Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Local Team Baseball A Big Hit

The difference in how MLB and the NFL market themselves is becoming even more evident with the recent Forbes Magazine article about the increase in ratings for local team MLB telecasts for the first half of the 2015 season. The NFL takes pride in marketing the league as a whole, such as promoting its "doubleheader" game telecasts extensively via its network partners. Doing this makes a matchup of teams in a different time zone and different division appealing to a large number of fans.

At the same time MLB stays with the "favorite team" theme, especially with its popular At Bat application which brings broadcasts to millions of fans via phones and other devices. The Forbes report showed ten MLB teams as the highest rated and most viewed prime time cable TV programming during this season. Those markets are Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Boston, Baltimore, San Diego, San Francisco, and Phoenix. This is even more significant when you realize that Seattle, Boston, and San Diego have teams which are having disappointing seasons based on earlier expectations.

At the same time, the L.A. Dodgers ratings continue to suffer from their telecasts being available to less than 30% of the Los Angeles market, and the Chicago White Sox ratings suffering from a disappointing season in the nation's #3 market.

This trend also reflects on the lesser ratings for the All-Star Game and the national packages such as Fox and TBS. It could be that fans are not as 'in tune' with national games. Of course, MLB telecasts are usually six days per week, vs. one game per week for the NFL teams. There is, however, the promotional factor. Fox Sports continues to hide most of its telecasts, and put them on at staggered times, on Fox Sports 1, while TBS just this month began its Sunday series of telecasts after fans got used to not finding any Sunday games on that network.

At Fox Sports, they are already preparing their promotional forces for the upcoming NFL season, now expanding their Sunday NFL pre-game programming from one hour to two hours. The Network plans to put "Fox NFL Kickoff" on Fox Network from 11 AM to 12 Noon ET each Sunday, followed by the regular "Fox NFL Kickoff" show airing as it has for years at Noon ET. This puts Fox up against ESPN's NFL pre-game programming for a longer time on Sundays, while it hopes the lead-in will help with also beating out CBS during the one-hour lead-in to the regional telecasts. "Fox NFL Kickoff" quietly aired on Fox Sports 1 during that same time slot last season.

Speaking of expanding coverage, ESPN/ABC will be adding a Saturday night prime-time package on ABC for the later part of the NBA regular season as part of its new deal, starting in January. This eight game package will air at 8:30 PM ET, starting Jan. 23, with games to be determined during the season. One down side to this, however, is that ABC will no longer air doubleheaders on Sunday afternoons, sticking with the 3:30 PM ET airtime for its Sunday telecasts. At least ABC has wised up and plans to schedule a Super Bowl Sunday NBA telecast, with that one (only) starting at 1 PM ET.

A good matchup stands a chance vs. the endless Super Bowl pre-game hype that starts airing during that time block.

Some interesting viewership notes from The British Open telecasts. The Sunday telecast did best in markets without a local MLB team, which is more of a positive for baseball viewing. Of the top ten local market ratings, nine of them (West Palm Beach, Louisville, Oklahoma City, Raleigh-Durham, Indianapolis, Tulsa, Richmond, Charlotte, and Jacksonville) are in that category. Yet, the one market in the top ten golf ratings with an MLB franchise was Kansas City, with the Royals winning their third game in four tries out of the All Star break overlapping much of the Open telecast.

TBS continues to go "big market" with its few Sunday afternoon MLB telecasts. This coming Sunday (7/26) TBS will air the L.A. Dodgers at N.Y. Mets, with the game shown in the Los Angeles market, an important consideration. The following Sunday, Aug. 2, it will air the N.Y. Yankees at Chicago White Sox game.

What a sad week, with four sports media deaths to report. Buffalo and NFL fans mourn the loss of long time play-by-play voice Van Miller, who called more than 600 of the Bills games from 1960 until 2003, and passed away at the age of 87.

Former University of Alabama analyst and pre-game host Doug Layton passed away at the age of 81. Layton spent 32 seasons in the Bama booth, capped with Coach Bear Bryant's 315th career victory in 1981.

Milwaukee sports talk host Steve Haywood, most recently heard on WAUK ESPN 540, passed away this past weekend from heart failure at the age of 49.

Traverse City MI sports fans mourn the passing of Jon Patrick, known as JP, who broadcast local high school games for 21 years and was also the WTCM morning man for six years. Patrick, whose real name was Jon Carl Reckeweg, was 67.

NEW YORK CITY: WEPN ESPN 98.7 has extended the contract of afternoon drive host Michael Kay (along co-host Don LaGreca) through 2018.

DALLAS: When the Cowboys open the 2015 regular season against the N.Y. Giants on Sunday night September 13th, the radio broadcast will be handled by none other than Verne Lundquist. This will be the first game that regular play-by-play voice Brad Sham will miss since the mid-90's when he "missed" three seasons after shifting over to broadcast Rangers baseball.

Sham will be celebrating the Jewish New Year that night, and would have been able to call this game had it been a Noon CT start and not moved for Sunday Night Football. Sham will begin is 37th season of calling Cowboys football the following week. Lundquist will have Babe Laufenberg as his analyst.

KNOXVILLE: WKGN 1340 is becoming Fox Sports Radio Knoxville but does plan to air local programming during key weekday time slots. The Nate Hodges Show will air from 7 to 10 AM, with Brad Matthews and Ryan Callahan also contributing. The Tom Poisal Show will air from 5 to 7 PM.

The station also plans local college sports programming on weekends.

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