While we wait to see how the viewership will be for the college football playoff games on New Year's Eve and whether or not those will impact the ratings for the New Year's Day bowl games, it has been quite the media week for the active pro sports.
NHL fans in the U.S. got a holiday gift that will last for a long time with the surprising announcement that the TuneIn app is making NHL games available at no cost. TuneIn will offer both the home and away feeds, including multiple languages when available. The app will soon have a TuneIn player on NHL.com as well, and promises to have "Hockey Channel 30" up and running shortly, which will be available 24 hours a day.
This is a wonderful change from the app's NFL offerings, which are only available on a "premium tier" for which users pay $7.99 per month. It will be interesting to see how much this impacts the future participation of SiriusXM satellite radio, which, until now, had been the exclusive home of audio feeds of every NHL game.
It was a good Christmas holiday for NBA games, as ABC/ESPN showed a 6% increase in viewers of all five games aired consecutively on those networks on Christmas Day. The marquis matchup of Cleveland vs. Golden State was the most watched Dec. 25th telecast since 2011, which was part of the delayed season opening day. Keep in mind that ABC will not be airing Sunday doubleheaders during the second half of the season and will have options for which Sunday game to showcase unlike past seasons. Instead, ABC will begin its Saturday prime time series next week.
NFL fans having a day (Saturday 1/2) to recover from all of the college football telecasts on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, along with several games with playoff implications, should make for a strong Sunday (1/3) viewership. NBC has flexed the Green Bay vs. Minnesota game to Sunday Night Football in a battle for the NFC North title. Fox will be able to cover the race for best record by having both the Carolina and Arizona games as doubleheader games.
New York fans will again have the Jets and Giants playing at the same time on competing networks, although the Jets telecast figures to crush the ratings for the Giants game. As it was, this past Sunday (12/27) Night Football telecast of the Giants against the Vikings had the New York City market finish 21st in audience ratings among the major markets despite the Giants being the local team. The Minneapolis/St. Paul area, with a huge following for the surprising Vikings, finished first among all markets, with an impressive 42.5% of homes tuned in at some point.
Let's give a ton of credit to the NFL Network for staying at the stadium after the end of the overtime game between San Diego and Oakland on Christmas Eve. Despite the limited national interest in the game, it being played on Christmas Eve, and running well past midnight in the Eastern time zone, the crew knew to stay with it and capture the moment for Charles Woodson's final home game of his amazing career. The crew was ready and picked up Woodson's brief talk to the crowd at the stadium with no hesitation and no technical problems at all in a class move.
For baseball fans, as wonderful as it is that ESPN is giving us three live games on Opening Day Sunday in April, one of the network's "traditions" just won't go away. Granted, the Yankees and Red Sox could both be back in the A.L. East race at the same time in 2016. But ESPN continues to appear obligated to show the teams head-to-head no matter what the circumstances.
Two of the first six weeks of Sunday Night Baseball will feature, you guessed it, Yankees vs. Red Sox, which will be back-to-back weeks on May 1 and May 8. It doesn't stop there, as the same two teams have already been scheduled for July 17th, even though six Sundays before that have not yet had games scheduled.
By the way, the World Champion K.C. Royals have been scheduled a grand total of ONE time during that stretch, and that will be Opening Night, Sunday April 3rd vs. the Mets.
ESPN has scheduled its first ever Sunday Night Baseball doubleheader. On June 12th, the Pirates and Cardinals will be shown starting at 5 PM ET followed by the Giants vs. Dodgers at 8:30 PM ET.
SAN FRANCISCO/SAN JOSE: While KGMZ 95.7 The Game struggles to make a dent against the ratings of KNBR 680, The Game has decided to drop its ESPN Radio affiliation as of the first of the year. It's not because of local programming. The station is replacing with Fox Sports Radio during the 11 AM to 3 PM weekday spot, as well as during the 3 to 6 AM period and most of its weekend programming. No word yet on where ESPN Radio will be heard in the Bay Area.
KANSAS CITY: It's the same people hosting the same shows on the market's sports talkers, but clearly it is the sports scene that shapes the ratings. As much as the locals love their Royals, the off season clearly shows. The latest Nov.-Dec. ratings showed KCSP-AM losing literally more than two-thirds of the total audience it had from the Oct. - Nov. ratings during the Royals' championship run, going from a 10.6 to a 3.0 in the Nielsens. WHB-AM dipped from a 5.3 to a 2.9 during the same time frame, with the stations finishing #18 and #19 in overall market rank.
St. LOUIS: KFNS 590 continues its efforts to return to sports talk radio, adding Bob Ramsey and Jeff Vernetti to its lineup starting next week (1/4). They won't have much air time, at least not yet, as they will air from 11 AM to 1 PM with Howard Balzer now airing from 1 to 3 PM.
Ramsey and Vernetti move up the dial from WGNU 920, which will begin a Noon to 2 PM show with Chris Gardner and a blend of local writers including Benjamin Hochman and Ben Frederickson.
WGNU listeners will have to know what day of the week it is from 2 to 3 PM on weekdays. The station has chosen to go with "highlights" of its morning show in that time slot on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. On Mondays and Fridays, Kelly Chase, the voice of the Blues, will host his own show.
CHICAGO: WBBM-TV got some well deserved flack this past Sunday (12/27) for its NFL telecast decision. Most Sundays, no one would question the station's decision not to even try to compete against the popular Bears telecasts on Fox. But this was clearly not "most" Sunday.
Even though the Bears vs. Tampa telecast on Fox featured two teams already eliminated from playoff contention, WBBM-TV decided not to carry an early game, such as New England vs. the N.Y. Jets.
Instead, WBBM-TV aired the only game it could during the late afternoon slot, which was Jacksonville vs. New Orleans. This while WFLD-TV (Fox) aired the Green Bay vs. Arizona doubleheader game against it.
Ft. LAUDERDALE: The latest chapter is over for long time New York and Florida sportscaster Sid Rosenberg, who is suddenly no longer with WMEN 640. No reason was given, although the station was extremely fast in removing Rosenberg from its web site.
ATLANTA: 92.9 The Game has reportedly dismissed long time host (and former NFL analyst for CBS and NBC) Randy Cross from its midday show, according to Rodney Ho of the Atlanta Journal Constitution just before press time. Cross, a part of the morning show for about three years since 92.9 went to sports in 2012, had been shoved to middays earlier this year.
Happy New Year!!