Thursday, June 4, 2015

Indy Station In No "Rush" For Sports Talk

It's another of those "radio vs. business" decisions that impacts sports radio for Indianapolis. WNDE 1260 (and soon to be 97.5) will soon be sports for 21 hours a day on weekdays, down from 24. The reason? Management is adding the syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show next month, so never mind the current format.

Limbaugh is being dropped by WIBC 93.1 upon the conclusion of the current contract. WNDE's ownership decided to pick it up, starting July 6th, resulting in a daily interruption of the sports format.

For area sports fans, the radio wars might offer better competition than the Colts and Pacers will for their upcoming seasons. Limbaugh has been a popular show over the years, but WIBC obviously had their reasons for dropping the contract, most likely its bottom line. WNDE is counting on thousands of Limbaugh fans staying with him on his new radio home.

WIBC 93.1 has every reason to come up with a solid replacement for Limbaugh on its airwaves. Retaining and hopefully (for them) growing the audience is the most obvious reason. One more important reason is that WIBC's sister station at 1060 AM is all sports radio Then Fan.

Thus, if WIBC can keep a good percentage of its audience without Limbaugh, and refer its large audience over to The Fan for its sports programming, both of those stations would then provide solid reasons for listeners to not go over to WNDE 1260. On the other hand, if WNDE can grow its audience because of Limbaugh, one would think that its days as a sports talk station would begin to wind down.

Other than the local Query & Schultz Show, the station offers little else and only Fox Radio Sports for hours and hours of its programming. At least we know the listeners will decide.
But, oh, for the days when media management cared about maintaining a format and having a consistent sound. WNDE going to "mostly sports most of the time", as I call it, does not appear to be a good mix.

While the NBC Sports Group is maximizing its coverage of the Belmont Stakes this coming Saturday (6/6), and understandably so, even MSG Network is getting into the act. The regional sports network has announced additional supplemental programming leading into and following the actual race. MSG+ will air a special "Belmont Stakes Preview" premiering Friday (6/5) at 7 PM ET, along with being able to show the replay of the telecast at 9:30 PM ET on the 6th.

NBC, meanwhile, has moved up the start time of the Stanley Cup Finals Game 2 one hour on Saturday in order to use the Belmont Stakes as a lead-in. The Blackhawks at Lightning telecast will begin at 7 PM ET on NBC, while all other games (whether on NBC or NBCSN) begin at 8 PM ET.

If it wasn't for the Chicago audience, NBC would likely get buried in the ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals. This past weekend saw both Conference finals have a Game 7, including New York and Chicago teams. Yet, local and regional telecasts of Major League Baseball regular season action scored generally higher ratings.

Last Friday (5/29), the N.Y. Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Game 7 telecast lost to local baseball telecasts in 18 of the 24 markets which televised the home team. Of course, many of the markets do not have local NHL teams. Both St. Louis and Kansas City baseball telecasts finished with at least five times the audience ratings of the Game 7 telecast.

On Saturday (5/30) the Chicago vs. Anaheim Game 7 finished second to local MLB telecasts in 12 of the 19 markets which aired games. Even in hockey crazed Pittsburgh, the Pirates vs. Padres telecast drew more than 2 1/2 times the total audience as the NHL game.

When you consider that this was the first time in 15 years that both NHL Conference Finals series went the full seven games, it shows how much more work the NHL needs to do to promote its product. Those series included teams from the three top markets, including compelling games over the previous two weeks.

This is also good news for MLB, which continues to show solid regular season ratings for the local teams, even if the post-season ratings have not been as hoped.

The NFL continues to take in the big bucks for its telecasts. Yahoo is paying an estimated $20 million to the NFL for the rights to stream the October 25 regular season matchup between Buffalo and Jacksonville in London. The telecast, produced by CBS and seen over the air in both markets only, will be available at no cost online, including phones and tablets.

With a 9:30 AM ET start time and no other major live sports competition, it would appear that Yahoo will do well with that investment between selling advertising and promoting its various services to millions. Of course, the service needs to be certain it can handle the load, as millions will try this out if for no other reason but the novelty of this.

Of course, the NFL stands to benefit tremendously, with anticipated huge viewing numbers for what appears to be a poor matchup of sub-.500 teams. It is no accident that game was scheduled for October 25th. By having three live games available prior to Sunday Night Football, the League wants to "burn out" fans watching games all day long. Why? Because there will be a World Series telecast that night, going up against Sunday Night Football. Even if fewer fans than usual are watching, having 10 hours of live football before the World Series telecast is likely to curtail viewership that evening.

DALLAS: The improved ratings for local MLB telecasts is very evident in the Dallas area. After a poor start by the Rangers, the debut game of top prospect Joey Gallo on Tuesday (6/2) brought Fox Sports Southwest its highest ratings of the current season. Even more impressive is the fact that the game was a blowout, ending with a 15-2 Rangers win over the Chicago White Sox. The previous high for Rangers ratings was Memorial Day for Josh Hamilton's first game back as a member of the Rangers.

PITTSBURGH: 93.7 The Fan will again have Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger for his weekly appearance during the 2015 season. Roethlisberger will again appear on The Cook and Ponio Show each week. This season's appearance will be on Tuesday mornings at 11 AM.

PHOENIX: Nick Boynton has been reinstated as analyst for the AZ Coyotes for next season following his recent arrest and promise to do community service.

TUCSON: Sorry to learn of the passing of Dan Ryan, who spent 20 years as KVOA-TV Sports Director until 2006. Ryan spent more than 33 years in broadcasting, as passed away last week.

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