This is the week that ESPN launches its "ESPN College Extra" channel(s) on many cable/satellite systems, adding up to eight separate channels during the Saturday football times to show a number of games either simultaneously or separately. The channel promises to air college sports year-round, including events from the Big 12, ACC, MAC, and the Sun Belt conferences.
Among those systems adding these are DirecTV and AT&T, Time Warner, Bright House, and Fios. As of press time, Comcast is among those systems not offering this feature. Curiously, Comcast offers the multiple channel feeds for the Big Ten Network in many Midwest markets, which is by way of Fox Sports.
For this season, these will be college football games also available via ESPN3, which streams and includes the network's app, as well. However, since many of the teams not opening until the following weekend, the Sept. 5th list of games includes Wofford vs. Clemson, Albany at Buffalo, Tennessee Tech vs. Houston and Northern AZ vs. Stephen F. Austin.
You would think that other pro team owners, especially in Los Angeles, would learn from the Dodgers' TV deal and make a full effort to have their product seen by as many TV viewers as possible. Just as the Clippers have the opportunity to steal with local spotlight away from the Lakers, new owner Steve Ballmer may be poised to take an even bigger risk.
The New York Post reported late last week that Ballmer is looking into making the Clippers local telecasts available only by streaming and not with a local or regional TV package. Ballmer has reportedly turned down an increased renewal offer, believed to be as high as $60 million dollars per season, from Fox's Prime Ticket Network to renew its contract after the coming 2015-16 season.
It appears that Prime Ticket became more aggressive in the bidding since the Lakers have their own TV network via Time Warner Cable and thus will not be available in the near future.
If the $60 million per season reported bid is true, it would seem that generating close to or more than that on an individual basis for streaming would be a monumental task. Especially when you consider that Prime Ticket promotes and markets the telecasts to its approximately 5,000,000 Southern California viewers.
Even if this is talk to increase the bidding from competitors (since Prime Ticket has the games for the upcoming season), it remains to be seen if the team's TV ratings will rise considerably from last season to warrant Ballmer and the team getting more than double what Prime Ticket is currently paying for the telecast rights.
Not taking such an offer could totally backfire on the team, and eventually on its growing fan base.
Speaking of Los Angeles, baseball fans are rejoicing from the news that Vin Scully expects to be back calling Dodgers home (and selected road) games again for 2016, giving it one more season. It seemed so fitting that during the same series (vs. Chicago Cubs) in which Scully made the announcement that he was on hand to call Jake Arrieta's no-hitter on Sunday (8/30) from Dodger Stadium to the local radio audience.
Those networks which didn't seem to mind when they lost the NASCAR telecast rights are counting their blessings again this week. This past Saturday's (8/29) Sprint Cup telecast from Bristol, airing on NBCSN, dropped by more than one-third from last year's ratings on ABC-TV, and by more than 40% from the 2013 ratings. As a result, it winds up as the least watched Sprint Cup telecasts since the 90's.
TBS continues it's New York or Boston thing on its Sunday MLB telecasts again this coming Sunday (9/6). It has scheduled Tampa Bay at the Yankees. This, even though MLB Network and ESPN will have, still again, saturated baseball fans earlier in the week with the Red Sox vs. the Yankees as though every game they play against each other is a special event.
If you don't believe the power of the NFL on TV then last Friday's (8/28) national ratings should convince you once and for all. CBS won the prime-time ratings battle for the night among total viewers, including both men and women aged 18-49. This was due to a live NFL game. Incredibly, it was a pre-season game. Even more incredibly, it was a matchup between Detroit and Jacksonville, two teams which did not even come close to making the playoffs last season.
BOSTON: While we await the June-July radio ratings to see how WEEI-FM fairs against WBZ-FM Sports Hub, WEEI-FM is bringing back a familiar voice to co-host its midday show. Glen Ordway will join Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria, starting next Tuesday (9/8), returning to the station 2 and one-half years after his afternoon drive stint had ended.
Ordway technically replaces Tim Benz, who went back to Pittsburgh just over a month ago. For those not familiar with Boston sports talk, Ordway has more than 25 years on WEEI, including nearly 18 years as co-host of the afternoon drive "The Big Show" from the mid-90's into early 2013.
CHICAGO: This past Saturday (8/29) was quite a night for the local CBS radio stations, as the group aired all three of the major Chicago pro team broadcasts live. WBBM 780 aired the Bears exhibition game from Cincinnati entirely, then joining the Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers game after the post-game show to air the final three innings of that game. WBBM's FM signal, WCFS, aired the Bears game until 8:40 when it cut away to air the Cubs pre-game show and the entire game.
Over at sister station WSCR The Score, the White Sox vs. Seattle game aired as usual. The Bears and Cubs will not conflict on WBBM starting next season, as the Cubs broadcasts are expected to move over to WSCR with the White Sox games moving to WLS-AM.
WMVP ESPN 1000 has added former Bears standout Brian Urlacher as an analyst for a Tuesday afternoon studio shot most weeks.
DALLAS: After being tightly bunched just a few months ago, the new (July-August) radio ratings for the big three sports stations are showing much more of a spread. KRLD continues a strong lead (.8 overall) over KTCK-AM The Ticket even though The Ticket showed a 10% overall increase over the previous month. KESN-FM ESPN is now an even more distant third.
HOUSTON: While the Astros continue with impressive ratings growth for their telecasts on Root Sports, football remains king on the local scene. The exhibition game between the Texans and Saints drew a 19.9 Nielsen rating, while the Astros vs. Minnesota (two teams surprisingly very much in the post-season hunt) drew no better than a 3.0 for the weekend.
NEW YORK: While the Yankees battle for first place against Toronto, the fans are saying "YES" to watching the telecasts. The YES Network ratings for the Yankees telecasts are reportedly up by more than 30% since the All-Star break in July, with eight of the nine highest rated telecasts for the season airing since July 29th. Also since the All-Star break, the YES pre-game show has shown a 38% ratings increase and a 17% post-game show increase.
CHARLOTTE: The Hornets are going to a three-person booth for their telecasts starting this season. Fox Sports Southeast has added Stephanie Ready to the actual game broadcasts, working with Eric Collins and analyst Dell Curry. This is believed to be the first "regular" three person team for any local team NBA telecasts. This will be the 12th season for Ready to be a part of the telecasts. She was an assistant coach in the WNBA, as well as having become the first woman to help coach for NBA team when she was also an assistant in the NBA D-League.
NEW ORLEANS: WMTI-FM 106.1 has dropped its all sports format and gone to music. However, the station will continue to air Tulane football this season, as well as the Curtis Johnson (Tulane head football coach) Show each week. The station had also been airing Tulane basketball, but, as of press time, there has been no announcement either way on that.
CORPUS CHRISTI: ESPN Radio is on the move this week. KEYS 1440 has dropped its affiliation and has gone to general talk, while KLHB (Portland TX) 105.5 has dropped its Spanish format to pick up ESPN Radio as of September 1st.
HAMILTON ONTARIO: A big change for 90 year old station CKOC 1150 this week, as the station drops its oldies format to become TSN sports radio.