Thursday, October 8, 2015

It's How The Ratings Ball Bounces

The MLB post-season has sent a line drive to TBS and a foul ball to Fox Sports. TBS has lucked in to having the top three markets involved in its National League Division Series telecasts which begin on Friday (10/9). Along side its New York vs. Los Angeles series are two of the most popular teams in the Midwest with the Cardinals and Cubs about to battle it out in their best of five series.

The Cubs Wild Card win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night (10/8) drew the highest ratings for a baseball game in the Chicago market in 10 years (when the White Sox won the 2005 World Series over Houston), with a 21.8 overnight rating. This is even more significant when you realize that NBCSN had the exclusive telecast of the NHL Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks opening night banner ceremony and game at the exact same time, and drew a national rating solid enough to make it the second most watched regular season telecast on NBCSN.

The American League Wild Card game on Tuesday (10/6) did quite well for ESPN, coming in approximately 48% higher than last year's Wild Card telecast (then on TBS). The difference? This year it included the Yankees, who were shut out, and with that, so were the hopes for Fox Sports in the ratings game.

Now Fox Sports has Toronto vs. Texas in one series, meaning that one of the local markets doesn't even factor in. To make matters worse, Fox is, again this year, hiding many of the telecasts on Fox Sports 1. Not only will there be fewer people interested (with the Yankees gone), but fewer casual fans will know where and when to find the games.

Kansas City, however, is a hotbed of Royals fans. The local telecast ratings (for Fox Sports Kansas City) increased nearly 90% over the 2014 season and, according to Sports Business Journal, made the Royals the team with the best local telecast ratings in MLB for the just concluded 2015 regular season. The team with the second best local ratings was the St. Louis Cardinals, also still very much alive in the post-season. Their ratings went up about 31% this season.

That report also shows that 16 of the 30 MLB teams showed overall ratings increases vs. 2014. In New York, the Yankees ratings dropped about 7% while Mets telecasts on SportsNet New York increased more than 55%. In Los Angeles, where the Dodgers still can't be seen locally in more than 70% of that market, the Angels telecasts on Fox Sports Southwest outdrew the Dodgers for 2015.

The major east coast storms continue to impact college football schedules and viewing. ESPN has been forced to adjust its telecast lineup for this Saturday (10/10) due to the LSU vs. South Carolina game being relocated to Baton Rouge (instead of Columbia). As a result, the game will air at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN. As a result, ESPN's other scheduled telecasts, both at Noon and 3:30 PM ET, are being moved within the family of networks.

Last Saturday's storms helped ABC to win the ratings battle among all broadcast networks with the Notre Dame at Clemson game drawing more than 3.2 million viewers. At the same time, ESPN's telecast of Mississippi at Florida was the most watched show on cable for the night. And then there was Fox Sports with its Arizona State vs. UCLA telecast. It was only the fourth most watched college game, also trailing ESPN2's Tennessee vs. Arkansas tilt.

Kenny Albert continues to keep busy, and continues to have two major networks in the fold. NBC has increased Albert's role in its NHL coverage for NBCSN and NBC. Hopefully Albert will improve on his hockey announcing and do more than simply give the name of the player passing or shooting the puck. NBCSN has also added Brian Boucher as a full-time NHL analyst.

ESPNU helps fans get ready for basketball, even at this early date. It is scheduled to telecast the University of Kentucky's practice on Sunday (10/11). Not to say they are going overboard, but the announcing team of Doris Burke, Seth Greenberg, and Jay Williams will be on hand. It's a practice, folks.

CBS has chosen Alabama at Texas A & M for its October 17th 3:30 PM ET telecast.

MILWAUKEE: Bucks radio will stay the same, while changes begin on the TV side for the coming season. The team has renewed with WTMJ 620 in a multi-year deal. Ted Davis, starting his 19th season in the role, will continue on play-by-play while Dennis Krause remains as the analyst for home games only.

However, on the TV side Fox Sports Wisconsin appears to be phasing out the long time team of Jim Paschke and Jon McGlocklin. This appears to be a Fox Sports decision, since they are bringing in announcers already employed by Fox for other duties. Gus Johnson will call 20 of the Bucks' games on TV, while Marques Johnson (a former standout for the Bucks in the 70's) will be the analyst on 55 of the telecasts when their respective schedules permit.

As a result, Paschke and McGlocklin will work the telecasts when either or both of the Johnsons are not available to do so.

ATLANTA: Another episode of a station reporter going overboard on social media and paying the price. WZGC 92.9 The Game suspended Mike Bell for his odd and derogatory comments about ESPN's Jessica Mendoza.

This negative publicity for the station comes during the same week as the station debuting its new morning show to replace Marc James and Jamie Dukes. The Game went all the way to their weekend staff to find its morning show, moving Hugh Douglas and John Fricke out of Saturday late nights and into morning drive. The reasoning behind the move is that this was the station's highest rated weekend show.

Some of you may remember John Fricke from CNN back in the 80's and the era of Nick Charles and Fred Hickman. Fricke is probably best remembered for laughing on the air for seemingly no reason, sometimes while reading stories.

INDIANAPOLIS: It's not exactly known as a hockey market, not having had a pro team since the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association in the late 70's. (With a rookie by the name of Wayne Gretzky in 1976, by the way.) Yet, WISH-TV is giving it a chance, signing to carry 19 regular season Chicago Blackhawks games via WGN-TV Chicago.

ORLANDO: The market already has five sports stations if you include surrounding areas. Yet, WYGM 740 The Game now has an FM simulcast at 96.9.

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