Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ready For The "Stream" Of Football Games

This coming weekend is the football fans' delight, complete with the first full slate of college games on Saturday and then the majority of NFL teams opening up on Sunday.

What makes this football season different for the media is reflected in how much more the internet is a part of our collective football season, more so than ever before. The old saying, "You can't tell the players without a scorecard" is being replaced by a new saying, "You can't watch football without being online", or so it will seem.

The New York Times ran an extensive article this week about the number of brands wanting to advertise to football fans and ways they can actually do so within the period of specific live games.

The likes of Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter are, according to the Times article, able to provide large advertisers with the ability to reach "viewers" of specific NFL games, along with fans checking games for information about their fantasy players.

To that point, for just last week (Aug. 31 through Sept. 6th), the Media Monitors report of the leading national advertisers had both Fan Duel and Draft Kings within the top 21 advertisers of any kind in terms of radio commercials purchased around the country. This shows us what a big business watching the NFL has become.

This follows recent Nielsen research claiming that more than 85% of both smart phone and tablet users are engaged online even while watching TV. What makes this even more interesting is that these advertising opportunities cost the advertisers much less (at the present time) than spending for network buys, while the major network fork out billions to the NFL for the rights to the live telecasts and to be able to profit from ad sales to do so.

Some of the networks are taking precautions already. CBS Sports now plans to stream all four of its playoff telecasts in January and the Super Bowl in February to laptops, tablets, desktops, and other opportunities including Xbox, with no cost or need for a cable or satellite provider, free of charge. In addition, CBS will stream the NY Jets vs. Miami game from London on Oct. 4th at 9:30 AM ET, and has also promised to stream the Thanksgiving game between Carolina and Dallas.

Speaking of CBS-TV, the network's coverage will be enhanced for many of its Sunday telecasts along with its Thursday Night Football telecasts (for CBS and the NFL Network). The latest innovation is the "Pylon Cam", which will be installed inside the pylons at both sides of the goal lines on both sides of the field. No word yet as to whether these low level views will be able to be used as part of League replay reviews. However, they probably will not be available for that purpose because these are not (yet) available for every game.

College football gets the viewers as well. Even the ESPN openers on Thursday Sept. 3rd saw sharp ratings increases when compared with the 2014 season's opening night. Its North Carolina at South Carolina telecast was up nearly 40% over last year's Ole Miss vs. Boise State telecast. That game wound up as one of the top 6 ESPN opening night telecasts ever. The TCU vs. Minnesota telecast later that night also showed a jump over last year.

Over at Fox Sports, they have something to be excited about, as the Fox Sports 1 telecast of Michigan at Utah, the opener for Jim Harbaugh as Michigan coach, was one of FS1's most viewed college football games ever. Ironically, Fox benefited from all of the publicity about Harbaugh, while it does not have a Big Ten contract. FS1 was able to air the game because it was a home game for Utah, and Fox Sports has a Pac 12 contract and could air the game.

CBS-TV announced plans to stream its 17 game SEC football telecasts this season, and do so free without requiring a cable or satellite company to authorize. The stream is also expected to include a "multi-view" feature to allow viewing from a choice of the camera angles used on the main telecast.

While the University of Illinois lost out on having its opening game televised this past weekend when its game was postponed from Friday night to Saturday afternoon due to a severe thunderstorm, their football broadcasts are making history. U. of I is allowing its football games to be broadcast in Chinese, making it the first college team to do so. Although these broadcasts are exclusively through the web site and announced by students Bruce Lu and David He, this is designed to serve the school's estimated 4,000 students from China. This is a brilliant use of a web site.

A few things that come from the "Oh My!" file from the past few days. First, the story about ESPN suspending Curt Schilling for the remainder of the season from Sunday Night Baseball. OK, that isn't a surprise, even though the inflammatory comments were not made over the air. What got me to react was that I first saw the story of this suspension, on, of all places, the web site.

I'll ask it again. Why on earth is CBS "reporting" about something that only involves an ESPN personality and telecast? They should be covering the games and breaking news instead of "reporting" about their competition. Yet, once again, ESPN manages to generate publicity, even if it's not the most positive, via other major reporting sources, to their credit. But that should never happen.

NBCSN contributed to this list on Monday (Labor Day) morning, even though they will say it's not their fault. But there was this national sports network, on the eve of the NFL season opening, NCAA Football hitting full swing, and the start of the final month of MLB, airing a "Best Of" Dan Patrick Show that morning.

Again, Patrick is entitled to time off. But sports fans are entitled to live and current sports programming. Especially when ESPN and Fox Sports (along with regionals such as CSN) are airing live and current highlights and interviews at the same time.

Fox Sports 1 will stop airing a simulcast of Mike Francesa's WFAN New York radio show after this week, as the network clears the way to add a different sports radio show, this time with Colin Cowherd. One key difference is that Cowherd's show is national in scope, as opposed to Francesa's show being focused more on New York City sports.

BOSTON: The July-August radio ratings have WBZ-FM Sports Hub edging out WEEI-FM this time around, although the stations finished overall at #6 and #7 in the market. In fact, both stations increased their total audience from the June-July ratings period. WBZ-FM Sports Hub has gained significantly since spring, while WEEI-FM has dropped slightly over the summer. With a dismal Red Sox season coming to an end while the Patriots season starts, it could be even more positive for the Sports Hub over the coming weeks.

CHICAGO: After years of hosting a ton of sports programming for WGN Radio, including a short-lived low power FM show and an online show shared with Comcast SportsNet Chicago, host David Kaplan reportedly accepted a buyout and is no longer with WGN. In addition to continuing to host "Sports Talk Live" and Chicago Cubs studio programming for Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Kaplan joins WMVP ESPN 1000 radio starting next week to host the Noon to 2 PM spot on weekdays. WMVP will face its biggest challenge in years starting next spring when it loses Chicago Bulls broadcasts after the coming NBA season and post-season, and will no longer have any major local play-by-play. Rival WSCR The Score will begin as the flagship station for the Cubs next spring, while the Bulls will move over (along with the White Sox) to WLS 890 starting in March and October.

WBBM NewsRadio 780 has added Kevin Jackman to its sports department on a part-time basis, where he will be providing weekend sports updates.

NEW YORK: As the Yankees enter a huge weekend series against Toronto for the top spot in the American League East, the Mets are also doing quite well in the ratings game as well as the National League East standings. The Tuesday (9/8) telecast of the Mets game vs. Washington showed the highest rating for a Mets telecast so far this season, as did SNY's post-game show.

PHILADELPHIA: You might be able to credit social media for helping ESPN. As the word spread last Saturday (9/5) that Temple was on its way to upsetting Penn State, the telecast rose to a 6.7 rating and 17 share during the 4th quarter of the game.

CHARLOTTE: Not that many people will notice, but the market quietly lost its CBS Sports affiliate this week, as WBCN 1660 (which has the call letters of the one time legendary Boston rocker) has dumped sports and returned to syndicated general talk. WFNZ 610 The Fan continues as the local sports leader, with ESPN 730 and Fox Sports 98.7 already on the scene.

RALEIGH-DURHAM: WDNC The Buzz has, as of this week, consolidated its local sports talk into its morning show, now known as "Mike Lauren, & Demetri". Mike Maniscalco remains, but is now teamed with writer Lauren Brownlow and a former local music radio host, Demetri Ravanos.

However, the station added Colin Cowherd to its Noon to 3 PM weekday spot to air live, and now delays the Jim Rome Show to its 3 to 6 PM spot. You read that right. They expand the morning show, but go to a tape delayed syndicated show for afternoon drive.

PORTLAND: Fans of the Trailblazers without cable or satellite are delighted, as the announcement has been made that KGW-TV will air 21 Blazers games over the air this season. This will be the most games to air on KGW-TV since 2008.

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