Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Local Team Telecasts Taking Over

Looks like we are into a trend of fans watching their local (or regional) team in action even more, and less of national telecasts of the major sports which are not football.

Forbes Magazine did an interesting report about last Wednesday (5/13) night which had a ton of major sports events on TV around the country. An exciting Game 5 of the NBA series between Atlanta and Washington (a one point Atlanta win) and Game 7 of the N.Y. Rangers against Washington, which went into overtime, actually finished behind the local MLB telecasts in 14 of 24 monitored markets. Those local telecasts also, understandably, had a bigger audience than ESPN's national telecast of the N.Y. Mets and Chicago Cubs.

Kansas City led the way that night, even though the Royals were only playing the Texas Rangers, off to a poor start this season. The Fox Sports Kansas City telecast literally had eight times more viewers than the NBA playoff games, which happened to have more than ten times audience of the NHL Game 7 telecast. (Granted, K.C. has never had the NHL, so that is understandable.)
That same night, the Pittsburgh market showed an audience for the Pirates vs. the Phillies which more than doubled the combined audience of the NHL, NBA, and national MLB telecasts also airing. (And Pittsburgh is very much an NHL town!)

Cleveland is obviously into the NBA (since the Cavs are now playing Atlanta for the Eastern Conference Championship). Yet, that same night, the last place Indians' telecast drew one-half rating point more than the NBA games, and had more than 20 times the audience size of the ESPN MLB telecast.

Other cities showing this trend had fewer reasons to be interested in the NBA and NHL telecasts, such as Cincinnati, Seattle, Boston, Tampa, and St. Louis. Although it is understandable that those local baseball telecasts would draw well, it is still noteworthy since these were early regular season games compared with the other sports' post-season telecasts.

This tells me that you can't always judge by national ratings. Unless it's the NFL.

Meanwhile, it can be said that the MLB replay reviews are directly helping some of the fans. Since all MLB games are televised, in order to have multiple replay angles available for challenged and reviewed plays, video production costs are now factored in. As a result, fans of the Oakland A's will now be able to see every game the A's play this season. Yet, all CSN California did was actually add two more telecasts using the A's TV crew of Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse. "Official" A's telecasts have been added for Weds. June 3 and Weds. July 1.

The 13 other regular season games, which are day games during the week, originally not scheduled, will now air on CSN California, will be aired live, simply by taking the video feed. In a unique plan, the A's will show the video and use the audio of the team's radio broadcasts from KGMZ-FM 95.7 The Game instead. This makes 2015 the first time ever that local fans can watch every pitch of the A's season. CSN has already sold a separate sponsorship for these games. It will be interesting to see if any other teams start doing this and have every MLB game available to the local fans. Especially since we know they are watching!

Look for more minor league baseball telecasts in certain markets. American Sports Network (ASN), a part of Sinclair Networks Group of TV stations, has secured a weekly minor league package including games from AAA to A involving eleven minor leagues. Former Royals and Rockies TV voice Dave Armstrong will be joined by Keith Moreland and Brian McRae.

As of press time, no word about which stations around the country will air some or all of the games. The first telecast is coming up on May 31st at 7 PM ET with the Iowa Cubs against the El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres).

It is not just local baseball teams making big ratings news. On Tuesday (May 19th) of this week, the NHL Western Conference Finals game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks went nearly three full overtimes and ended at 2:07 AM ET on NBCSN.

The overnight ratings estimated that between 1:00 and 1:15 AM Chicago time (when the game ended) there were 361,000 Chicago area households still tuned to the game, on a weeknight. One can only imagine what will happen if the series goes to a 7th game next week.

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