It appears that it's not only the NFL enjoying strong ratings this football season. Even college football is making a bigger impact on the TV ratings this season.
The Ohio State vs. Michigan State showdown this past Saturday (11/21) serves as another solid example even though it was played in the late afternoon time slot and not in prime time. ABC/ESPN came away with its highest rated late afternoon game since November 2006 (Ohio State vs. Michigan) and its highest rated college football game of this season to date.
Four of the top five best local ratings markets were, as you would expect, in Ohio, with the 42 rating for Columbus finishing ahead of Dayton, Cleveland, with Cincinnati finishing at #5 among local markets. The #4 ratings market was Detroit, the largest Michigan State market. Clearly the network benefitted from the game being tight all the way to the end. That this game had higher ratings than the Alabama - LSU game the previous week also speaks well for the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, the rumblings have started about the NFL's Thursday Night Football package, since the CBS contract for the first half of the season is now completed. The two contracts for one year each which CBS had were both announced in January. The Hollywood Reporter says that Fox, NBC, and Turner Sports have already expressed interest in bidding, along with CBS.
No indication at all from the NFL yet as to whether they will seek still another one-year deal or go for the long term. More importantly, there is no indication yet as to whether or not CBS will have an exclusive bidding window and/or the right to match another offer based on having had the package for these past two seasons. We also don't know whether or not NFL Network will continue to simulcast these games.
On the regional level, the fighting continues between Comcast (cable provider) and YES Network and it appears this could go on for a while. Nearly 1,000,000 subscribers in New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and parts of Delaware have been without YES Network for about one month in a dispute over costs.
There is the possibility that Comcast is saving money by not paying YES Network to air the channel until March when spring training telecasts begin, even though YES also shows the New York Nets NBA games. At least this is not like the L.A. Dodgers situation, because subscribers have the option of switching carriers to continue to watch the YES Network at any time.
ESPN has worked with MLB to make the opening of the regular season into a special event more than ever starting with the 2016 season. The network revealed that it has moved two more opening games up to Sunday April 3rd and will, weather permitting, air a live triple header of opening games that day. In addition, ESPN continues its plan to air four live opening games on Monday April 4th.
The Sunday 4/3 games will be St. Louis at Pittsburgh at 1 PM ET, Toronto at Tampa at 4 PM ET (which will be played since it's from an indoor stadium), and then the Mets at Kansas City at 8:30 PM ET in the first-ever Opening Day rematch of World Series participants.
On the radio side, the ratings for the October-November 2015 period are being released this week. Although the Boston ratings were not released as of press time, there are a couple of interesting developments from the larger markets.
In Chicago, WMVP ESPN 1000 jumped to #18 overall, having risen .9 in just the past two months. As a result, it has clearly passed WSCR 670 The Score, which has held steady during that same period, finishing this ratings book at #22 overall. This jump comes during the first full ratings period with David Kaplan as an early afternoon host and with the Bulls NBA season underway in WMVP's final season as flagship station.
San Francisco's KNBR dropped by .9 since the previous ratings period, although it still finished in the top five stations. KGMZ-FM The Game increased by .6 during the same time to its best ever showing as a sports station.
In Dallas, KRLD-FM dropped in its rating from the previous month, but finished #9 overall in the market, well ahead of WTCK The Ticket (which dropped) and KESN-FM which held steady.
DETROIT: The Lions will be making a major off-season move, but this time it will be on the radio dial. WJR 760 has a new five year contract to become the flagship station once again beginning with the 2016 season. The Lions were heard on WJR from 1948 through 1988.
What makes this significant is that the Lions become the 2nd major Detroit franchise to break away from WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket within the past few months, as the Pistons have just moved over to WMGC-FM 105.1 The Game as well.
The Ticket continues to air the Tigers and Red Wings, but has also released Mike Valenti from his afternoon hosting duties. What makes the Valenti dumping interesting is that co-host Terry Foster announced his intention to remain with the 2 to 6 PM show at the same time. In fact, Foster is giving up his reporter position with the Detroit Free Press after nearly 27 years with the publication in order to remain with The Ticket.
There are some expressing the thought that the Lions left The Ticket (often the #1 station in the market) because of the increased amount of on air criticism of the team (which, as of this week is 3 - 7 for the season), and that it also led to the dumping of Valenti. Yet, if that was the case, the move would have been to let Valenti have his say about the team and give his audience even more reasons to tune in after Lions losses.
PITTSBURGH: No change in radio station status for the Steelers, as WDVE 102.5 and WBGG ESPN 970 have a new three-year extension to continue as the flagship station. As part of the new deal, the "Steelers Nation" HD Radio channel on WDVE HD2 will expand to eight hours per day of "original" content. WDVE has served as the flagship station since 1999.
PORTLAND: A four year contract is a rarity, especially in the world of sports talk radio, but The Game 750 and 102.9 has signed John Canzano to an extension to retain his Noon to 3 PM show, which is the longest running show on the station (since 2008). Canzano is expected to continue his reporting duties for KGW-TV, which is a separate deal.
Happy Turkey to all!!