Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nickson's The One

Some long time sports broadcasters have good news this week, while the latest radio ratings are turbulent among the major markets.

First, congratulations to Nick Nickson, who has been a radio voice of the L.A. Kings for the past 34 years. Nickson has been selected for he NHL Hall of Fame's Foster Hewitt Award, as voted by the NHL Broadcasters Association as well as reporters. What makes this even more special is that Nickson will join another long time voice of the Kings, Bob Miller, with that honor. Nickson and Miller worked on the air together back in the 80's when the Kings were a blip on the local sports radar until the arrival of Wayne Gretzky changed that.

Basketball Hall of Fame member Dick Vitale will continue as the lead analyst for ESPN College Basketball through at least the 2017-18 season, as a result of his latest contract extension. This assures him of at least 39 seasons with ESPN. Got to think he will get at least one more season to make it an even 40.

In Washington D.C., the expected announcement was made that the legendary Sonny Jurgensen will indeed return to Redskins Radio for the upcoming season. This will be his 35th season in the booth for the team, with no sign of him slowing down.

The Nielsen Radio Ratings for May have been released for the nation's largest markets, this month without any trends one way or the other. Moreso than past months, several of the key markets are showing varied trends.

Sports stations continue to be strong in Boston, where the two stations finished in an overall tie for #7 in the market. Even though both WEEI-FM and WBZ-FM Sports Hub show an audience decrease, they now have roughly the same number of listeners each week.

NYC listeners have boosted the combined sports talk radio audience by .7 of ratings point (combined) for the month, no doubt boosted by good starts from both the Mets and Yankees. WFAN came in #10 overall, and while WEPN-FM failed to make the top 20, it did show its highest rating in several months.

The playoff run of the NBA Chicago Bulls and the expected coaching change helped WMVP ESPN 1000 to an overall 33% audience increase over the past three months. While still not finishing in the market's top 20 stations, WMVP overtook rival WSCR The Score 670 for the first time in many months. WBBM 780 saw an audience boost as it now carries the Chicago Cubs radio broadcasts.

Detroit listeners, and a solid start by the Tigers (flagship station) boosted WXYT-FM The Ticket to a lofty #1 overall position, maintaining seven times the audience size of WMGC-FM in the process.

Baseball helped in San Diego as well, where XEPRS Mighty 1090 showed a solid increase to #5 overall in the market from struggles as recent as last summer. A similar story in Seattle, where KIRO-AM, with its all sports format and the Mariners games, has grown its audience by 25% over the past three months and came in at #9 overall. In Tampa, WDAE, helped by the Rays broadcasts, rose one-half of a ratings point from April through May and shows its best ratings since 2009.

No surprise here from St. Louis, where the Cardinals' hot start propelled KMOX to a huge increase from April to a solid #1 and its best numbers since late 2013.

However, the baseball gain is not a trend across the board. In Minneapolis, KTWN, still a mix of music and Twins baseball, again held steady (despite the best start for the Twins in years) and is only #18 overall, while KXFN The Fan is at #7 overall.

In Dallas, an upward trend in sports radio listening still failed to put either KTCK-AM The Ticket or KRLD-FM into the top 20 overall. KTCK showed a one-half point increase, while KRLD increased its rating by .2. Similar story in Los Angeles, where both the Dodgers and Angels stations (which are also all sports) both increased, but not enough for either to crack the top 20. This ratings period marked the first time both KSPN-AM 710 and KLAC-AM 570 each finished with a 1.0 or higher rating.

WJZ-FM Baltimore continued its strong showing with a #4 overall finish, up 20% from the March 2015 survey.

For those who disagree with me about local sports talk and don't believe that team performances impact the ratings far more than the personalities and station promotions, take a look at Philadelphia.

With the term "post season" being unheard of in Philadelphia sports these days, the lack of the Sixers and Flyers in May, combined with the poor start from the Phillies is having a big impact.

WIP-FM 94.1, often one of the top seven stations in the ratings, has slipped to #11 overall and has lost .7 from its ratings from March through May. WPEN-FM has lost one-half of a point during the same time frame. When there is nothing fun to discuss, it doesn't matter how entertaining the personalities are.

LOS ANGELES: KSPN 710 will remain the flagship station of the Lakers through at least the 2021-22 season thanks to a two year contract extension. The Lakers have aired on KSPN since 2009. John Ireland and Mychal Thompson will continue as the broadcast team, while both continue their respective midday co-hosting duties during the week. Ireland co-hosts "Mason & Ireland" from Noon to 3 most weekdays, while Thompson co-hosts "Thompson & Trudell" from 10 AM to Noon.

BUFFALO: WGR will be ready for the upcoming NHL Draft on June 26th. The station plans to broadcast live from an NHL Draft Party at the First Niagara Center, complete with having Sabres play-by-play voice Rick Jeanneret on hand with analyst Rob Ray. This is a great idea for both the team and the station to promote the team and direct fan interaction.

PANAMA CITY: We're wondering if anyone noticed, but Fox Sports 590 is no longer, having quietly switched to a classic hits music format. Then again, they were quietly airing Fox Sports Radio.

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