Thursday, May 28, 2015

Paying Attention To Game Promos

A winner and champion for this week's "Ooops" definitely goes to ESPN. Hours after the Golden State Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals, which will be televised via ESPN on ABC, the network aired at least one promo for Western Conference Game 6, which would have been played on Friday night May 29th. Not even an "if necessary" which would have given them a little bit of an out. Just a promo as if nothing was wrong.

OK, I'll say it. You have to believe that if a New York or Boston team was involved these games, this wrong promo never would have happened.

Speaking of "Ooops", MLB Network has yet (as of press time) to correct an error on one of its credits, although it is minor in comparison. On the Network's excellent Quick Pitch show, the source credits for its Chicago Cubs highlights show the Cubs radio station as being WGN Radio. Although we can understand that habits are hard to break, the Cubs' association with WGN Radio ended after last season following 70 years of broadcasting the games. As of this season, the games air on WBBM Radio. Yet, this has not been corrected nearly two months into the season.

TNT, which got its promos right, did well with its NBA Eastern Conference Finals, even with a shorter series than anticipated between Cleveland and Atlanta. Game 1 (on May 21) showed a 10% increase over its opening game Western Conference Finals telecast in May 2014, and was TNT's most watched NBA game (regular season or playoffs) of the entire season. In the Cleveland market, that game set a record for an NBA game airing locally on TNT.

CBS Sports is gearing up for the upcoming SEC football package, officially scheduling its first two Saturdays. The Louisville vs. Auburn game will air at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday Sept. 5th, shown live from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The following week, Sat. Sept. 12th will have Georgia at Vanderbilt on the late afternoon schedule. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will return as the broadcast team. The remaining games will not be announced until less than two weeks before.

Fox Sports has rehired Matt Millen, planning to use him as both a game and studio analyst for both its NFL and college football telecasts. Millen will also be a game analyst for weekly telecasts for Big Ten Network, which is majority owned by Fox, working with Kevin Kugler. He is expected to also handle some NFL regional telecasts for Fox, likely for games in the Midwest or proximity to where his BTN duties will take him for Saturday action.

Hopefully Millen will become as good of an analyst as he was years ago, prior to becoming the failed GM of the Detroit Lions. It will be interesting to see whether or not Millen is assigned to any of the Lions telecasts on Fox.

DENVER: Mile High Sports 1550 is been grounded. The station has officially been sold and the sports programming is off the air, supposedly on a temporary basis. Nothing as of press time, but the Mile High Sports Radio group plans to have an announcement about a new location within the next few weeks.

CHICAGO: The minor league baseball telecast series mentioned here last week is going to be seen on more than some local and independent TV stations after all. Comcast SportsNet Chicago will air those games in the package it can (when no local telecast conflicts) starting this Sunday (5/31) with the Iowa Cubs against the El Paso Chihuahuas.

LAS VEGAS:  It's another round of sports radio networks moving around the dial as if it matters. KMZQ-AM The Score drops Fox Sports Radio after this week and will air Yahoo Sports Radio starting on Monday (6/1). KRLV-AM has chosen to drop its Spanish language programming and pick up Fox Radio Sports.  KBAD-AM, with those call letters that may or may not be a coincidence, continues to air NBC Sports Radio.

STATE COLLEGE PA: The Fanatic 1390 has dropped its sports format, which was almost all CBS Sports Radio Network anyway. As it goes in radio, the station is now "Newsradio 1390", but is all general talk shows and (as of press time) does not feature any news blocks in its lineup.

Mt. PLEASANT MI: WFYC 1280 has a new and local morning show which began last week. Don Chiodo and Brock Gutierrez are co-hosts from 6 to 9 AM. Chiodo is the voice of Central Michigan University football and basketball.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Local Team Telecasts Taking Over

Looks like we are into a trend of fans watching their local (or regional) team in action even more, and less of national telecasts of the major sports which are not football.

Forbes Magazine did an interesting report about last Wednesday (5/13) night which had a ton of major sports events on TV around the country. An exciting Game 5 of the NBA series between Atlanta and Washington (a one point Atlanta win) and Game 7 of the N.Y. Rangers against Washington, which went into overtime, actually finished behind the local MLB telecasts in 14 of 24 monitored markets. Those local telecasts also, understandably, had a bigger audience than ESPN's national telecast of the N.Y. Mets and Chicago Cubs.

Kansas City led the way that night, even though the Royals were only playing the Texas Rangers, off to a poor start this season. The Fox Sports Kansas City telecast literally had eight times more viewers than the NBA playoff games, which happened to have more than ten times audience of the NHL Game 7 telecast. (Granted, K.C. has never had the NHL, so that is understandable.)
That same night, the Pittsburgh market showed an audience for the Pirates vs. the Phillies which more than doubled the combined audience of the NHL, NBA, and national MLB telecasts also airing. (And Pittsburgh is very much an NHL town!)

Cleveland is obviously into the NBA (since the Cavs are now playing Atlanta for the Eastern Conference Championship). Yet, that same night, the last place Indians' telecast drew one-half rating point more than the NBA games, and had more than 20 times the audience size of the ESPN MLB telecast.

Other cities showing this trend had fewer reasons to be interested in the NBA and NHL telecasts, such as Cincinnati, Seattle, Boston, Tampa, and St. Louis. Although it is understandable that those local baseball telecasts would draw well, it is still noteworthy since these were early regular season games compared with the other sports' post-season telecasts.

This tells me that you can't always judge by national ratings. Unless it's the NFL.

Meanwhile, it can be said that the MLB replay reviews are directly helping some of the fans. Since all MLB games are televised, in order to have multiple replay angles available for challenged and reviewed plays, video production costs are now factored in. As a result, fans of the Oakland A's will now be able to see every game the A's play this season. Yet, all CSN California did was actually add two more telecasts using the A's TV crew of Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse. "Official" A's telecasts have been added for Weds. June 3 and Weds. July 1.

The 13 other regular season games, which are day games during the week, originally not scheduled, will now air on CSN California, will be aired live, simply by taking the video feed. In a unique plan, the A's will show the video and use the audio of the team's radio broadcasts from KGMZ-FM 95.7 The Game instead. This makes 2015 the first time ever that local fans can watch every pitch of the A's season. CSN has already sold a separate sponsorship for these games. It will be interesting to see if any other teams start doing this and have every MLB game available to the local fans. Especially since we know they are watching!

Look for more minor league baseball telecasts in certain markets. American Sports Network (ASN), a part of Sinclair Networks Group of TV stations, has secured a weekly minor league package including games from AAA to A involving eleven minor leagues. Former Royals and Rockies TV voice Dave Armstrong will be joined by Keith Moreland and Brian McRae.

As of press time, no word about which stations around the country will air some or all of the games. The first telecast is coming up on May 31st at 7 PM ET with the Iowa Cubs against the El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres).

It is not just local baseball teams making big ratings news. On Tuesday (May 19th) of this week, the NHL Western Conference Finals game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks went nearly three full overtimes and ended at 2:07 AM ET on NBCSN.

The overnight ratings estimated that between 1:00 and 1:15 AM Chicago time (when the game ended) there were 361,000 Chicago area households still tuned to the game, on a weeknight. One can only imagine what will happen if the series goes to a 7th game next week.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Baseball Helping The Radio Ratings Again

The most recent radio ratings are out this week, worth paying close attention to for sports stations since this reflects the busiest time of the sports year. As always, a few key markets worth focusing on.

The Boston sports radio battle is as tight as ever as of the April ratings, which were measured from March 26 to April 22. WEEI-FM and WBZ-FM Sports Hub are now right next to each other, with WEEI-FM at #6 overall and WBZ-FM at #7. The hot start by the Detroit Tigers is heating up The Ticket, as WXYT-FM The Ticket shows a 25% overall audience increase from March to April and is a solid #1 in the entire market. WXYT-FM airs the Tigers games and is a sports station the remainder of the time.

Both sports stations in New York City stayed pretty much the same from the previous ratings period, with both WFAN 660 The Fan and WEPN-FM ESPN showing very slight overall dips, even though WFAN began its second season as Yankees flagship. Ironically, WOR 710 scored its biggest overall audience since last fall, likely based on the hot start by the Mets.

Baseball has an impact on the Los Angeles ratings, as Dodgers flagship KLAC showed a 50% overall audience increase from March into April. Although still nothing to brag about, the station's ratings benefit from the majority of the L.A. market still unable to receive the Dodgers telecasts. Angels primary station KLAA showed a 33% overall audience increase during the same time, although its audience is still roughly only 1/3 of KLAC's. KSPN 710 showed a 10% drop.

San Francisco Giants fans have outdone their rival Dodgers fans on the radio side, as KNBR 680 showed a more than 20% audience increase for April from the previous ratings period. The sports station, which is the Giants' flagship, finished #2 overall in the market. At the same time, KGMZ 95.7 The Game, which is also the Oakland A's flagship station, held steady and has less than 1/3 of the audience size of KNBR.

Dallas' 3 sports stations are closer together than ever. KRLD-FM is now at a 1.8 rating, with KTCK -AM The Ticket at 1.6 and KESN ESPN now with a 1.4. San Diego also showing an increase for sports radio, with XPRS-AM now at #6 overall in the market up to a 4.2. In Baltimore, WJZ-FM showed a nearly 25% overall audience increase over the month and came in at #4 overall in that market.

Sports radio continues to struggle in Atlanta, even with the Hawks going deep into the NBA Playoffs. WZGC-FM lost 1/2 of a rating point over the month, yet still has seven times more listeners than WQXI 790.

Turner Sports is holding on to its NBA studio show for years to come. The network has extended the contracts of Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley for what appears to be in the eight to ten year range.

Over at ESPN, the past week seemingly brought more announcements from the network itself than sports stories it reported on.

The Mike & Mike morning show is moving to Times Square in NYC to enhance its look for ESPN2, and reportedly to be able to have more of their guests on camera rather than just on the phone. This relocation from the Bristol studio could also benefit NYC's WEPN in its hope to be more competitive against rival WFAN.

The Fusion Network will begin airing Dan LeBatard's afternoon ESPN Radio show in the 4-7 PM ET weekday time slot, bringing sports to the little known TV network.

Bill Simmons, who was suspended by ESPN for three weeks last year after his negative comments about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, is not receiving a contract renewal from the Network.
ESPN will again show an NFL Wild Card Playoff game next January, but plans to either move the telecast to ABC or simulcast it with ESPN. This appears to be the result of a little known clause in its contract with the NFL. Clearly NBC, CBS, and Fox can't be pleased that suddenly ABC will suddenly share in the "over the air" NFL post-season ratings bonanza. The most recent NFL telecast on ABC was the Super Bowl game in February of 2006, which will be just a few weeks shy of 10 years earlier.

Long time host Scott Van Pelt has been signed to a multi-year contract extension, which also includes Van Pelt anchoring a late night weeknight edition of SportsCenter.

And, ESPN has finally realized the opportunities it could have to put Dodgers games on so that even fans in the Los Angeles area can see them. After not featuring them once on Sunday Night Baseball during April or May, the Dodgers' June 7th game against St. Louis will be shown nationally, including the L.A. market.

CLEVELAND: It can now be said that 92.3 The Fan has "lowered the Booms". This is certainly not a joke for Chuck Booms, who also appears locally as a stand-up comedian. Booms has been relieved of his morning show co-host duties by the station. At this time, Kevin Kiley remains on the morning show, with no co-host replacement yet named.

CHICAGO: WGN 720 weekend sports host Jarrett Payton will also host a sports talk show on CLTV, the local news cable channel, as well as doing some sports reporting for WGN-TV. If you are wondering about the name, the answer is yet. Jarrett is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton. Sister Brittany Payton also works on CLTV hosting a restaurant review program.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

NFL Dominates The Media In More Ways Than One

The NFL having both the money and the power it does has been extremely evident in the media over the past week. We may not like it, but we as fans seem to have to accept it. Here we have all of the big four major network spending a combined billions of dollars for the rights to the games and the coverage, yet they don't question the League taking control over how certain content is handled.

They have put the fear into the media companies that if any of them question the NFL they might not have the opportunity to pay up millions more dollars and get in on the advertising and subscription dollars it generates in return several years from now.

Timing is everything. The League office decides to start paying taxes on its earnings for the first time, rather than have to reveal even more information about its billions of income. They "just happen" to reveal this just before the NFL Draft, which dominated the sports publicity machine for days during late April.

These days all of the national and regional sports networks place an added emphasis on their draft previews even though they do not actually televise the choices. ESPN benefits because Fox, NBCSN, CBS Sports Network, and the regional CSN's and Root Sports add to the hype for the local team choices.

This year, the word was put our there even more heavily that the NFL "requested" that reporters not use social media to report the first and second round draft picks until they were announced on the ESPN and NFL Network telecasts. As The Broadcast Booth sees it, this should be cause for media outrage.

Just because ESPN and NFL Network want a delay so that they can be ready "immediately" with the highlights and profiles of the choices, it should not mean that other reporters should have to wait before reporting the news of these draft picks. This is done by the League for the sole purpose of hyping the telecasts on its own network (NFL Network) and ESPN. This point is further illustrated by the League including ESPN reporters in their request to delay these announcements.

Members of the media should be offended and outraged at this request, pointing out that it's up to NFL Network and ESPN to have their facts and profiles ready and have every pick announced immediately to everyone at the same time.

On Wednesday (5/6) we had still another example of the total control. The NFL announced that they have determined that the Patriots were involved with deflating footballs for the AFC Championship game played in January. Let's get this straight. It took league officials more than THREE MONTHS to come to this conclusion?

Granted, I can't prove this, but my hunch is they were ready with these findings at least two months earlier. However, having done so would have possibly tainted the Patriots and their Super Bowl victory. By delaying this until the middle of the off-season and just after all of the positive coverage of the NFL Draft, the League was able to push this cheating under the turf.

The on-air controversy about this was limited to how the team should or will be penalized in the future, and not about whether or not the Super Bowl participants were achieved fairly and with integrity.

However, if the NFL can get network reporters to wait a few minutes to "report" on the draft and not question a story about the League's multi-million dollar tax situation, they can certainly ask them to bury a story which should have had impact on its integrity. And, obviously, they have, and are getting away with it.

CINCINNATI: WLW Radio's Lance McAlister made news in a different way this past weekend when he took the time to acknowledge the passing of a long time listener on the station's web site. On Sunday (5/3), McAlister posted:

"I was stunned to learn that Roger C. Hamilton passed away unexpectedly on Friday at the age of 51. Roger, known as "Hammy", was a long-time listener and caller to Cincinnati Sports Talk and my shows. Hammy once joined me for an edition of the "Roundtable of Regulars" in December of 2006 (picture below).

Then in June of 2006, I hosted the "Ultimate Trivia Showdown"at Dickmann's Sports Cafe. The contested featured Hammy vs Mike from Fairfield. Steven Sharp (pictured) wrote several of the questions that day and Richard Skinner served as judge and referee. Hammy defeated Mike.
Roger was a friend, loyal listener and a fantastic caller that always added to the show.

My thoughts and prayers to Roger's family. "

MINNEAPOLIS: KFAN 1003 and KTLK 1130 have a new five year extension to continue airing the Vikings games through the 2020 season. This also includes keeping Paul Allen as the play-by-play voice. Terms of the new deal were not disclosed.

SACRAMENTO: KHTK, which has broadcast the Kings games since 1994, has signed a five year extension to run through the 20-21 season on the sports station. What we don't know is whether or not there is an out clause in the event the team does not remain in the Sacramento area during that time.

ATLANTA: This announcement is like making a molehill out of a molecule. WCNN 680 and The Fan 93.7 actually went as far as to make an official announcement about a multi-year partnership with the Atlanta Track Club. The plan is for the sports stations to broadcast from live events such as marathons and other such races. Looks as though the "running" part of this is that the station must be "running" out of content ideas.

COLLEGE STATION TX: The Zone KZNE 1150 has added an FM simulcast on 102.7 as of this week. The flagship station for Texas A&M University play-by-play adds the FM signal in order to compete against KJXJ 103.9 (licensed to Franklin), the ESPN affiliate which began just two months ago.