The Score went off the air for nine minutes this past Saturday (1/24) morning while airing a live interview via a remote from the White Sox "Sox Fest" festival at a downtown Chicago hotel. During the early part of a live interview, the station went dead. There was nothing but dead air for just over nine full minutes.

However, when the station suddenly came back on the air, the interview was still in progress, and, in fact, was just wrapping up. I can certainly understand that technical difficulties happen. But it came off to listeners (those who stuck around) as if no one cared.

There was ZERO mention of having been off the air or any sort of technical difficulties. We still don't know if the remote feed was lost (in which case someone from the studio should have come on the air and said that) or if the entire station went down. But then they just went on with the remote as if nothing ever happened. Nothing about a recap or replay of the segment which was missed. I listened for another 20 minutes and heard nothing about any problems. Again, this is a 50,000 watt Chicago AM station owned by CBS. I'd like to think that someone would have a clue of how to handle the loss of air time.

ATLANTA: The amazing start by the NBA Hawks is making a difference on the TV side. The ratings for the team's local telecasts for the first half of the current season show a more than 60% increase in total viewers.

SAN DIEGO: The Padres radio broadcasts will remain on XEPRS 1090 through at least the 2016 season, keeping the team on the same station it has been with since 2004 season.

MILWAUKEE: It is both unfortunate and understandable that Bob Uecker is cutting back even more on his broadcast schedule of Brewers games for the coming season on WTMJ and the Brewers Network. The team has hired Jeff Levering to handle play-by-play for the road games Uecker will not travel to this season. Levering comes to Milwaukee from having been the voice of the minor league Pawtucket Red Sox.

INDIANAPOLIS: As much as The Broadcast Booth doesn't pay attention to the December (holiday period) radio ratings, skewed by holiday music stations and vacations by major personalities, the Indy situation is hard to overlook for sports radio. The December ratings showed WFNI The Fan 1070 dropping again (now 1/2 ratings point lower than October), with a bigger drop showing for the HD Radio feed on WIBC-FM's signal. At the same time, the already dismal ratings of WNDE fell to a lowly 0.2 overall, but still beat out WXNT 1430 which came in, believe it or not, even lower. Yet, December was during the Indianapolis Colts' run to the playoffs and early enough in the Pacers' season to have some meaningful games.

LOUISVILLE: Even with no pro teams, the market now has WLCL 93.9 starting this week as "93.9 The Ville" added as a sports station, including some of the ESPN Radio day time lineup. As if WHBE 680 and 105.7 isn't already enough. The Ville will air play-by-play of (Are you ready for this/) University of Louisville women's basketball and baseball. I checked to make sure this is a true story.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Does One Sports Network Have Too Much Power?

Like them or not, ESPN seems to have been creating or be involved with as much "news" so far in 2015 as it reports on every day, and not just for one or two sports.

Its ownership of, or, ooops, agreements with, NCAA college football might seem like background music at the moment since the season just concluded. But come the 2015 post-season it won't be for the fans. It seems that the playoff semi-finals "must" be played on New Year's Eve this year, Thursday Dec. 31st, according to ESPN.

Never mind that the 31st will be at least a partial work day for millions of fans or that millions more traditionally have plans to be away from home that evening to celebrate the coming new year. Never mind that the New Years Day Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl telecasts (which, of course, are owned by ESPN and contracted for Jan. 1 through 2026) will be even more meaningless (other than to the fans of the participating teams and their immediate rivals) but will take place after the national semi-finals.

It seems that ESPN pays approximately $80 million per year to televise the pair of Jan. 1st games, yet is not able to move them despite paying an estimated $470 million per year for the semi-finals and championship game telecasts.

Saturday Jan. 2 and Sunday Jan. 3, 2016 are reserved for the NFL, which will have its Wild Card Playoff doubleheaders on both of those days. Of course, ESPN now televises one Wild Card game, in addition to the multi-millions it pays for the rights to Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl, so it couldn't possibly ask the NFL to adjust its schedule.

If ESPN, or, ooops, the NCAA were to wait until Monday Jan. 4th, the semi-final games would also not only fall on a work day for most people, but would then be days closer to the scheduled Championship Game, leaving much less time for the logistics of the teams and their fans wishing to travel for the game.

Thus, as ESPN sees it, it has no choice but to impact the plans of millions of sports fans on New Year's Eve who hope or had hoped to enjoy the semi-finals. These will be at 5:00 and 8:30 PM ET, which means that the later semi-final game could very well be in progress while sister network ABC is showing the ball dropping in Times Square. Across the country, west coast fans will have a 2:00 PM kickoff time to contend with if they want to watch the start of the first of the games.

On another matter, an advertising experiment by ESPN is cause for another concern. On a late night edition of SportsCenter on January 10th, viewers were told that "SportsCenter will be right back in 30 seconds". The cameras stayed on the air from the ESPN studio, panning over to a giant video screen which was running an advertisement for a tax product while viewers continued to see part of the SportsCenter setting along with a countdown clock for the 30 second period before the "regular" SportsCenter content resumed.

Of course, ESPN (like any other station or network) is going to air commercials. But the idea of having them mixed in directly with the program could blur the line between "news" content and advertising even further. This could be an indication of things to come. The Wall Street Journal claims that this "Programmatic ad" was won when the specific advertiser finished with the highest bid amount for the time, and that ESPN has the technology in place for advertisers to do this moving forward.

Thus, it appears that while ESPN is reporting on the wins and losses on the fields, courts, and ice rinks each night, fans will also find out which advertisers finished in first place on a given night.

But it doesn't stop there as far as advertisers going to new measures to reach the strong sports viewing audience. Still another concept was rolled out during ESPN's telecast of the College Football Bowl Championship Game, when the product "Duck Tape" tied in with the Oregon team name. A production crew was able to "re-create" key moments of the game via the Duck Tape product, and distribute them within minutes on social media. While this advertiser was able to do so because of its licensing agreement with the NCAA, one of the primary means for distribution via social media was (in case you haven't guessed it) ESPN.

Then, there is the seemingly powerful PR machine from which ESPN pumps out its own "news" stories which continue to be picked up by other conventional media. The Broadcast Booth most certainly understands doing this as a self-promotion, and credit should be given for the extra publicity generated, often due to the carelessness and/or laziness of other media.

Here is one example from just last Thursday (1/15). The Chicago Sun-Times web site, SunTimes.com, appears to often take "headlines" and stories from an outside source and automatically run them without editor review. That afternoon, one of the Sun-Times' "headlines" read, "ESPN's Mel Kiper has Bears taking Alabama safety in first round". As a headline for a story?

Let's look at the facts. First of all, the Sun-Times employs full-time reporters and columnists to cover the Chicago Bears. Yet, here is the publication crediting a competitor with a "story" as if this is important news. Not to mention that at the time of this "story", the Bears did not even have a head coach hired, and that the NFL Draft is more than three months away. However, since ESPN "reported" this speculation, at least one media competitor automatically went with it.

Around that same time, ESPN announced its selection for the first five Sunday Night Baseball telecasts which begin in April. Since ESPN still thinks that every baseball fan must see every Yankees vs. Red Sox game it can televise, it seems that two of the first five Sunday nights will feature that very matchup, while one of the other Sundays has the Yankees vs. Mets on its schedule.

Maybe this is done on purpose. It seems that because ESPN announced it, other media will pick up on it, and hence the media and baseball columnists have already started complaining about the scheduling, which gets the fans talking about it as well. As a result, again, ESPN creates additional publicity from its competition for the sports fans' attention. And the New York concentration also impacts MLB Opening Day on April 6th, as its four scheduled telecasts include both the Yankees vs. Toronto and Mets vs. Nationals games.

If you don't think all of this makes a difference in their favor, consider this fact. ESPN Audio announced last week that "Audience listening to its content via streaming audio increased 8% to over 7.8 billion total listening minutes in 2014.  The numbers include listening to both talk shows and event coverage.  In fourth quarter, 1.9 billion minutes were streamed."

They have the fans watching and listening, the advertisers bidding and spending, the competition helping to promote them, and are commanding higher fees than others to be carried on cable and satellite distributors. They have working and significant financial relationships with NFL, MLB, NBA, and the NCAA, among others. And it is actually costing us as consumers more money than we each realize as our monthly fees increase.

Meanwhile, the announcement was no surprise that CBS will again handle Thursday Night Football in 2015 including airing in prime time again during the first half of the season while NFL Network shows them all, except for opening night and Thanksgiving. This year's deal is estimated to bring in another $300 million to the NFL.

Even as fans continue strong viewing numbers for both pro and college telecasts, the at the game experience is also showing major growth among fans. Even those of us that are "old school" when it comes to sports media have to take notice of just how much the phone and other mobile devices has become a part of live sports. Having sufficient wireless network availability in the stadiums and arenas makes a big difference these days.

Here are some of the statistics just released by AT&T:

Top 10 Collegiate Venues of the 2014 Season by Average Mobile Data per Game

1. Stillwater, OK – 769GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 2.1 million social media post with photos
2. Miami, FL – 745GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 2.1 million social media post with photos
3. College Station, TX – 668GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 1.9 million social media post with photos
4. Waco, TX – 661GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 1.8 million social media post with photos
5. Tuscaloosa, AL – 660GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 1.8 million social media post with photos
6. Norman, OK – 626GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 1.7 million social media post with photos
7. Fayetteville, AR – 590GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 1.6 million social media post with photos
8. Athens, GA – 541GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 1.5 million social media post with photos
9. Baton Rouge, LA – 522GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 1.4 million social media post with photos
10. Pasadena, CA – 520GB avg./home game
    a. Equivalent to more than 1.4 million social media post with photos

College Final Scoreboard at a Glance
•There were 333 college football regular season games played across more than 50 different venues where we provide in-venue coverage via Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS).
•In total, across these 333 games our customers have used more than 100.6 Terabytes of mobile data on our in-venue cellular networks. To narrow that down, it’s the same as 100,631 Gigabytes. Or more simply put, it is equivalent to more than 287M social media posts with photos.
•The top ten data-heavy college venues in our end-of-year data usage rankings play home to many teams that have had success on the field this season.
•Five of the top ten data-heavy college venues play host to a team ranked in the final top 25 poll of the regular season, including the top-ranked team in the country
•In fact, forty-percent of the top ten venues hosted teams ranked in the top 15 of the polls
•Geography also played a key factor in the final regular season college rankings
•Fifty-percent of the top ten data-heavy venues were part of the same southern athletic conference.
•In addition, the South region as a whole dominated in data usage with a season average of 381GB/venue compared to 236GB/venue for the West region, 227GB/venue for the Midwest region and 84GB/venue for the Northeast region.

Top 5 Professional Venues for Week 14 (12/4-12/8)
•Miami – 1,001GB
•Equivalent to more than 2.8 million social media post with photos

•San Diego – 765GB
•Equivalent to more than 2.1 million social media post with photos

•New Orleans – 590GB
•Equivalent to more than 1.6 million social media post with photos

•Green Bay – 424GB
•Equivalent to more than 1.2 million social media post with photos

•Denver – 348GB
•Equivalent to more than 995K social media post with photos

•All figures include only data traffic seen on AT&T’s venue-specific mobile network.
•All data metrics come from only venues with a DAS where AT&T’s mobile network is on-air and under contract. These metrics are not comprehensive of every game played during the pro or college football season.

•This data is compiled from only football stadiums that had home games during this selected timeframe where AT&T is on-air on a DAS.

Finally, sorry to have 2015 start off with two huge sports media losses.

Long time Boston Bruins announcer Bob Wilson died at age 85 from lung cancer. Wilson spent more than 20 years calling Bruins games, including their 1972 Stanley Cup win. Wilson was inducted into the broadcasting wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987 and was last a part of the Bruins broadcasts in 1994. He served as both play-by-play voice and analyst during his stints.

Maury Magill, who was part of WWL New Orleans from 1961 into 2005, passed away at the age of 89. Although one of the nation's original sports talk hosts, Magill is also remembered for having been the radio analyst during the initial season of New Orleans Saints football, and was inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame back in 2000.

Monday, January 12, 2015

NFL Moving Toward Four Telecast Sundays

As we suspected, the NFL is on the way to giving us more Sundays with four live games available to viewers around the country, based largely on the success of this season's Detroit vs. Atlanta game from London which began at 9:30 AM ET. While the league again has three regular season games scheduled for London in 2015, the word is that at least TWO of those games will be shown live in that early time slot. These telecasts will precede the regular doubleheader of games (Fox and CBS) and then the scheduled Sunday Night Football game on NBC.

Although the complete NFL schedule won't be announced for several weeks, the league plans to have the Oct. 4, 2015 game from London between the Jets and Dolphins televised at 9:30 AM ET, along with the Buffalo vs. Jacksonville matchup on October 25th. The November 1st game in London between Detroit and Kansas City has not yet been given a start time. Even though it was far too early for this, it would appear that one of those games would be moved from CBS to Fox to allow each network to have one early national telecast start.

It is also interesting that it is the two least attractive matchups (based on this season) which will be in the early national slot. Let's face it. Based on the current season, a Buffalo vs. Jacksonville matchup (especially) would not exactly set a ratings record for a national audience. But as a morning game, the NFL knows that most fans will go with a live game over the endless selection of pre-game shows on several of the networks.

The other London game, Detroit vs. K.C., could be an appealing matchup of contending teams. My personal hunch is that this telecast could very well go to CBS only (for a 9:30 AM start) if it again wins the bidding for the Thursday night package. If not, I would then expect this game to be started at 4:25 ET as a "regular" doubleheader game for whichever network, or perhaps three hours later and given to NBC as a Sunday Night Game.

And if the ratings for those two already scheduled early telecasts continue to be solid, look for the NFL to add more "lesser" matchups from international venues and look to grow to four live games on most Sundays.

The Baltimore Orioles are going to a new radio home for the upcoming 2015 season after all. The team has just announced a brand new multi-year deal to move the broadcasts back over to WJZ-FM 105.7 The Fan, which had the games from 2007 to 2010. The team adds that the broadcast team of Joe Angel and Fred Manfra will continue in tact, with 2015 being their 12th season together in the booth.

Congratulations to Mike "Doc" Emrick for being named Sportscaster of the Year for 2014 by The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association for the second consecutive year. The voice of the NHL on national TV has called the Stanley Cup Finals for the past 25 years, and continues as the lead play-by-play voice for NBC and NBCSN's hockey telecasts.

The Association will also induct Dick Schaap, Bill Raftery, Lesley Visser, and Hal McCoy into its Hall of Fame at its ceremony scheduled for June 8th. This honor comes far too late for Schaap, who passed away in 2002, but is certainly deserved for the other inductees. Raftery will serve as analyst for CBS on what will be his 33rd NCAA tournament this March.

In addition, the Sportscaster and Sportswriter of the Year, as voted by members in every state, will also be honored. It was nice to see that Bill Schoening received the honor in Texas. Schoening is now calling the San Antonio Spurs radio broadcasts for his 14th season, and continues the extra effort of calling the vast majority of the games without having an analyst by his side.

Since several of you have asked in previous years, this year the complete list is included below.

Meanwhile, speaking of award winners, let's all with Dick Enberg a Happy 80th Birthday, which he celebrated on Friday (1/9).

It is nowhere the big deal that the NFL makes out of switching game telecasts during the season, but it is great to see the NBA allow its TV partners to flex some telecasts, even when we have months to go before the post-season starts.

ESPN has already been able to switch games it will televise on seven separate dates between this coming Wednesday (1/14) and April 3rd. Of course, there is a New York influence in this decision, but not in the way you would think. The horrible start by the Knicks has resulted in the team being removed for three of its previously scheduled national appearances on ESPN (of the seven games being replaced). Let's also give ESPN credit for adding games which are based on the standings and not on specific markets. Two of the added games include the Toronto Raptors, which were not a draw in previous years, while another of the added games (Apr. 3) will have Oklahoma City at Memphis.

Here is the schedule of the changes, with start times ET:

Wed, Jan. 14 8 p.m. Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls (instead of Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics )
Wed, Jan. 28 8 p.m. Brooklyn Nets at Atlanta Hawks (instead of Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks)
Fri, Feb. 6 7 p.m. Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors (instead of New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets)
Fri, Mar. 6 8 p.m. Phoenix Suns at Brooklyn Nets (instead of Miami Heat at Washington Wizards)
Wed, Mar. 18 8 p.m. Orlando Magic at Dallas Mavericks (instead of Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls)
Wed, Mar. 25 7 p.m. Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors (instead of Los Angeles Clippers at New York Knicks
Fri., Apr. 3 8 p.m. Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies (instead of Detroit Pistons at Chicago Bulls)

Many fans wonder why I question the "need" for all of the TV sports networks that are in operation, as if there is enough quality programming to go around, which there is not. Yet, having so many networks bidding for live telecasts is what keeps driving up the monthly cost of cable/satellite for consumers.

Take CBS Sports Network as an example, again. Did you see their college hoops tripleheader lineup last Wednesday (Jan. 7)? The first game was between to "known" schools. However, the second game, which ran in prime time in the east and central time zones, was SIU-Edwardsville at Belmont. National TV in prime time? That was the lead-in to Nevada at UNLV as the third game. Yikes.

MINNEAPOLIS: KTWN 96.3 has changed its music again for the new year, now trying a modern rock format. The station is co-owned by the Pohlad family which owns the Twins and continues to serve as the team's flagship station. We'll see what happens with a new music format for the station and a new manager for the Twins. There will be some indication since there will be two months of ratings before baseball broadcasts return.

SPOKANE: KGA 1510 has begun to carry a simulcast of Seattle's KIRO 710's local programming on weekdays from 7 AM to 4 PM, including the Brock & Salk Show in morning drive.

GAINESVILLE: WGGG ESPN 1320 has been experiencing some problems with its signal (including some brief stretches off the air), but management feels it is actually for good reason. The station is doing modifications of its transmitter tower in order to complete the addition of 106.5 FM to simulcast the station, hoping to have it on the air no later than March 1st.

Bill Raftery, Big East Network, ESPN, CBS, FOX Sports
*Dick Schaap, The Sports Reporters, ESPN

Hal McCoy, Dayton Daily News, Fox Sports Ohio
Lesley Visser, Boston Globe, HBO, ABC, ESPN, CBS, CBSSports.com

Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, NBC

Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

Eli Gold, Alabama Crimson Tide Sports Network/Learfield, Tuscaloosa
Brandon Marcello, AL.com, Auburn
Dave Pasch, Cardinals Radio Network/98.7 FM, Phoenix
Kent Somers, Arizona Republic, Phoenix
Steve Sullivan, KATV-TV, Little Rock
Harry King, Stephens Media, Little Rock
Vin Scully, Dodgers TV Network/Sportsnet LA, Los Angeles
Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco
Drew Goodman, 104.3 The Fan, ROOT Sports/Rockies, Denver
Mark Kizsla, Denver Post, Denver
Joe D’Ambrosio, WTIC /UConn Radio Network, Hartford
Jeff Jacobs, Hartford Courant, Hartford
Matt Janus, WDSD/Blue Rocks Radio, Wilmington
Brad Myers, News Journal, Wilmington
Joe Beninati, Capitals/CSN Washington, Washington
Bob Carpenter, Nationals/MASN, Washington
Thom Loverro, Washington Times, Washington
Gene Deckerhoff, FSU/IMG & Bucs Radio Networks, Tallahassee/Tampa
Gary Shelton, Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg
Steve Holman, Hawks Radio Network/92.9 The Game, Atlanta
Steve Hummer, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta
Tom Morris, Idaho Vandals Sports Properties/Learfield, Moscow
Brian Murphy, Idaho Statesman, Boise
Pat Hughes, Cubs Radio Network/WGN, Chicago
Marcus Jackson, News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana
Rick Telander, Sun-Times, Chicago
Mark Boyle, Pacers Radio Network/107.5/1070 The Fan, Indianapolis
Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis
Andy Garman, KCCI-TV, Des Moines
Mike Hlas, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Cedar Rapids
Mike Kennedy, Shocker Sports Properties/KEYN, Wichita
Gary Bedore, Journal World, Lawrence
Kent Spencer, WHAS-TV, Louisville
Eric Crawford, WDRB.com, Louisville
Ed Daniels, WGNO-TV, New Orleans
Glenn Guilbeau, Gannett, Baton Rouge
Don Shields, Black Bear Sports Network/Learfield, Orono
Mark Emmert, Press-Herald, Portland
Johnny Holliday, Terrapin Sports Network,MASN, College Park
Jeff Zrebiec, Baltimore Sun, Baltimore
Dave Goucher, WBZ-FM/Bruins Network, Boston
Dan Roche, WBZ-TV, Boston
Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe, Boston
Kevin Paul Dupont, Boston Globe, Boston
Dan Dickerson, Tigers Radio Network, Detroit
Jeff Seidel, Free Press, Detroit
Dawn Mitchell, KMSP-TV, Minneapolis
Joe Christensen, Star Tribune, Minneapolis
Jim Ellis, Mississippi State Bulldog Sports Network/Learfield, Starkville
Rick Cleveland, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, Jackson
Mike Shannon, KMOX Radio/Cardinals, St. Louis
Andy McCullough, Kansas City Star, Kansas City
Ron Bruschi, KOJM Radio, Havre
Greg Rachac, Billings Gazette, Billings
Andy Kendeigh, KETV, Omaha
Sam McKewon, World-Herald, Omaha
Chris Maathuis, KLAS-TV, Las Vegas
Ed Graney, Review-Journal, Las Vegas
Bob Lipman, UNH Sports Network/Learfield, Manchester
Tim O’Sullivan, Concord Monitor, Concord
Matt Loughlin, Devils Radio Network/WFAN, Newark
Greg Tufaro, Gannett New Jersey, East Brunswick
Bob Brown, 101.7 The Team, Albuquerque
Mark Smith, Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque
Bruce Beck, WNBC-TV, New York
Ian Eagle, YES Network, New York
Frank Isola, New York Daily News, New York
Stan Cotten, Wake Forest/IMG Sports Network, Winston-Salem
Jeff Gravley, WRAL-TV, Raleigh
Ed Hardin, News & Record, Greensboro
Rod Kleinjan, KDIX Radio, Dickinson
Chris Aarhus, Jamestown Sun, Jamestown
Dan Hoard, Bengals Radio Network, Bearcats/IMG Sports Network, Cincinnati
Hal McCoy, Dayton Daily News, Dayton
Bruce Howard, Golden Hurricane Sports Network/Learfield, Tulsa
Berry Tramel, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
Joe Becker, KGW-TV, Portland
John Canzano, The Oregonian, Portland
Tom McGinnis, Sixers Radio Network/97.5 The Fanatic, Philadelphia
Bob Ford, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia
Ken Bell, WLNE-TV, Providence
Brendan McGair, Pawtucket Times, Pawtucket
Kevin McCrarey, South Carolina Radio Network, Columbia
Lou Bezjak, Florence Morning News, Florence
Jeff Duffy, KOKK Radio, Huron
John Papendick, American News, Aberdeen
Pete Weber, Nashville Predators TV/Fox Sports Tennessee, Nashville
David Climer, The Tennessean, Nashville
Geoff Calkins, Commercial Appeal, Memphis
Bill Schoening, Spurs Radio Network/WOAI, San Antonio
Kirk Bohls, American Statesman, Austin
Steve Klauke, Salt Lake Bees/1280 KZNS, Salt Lake City
Kurt Kragthorpe, Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City
Rich Haskell, WCPV-FM 101.3, Colchester
Alex Abrami, Burlington Free Press, Burlington
Anna Grearson, Times Argus, Barre
Wes McElroy, WRNL-AM, Richmond
David Teel, Daily Press, Newport News
Larry Weir, EWU Eagle Radio Network/700 ESPN, Cheney
Dave Boling, Tacoma News Tribune, Tacoma
Steve Cotton, Thundering Herd IMG Sports Network, Huntington
Chuck McGill, Daily Mail, Charleston
Brian Anderson, Brewers/Fox Sports Wisconsin, Milwaukee
*Tom Mulhern, Wisconsin State Journal, Madison
Trevor Jackson, Sheridan Media, Sheridan
Reece Monaco, KFBC Radio, Cheyenne
Mike Vorel, Casper Star Tribune, Casper

Monday, January 5, 2015

NBC Wins At Football - Loses Out On Hockey

While sports is all about competition, the same should be said about sportscasts, sports stations, and sports networks. They compete against each other for the audience and advertising dollars, as well as for the scoop on breaking sports stories. However, it doesn't always appear that the decision makers always have this in mind.

There are times when a "news" story can help to impact the size of the listening and/or viewing audience for an upcoming sports event. It could be all in the game to air a story which indirectly keeps your audience from watching or listening to the competition.

The Broadcast Booth believes that NBC helped to slightly reduce its own audience for the NHL Winter Classic it aired on New Year's Day when the Chicago Blackhawks played at the Washington Capitals.

Since this was the first hockey game ever played at Nationals Stadium, it seems that league officials had not researched enough to address concerns over possible sun glare from the surface during the early portion of the game, scheduled to begin about 1:15 PM ET on Thursday (1/1). It wasn't until the day before that this factor became a possible issue, when the NHL let it be known that the start of the nationally televised contest could have been delayed for this reason.

It was certainly easy to understand why sources such as ESPN, Fox, and local stations in NHL markets (not affiliated with NBC-TV or NBC Radio Sports) would jump all over this story. After all, ESPN/ABC (especially) and ESPN Radio had the major bowl games airing on New Year's Day.

Thus, reporting that there might be a delay in the start of a much hyped national telecast going up against a couple of football bowl games gave fans a solid reason not to bother with the early stages of the NHL telecast on NBC. With no other NHL games scheduled during the 3+ hour time slot NBC had, it was not as if NBC had another game to cut away to or report on.

To put it mildly, the possibility of an expanded pre-game show for an NHL games, when the Capitals are not considered to be a nationally marketed team, is a turn off for many casual hockey fans.

Despite this, NBC stations as well as the Comcast SportsNet local reports, went ahead and aired this report that the glare from the ice could very well have delayed the start of the Winter Classic. While I will grant you that I am not and have never been a network level Sports Director or decision maker so I shouldn't criticize, if I were in that position and this happened, heads would have been rolling.

What NBC and its family of stations and regional networks did was provide thousands (if not millions) of viewers with a valid reason not to tune in for the start of the game. The rebuttal that "fans would be even more curious and tune in to see if it started on time" doesn't make sense. I have to believe that NBC turned away far more "early" viewers than it thought it could gain by making fans curious as to whether or not the game would start on time.

As a result, the 2015 Winter Classic scored the lower ratings than previous years for NBC, and that is with more than 20% of the national audience coming from the avid Chicago market. As it was, NBC was saddled with the Capitals (which is not as marketable of a team as the Bruins, Rangers, Red Wings, etc.) and a stadium with zero tradition. But to allow a story to air which gave potential viewers a reason not to tune in for the scheduled start on its own network is highly questionable.

On the football side, Sunday Night Football on NBC-TV again finished its season as the "most watched" network series in prime time in 2014. The local market which had the biggest ratings for the season on SNF wound up being Denver. Next, in order, are New Orleans, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Milwaukee. Only New Orleans is a surprise, given the losing record and disappointing season which the Saints just finished.

Another story which has been overlooked by the sports media could have an impact on viewer ratings as soon as October 2015. NBA teams have been surveyed by the league regarding reducing the number of preseason games in order to add another week to the regular season and start it about one week earlier in October. The purpose of doing so is to reduce the number of back-to-back game dates for each team (which could reduce injuries and fatigue) by adding more days off during the season.

From a TV standpoint, doing this would mean having at least the entire first week of the regular season in competition against the World Series on weeknights for the national telecasts. For the past few seasons, the NBA season openers have been on dates of a possible Game 6 and Game 7 of the World Series for a maximum of two nights of conflicts.

Considering how well the NBA early season ratings did against the World Series in 2014, it is possible that TNT and ESPN would embrace this change. It remains to be seen (or not seen) whether or not Fox Sports will continue to dump as much of its post-season coverage from Fox Sports (over the air) to the lesser Fox Sports 1, which was a ratings disaster for MLB.

It was a much improved start to the new year on The Dan Patrick Show on Friday (1/2) when the show was actually live with guest co-hosts while Patrick was off. This is worthy of mention because it (hopefully) signals the end of "Best Of" shows which have been airing for years on and around holidays. I never did understand how NBCSN, which airs the telecast, was putting up with outdated segments during busy sports periods when it is trying to compete with ESPN and other sports networks and stations for ratings and advertisers. Having a live show on the morning after the major bowl games and the day before the NFL playoffs start was critical. Hopefully this signals that NBCSN has turned a corner.

Meanwhile, sports fans and the sports media are saddened by the passing of Stuart Scott at the age of 49. Since Stuart, who most deservedly was the past recipient of the "Spirit of Jimmy V Award" by the V Foundation, ESPN has requested that those wishing to make a donation in his name do so to the V Foundation.

Interesting announcement by DISH Network to start off the year. Details are still to come, but DISH is planning to offer an internet only monthly service with several cable channels in packages starting at $20 per month. These packages reportedly will include ESPN and ESPN2. However, these will not include any local "over-the-air" channels, although viewers could view them via digital antenna with no monthly cost and supplement with a DISH package. It remains to be determined how much or how little sports programming, other than ESPN, will be made available by this method.

This is a story which bears monitoring over the next few weeks. One would think that many people who are not sports fans would jump at the chance to save big bucks by cutting the cord. However, for those of us sports fans that continue to fork out the big bucks (to cable/satellite providers) to watch our sports each month, fewer customers for the bigger carriers could jack up the sports package costs even more.

CHICAGO: WGN Radio (a news/talk format) is making significant changes to its sports presence for 2015, as the station prepares for its first summer in more than 50 years without Cubs baseball broadcasts. The station is bringing in Jarrett Payton (the son of Bears legend Walter Payton), as well as local sports talkers Connor McKnight and Adam Hoge, to handle a newer (yet to be named as of press time) weekend sports show. The previous "WGN Sports Central", which aired on WGN since 1982, has gone away with the new year, and it appears that previous co-hosts Jim Memelo and Glen Kozlowski may or may not be a part of WGN sports as of now.

The station continues to air Blackhawks hockey as well as Northwestern University football and basketball.

DES MOINES: KBGG 1700 The Champ appears to be carrying out its plan to drop the majority of its local sports programming with the arrival of the new year. Now Larry Cotlar is gone after more than five years with the station. For some reason, The Champ has increased its CBS Sports Radio Network programming. Cotlar, meanwhile, continues as the play-by-play voice for Drake University basketball.