While ESPN is busy reducing its payroll and Fox Sports is busy trying to attract viewers to Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, Turner Sports is quietly having a good summer in the ratings world.
As reported last week, TBS is doing better this year with its Sunday afternoon MLB telecasts, despite not starting them until after the All-Star break.
This past Sunday (8/16), TNT had the final round of the PGA Championship, and scored the highest ratings for the final round since 2010, with initial ratings reports showing a 45% audience increase over 2014. The top local markets for the telecast were Milwaukee, Columbus, Memphis, San Diego, and Orlando.
MLB is being careful about going up against the NFL with its World Series telecasts this season. The two travel dates during the Series happen to fall on Thursday Oct. 29th (when Thursday Night Football airs) and on Monday Nov. 2nd (when Monday Night Football airs). If and as there is a Game 5, it would compete against some or all of NBC Sunday Night Football which has the Packers facing the Broncos.
MLB Network continues to add to its excellent staff of studio analysts this week. Former Padres infielder and Giants third base coach Tim Flannery made his debut earlier this week and will be a regular contributor on the various weekday shows and studio updates. Flannery worked in the Padres broadcast booth for three seasons (2004-06).
In addition, the Network is auditioning former outfielder Juan Pierre for an analyst role for this week only. No further announcement was made as of press time. Pierre officially retired earlier this year after playing for several teams over his career.
It appears that Comcast Cable was violating the ESPN blackout rule on Wednesday night (8/19) when it mysteriously blacked out the Chicago Cubs vs. Detroit Tigers national telecast throughout most of the Chicago area. The current MLB contract prevents local blackouts for ESPN scheduled nights (Monday and Wednesday) along with TBS Sunday telecasts. The local Cubs telecast aired as usual, while ESPN was showing a tennis replay instead. Earlier this month (8/9), the TBS telecast from Chicago between the Giants and Cubs aired on the same Comcast systems.
BOSTON: WBZ-FM Sports Hub has gained added ammunition in its bid to overcome WEEI-FM. Comcast SportsNet New England has added a simulcast of the Toucher & Rich morning show from 6 to 10 AM. Good for the Sports Hub, but it deprives fans of the chance to see game highlights and recaps of the previous night's action on CSN in the morning. CSN New England already simulcasts Felger & Mezz, the afternoon drive show of WBZ-FM, except when pre-empted by live game action.
This means that on most weekdays, CSN New England's schedule will consist of one-third (8 hours) of simulcasting sports radio. I suppose it's better than some of the infomercials and lesser so-called sports shows.
DALLAS: Now that the Cowboys are underway with their pre-season, it comes as an even bigger surprise that fans are aware of the Rangers now making a run toward a post-season berth after a poor first half. Monday's (8/17) Fox Sports Southwest telecast of the Rangers' win over Seattle scored the highest ratings of any Rangers telecast so far this season. FSSW could be in luck next week when the Rangers host Toronto in a three game series, all of which is scheduled to air on FSSW.
MINNEAPOLIS: The Ticket got punched. After showing up with a combined rating of .1, the lowest possible rating, the trimulcast of WGVX, WRXP, and WGVZ known as Sports Talk The Ticket has vanished and been turned into a hip-hop format. The market's other two sports stations, KFXN The Fan and KSTP ESPN, are both in the top 20 in the ratings.
CHICAGO: Radio stations continue to battle for Bears fans even though the team is not expected to be in playoff contention for the upcoming NFL season. Once again this year, no fewer than three of the major AM stations will air at least two full hours of post-game programming after each Sunday Bears game.
While flagship station WBBM 780 continues its two hour post-game show. WGN Radio 720 will again deliver a three-hour post-game discussion show as well. And now WSCR 670 has announced a new two hour post-game show to be hosted by former Bears players Olin Kreutz and James 'Big Cat' Williams. WSCR's show, however, will likely air later on three of the first four Sundays during the regular season, airing after its White Sox baseball coverage.
GAINESVILLE: WRUF ESPN 850 has added 95.3 FM and now simulcasts as of this week. The station continues to air its share of area play-by-play, including Rays baseball from Tampa, Jaguars football from Jacksonville, and University of Florida football and basketball.