As the NBA and its biggest fans prepare for the 5 live games on Christmas Day, it is interesting to note how the Association and its TV partners are not pumping up the incredible start by the Golden State Warriors as much as they should be. It would appear that the Warriors could become only the 2nd team in league history to win 70 games, and the possibility exists, as of now, of challenging the all-time season victory mark of 72 wins.
Because the NBA, as do the other pro leagues, limit the number of times each team can appear on national telecasts over the course of the season, you would think that exceptions could be made with the possibility of huge ratings and revenue for all concerned. Already, the NBA League Pass package has a record number of digital subscriptions, and the season is less than half finished. The latest single game choice list for this season is, of course, led by Warriors games.
Yet, as of press time, there are only five of their January games scheduled for the national platform, with three of those five being late night (10:30 PM ET) on weeknights. Two of those telecasts are on NBA-TV, those being Jan. 5 (vs. Lakers) and Jan. 25 (vs. San Antonio). The others are TNT telecasts on Jan. 14th (also vs. Lakers in a late game) and a major matchup vs. Cleveland at 8 PM ET on Jan. 18th. ESPN will air the Warriors at Chicago on Jan. 20th at 8 PM ET.
There is the valid argument that the networks would rather not risk flexing and using up their Warriors telecasts in order to save them for a possible 70th win and season record run in March and April. Here's hoping the Association and its TV partners will make some exceptions and jump aboard the "must see" bandwagon sooner than that, if the Warriors maintain their tremendous pace.
On the baseball side, Fox Sports is already planning a change in their MLB booth for the 2016 season, moving John Smoltz into the lead analyst role to work with Jack Buck for its lead games. Smoltz will replace Harold Reynolds, who is expected to continue with Fox's MLB coverage, whether as a studio analyst or moved to a regional broadcast team. Gone from the booth is writer/reporter Tom Verducci. It is great to see a network go from three back to two men in the booth.
If only these networks would start to reduce from seemingly hundreds of studio analysts, and give the best one a chance to talk for more than a few seconds at a time.
For all of its problems, Fox Sports did make a success out of their college football package this season, showing a roughly 15% increase in viewership over 2014. Helping the most were the Stanford vs. Notre Dame telecast on Nov. 28th and the Big Ten Championship game between Michigan State and Iowa.
Although the November into December radio ratings are, once again, swayed by listeners switching over to holiday music, it was not good for sports radio. One major exception is Boston, the leader in sports radio. Incredibly, both WBZ Sports Hub and WEEI-FM came in with their same ratings as last month, with WBZ-FM again finishing #2 in the market and WEEI-FM again at #6 in overall audience.
In New York City, WFAN has fallen from a 4.2 to a 3.2 Nielsen rating since October, while WEPN dipped .4 from the previous month. In Chicago, WSCR The Score 670 held steady, but passed up WMVP ESPN 1000 which dipped .5 from the previous month.
San Francisco's KNBR is still a solid #6 overall in the market, but is down 1.1 since October, while KGMZ The Game is down .3 from November. Dallas' sports stations were hit hard, even with the Cowboys' disappointing season. KRLD-FM remains the leader of the three sports stations, but has dropped from a 4.0 October rating to a December 2.6. The little bit of momentum starting to show in Los Angeles has stopped, with all four sports stations dropping over the past month.
CHICAGO: It took just over two years, but Kendall Gill has returned to Comcast SportsNet Chicago as a studio analyst for its Chicago Bulls telecasts. Gill had been involved in a physical altercation in late 2013 with a reporter who disagreed with his analysis. Now, all is forgiven, and Gill is back, now sharing the role with Will Perdue.
DENVER: It gets confusing, but KKZN 760 will soon become KDSP Denver Sports 760 and will air mostly Fox Sports Radio programming during the key weekday times. It appears that only the 10 AM to Noon slot with Dan Logan and Susan Wargin will be the only local programming during the week. ESPN Radio will move over to The Fan 104.3 and/or KEPN The Zone 1600.
LUBBOCK: Actually, this is even more confusing than the affiliation switch in Denver. What was KTTU Sports 104.3 has been moved over to 97.3 KLZK as of last Friday (12/18). A swap of stations between two owners resulted in a total of five stations in the market moving to new frequencies on the same day. If you think the listeners have it bad, consider the advertising agencies that have to deal with different stations handling the various formats.
And on that note, have a Merry Christmas!!