Monday, August 31, 2015

NFL Telecasts Already Ratings Winners

This is the week that ESPN launches its "ESPN College Extra" channel(s) on many cable/satellite systems, adding up to eight separate channels during the Saturday football times to show a number of games either simultaneously or separately. The channel promises to air college sports year-round, including events from the Big 12, ACC, MAC, and the Sun Belt conferences.

Among those systems adding these are DirecTV and AT&T, Time Warner, Bright House, and Fios. As of press time, Comcast is among those systems not offering this feature. Curiously, Comcast offers the multiple channel feeds for the Big Ten Network in many Midwest markets, which is by way of Fox Sports.

For this season, these will be college football games also available via ESPN3, which streams and includes the network's app, as well. However, since many of the teams not opening until the following weekend, the Sept. 5th list of games includes Wofford vs. Clemson, Albany at Buffalo, Tennessee Tech vs. Houston and Northern AZ vs. Stephen F. Austin.

You would think that other pro team owners, especially in Los Angeles, would learn from the Dodgers' TV deal and make a full effort to have their product seen by as many TV viewers as possible. Just as the Clippers have the opportunity to steal with local spotlight away from the Lakers, new owner Steve Ballmer may be poised to take an even bigger risk.

The New York Post reported late last week that Ballmer is looking into making the Clippers local telecasts available only by streaming and not with a local or regional TV package. Ballmer has reportedly turned down an increased renewal offer, believed to be as high as $60 million dollars per season, from Fox's Prime Ticket Network to renew its contract after the coming 2015-16 season.

It appears that Prime Ticket became more aggressive in the bidding since the Lakers have their own TV network via Time Warner Cable and thus will not be available in the near future.

If the $60 million per season reported bid is true, it would seem that generating close to or more than that on an individual basis for streaming would be a monumental task. Especially when you consider that Prime Ticket promotes and markets the telecasts to its approximately 5,000,000 Southern California viewers.

Even if this is talk to increase the bidding from competitors (since Prime Ticket has the games for the upcoming season), it remains to be seen if the team's TV ratings will rise considerably from last season to warrant Ballmer and the team getting more than double what Prime Ticket is currently paying for the telecast rights.

Not taking such an offer could totally backfire on the team, and eventually on its growing fan base.
Speaking of Los Angeles, baseball fans are rejoicing from the news that Vin Scully expects to be back calling Dodgers home (and selected road) games again for 2016, giving it one more season. It seemed so fitting that during the same series (vs. Chicago Cubs) in which Scully made the announcement that he was on hand to call Jake Arrieta's no-hitter on Sunday (8/30) from Dodger Stadium to the local radio audience.

Those networks which didn't seem to mind when they lost the NASCAR telecast rights are counting their blessings again this week. This past Saturday's (8/29) Sprint Cup telecast from Bristol, airing on NBCSN, dropped by more than one-third from last year's ratings on ABC-TV, and by more than 40% from the 2013 ratings. As a result, it winds up as the least watched Sprint Cup telecasts since the 90's.

TBS continues it's New York or Boston thing on its Sunday MLB telecasts again this coming Sunday (9/6). It has scheduled Tampa Bay at the Yankees. This, even though MLB Network and ESPN will have, still again, saturated baseball fans earlier in the week with the Red Sox vs. the Yankees as though every game they play against each other is a special event.

If you don't believe the power of the NFL on TV then last Friday's (8/28) national ratings should convince you once and for all. CBS won the prime-time ratings battle for the night among total viewers, including both men and women aged 18-49. This was due to a live NFL game. Incredibly, it was a pre-season game. Even more incredibly, it was a matchup between Detroit and Jacksonville, two teams which did not even come close to making the playoffs last season.

BOSTON: While we await the June-July radio ratings to see how WEEI-FM fairs against WBZ-FM Sports Hub, WEEI-FM is bringing back a familiar voice to co-host its midday show. Glen Ordway will join Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria, starting next Tuesday (9/8), returning to the station 2 and one-half years after his afternoon drive stint had ended.

Ordway technically replaces Tim Benz, who went back to Pittsburgh just over a month ago. For those not familiar with Boston sports talk, Ordway has more than 25 years on WEEI, including nearly 18 years as co-host of the afternoon drive "The Big Show" from the mid-90's into early 2013.

 CHICAGO: This past Saturday (8/29) was quite a night for the local CBS radio stations, as the group aired all three of the major Chicago pro team broadcasts live. WBBM 780 aired the Bears exhibition game from Cincinnati entirely, then joining the Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers game after the post-game show to air the final three innings of that game. WBBM's FM signal, WCFS, aired the Bears game until 8:40 when it cut away to air the Cubs pre-game show and the entire game.

Over at sister station WSCR The Score, the White Sox vs. Seattle game aired as usual. The Bears and Cubs will not conflict on WBBM starting next season, as the Cubs broadcasts are expected to move over to WSCR with the White Sox games moving to WLS-AM.

WMVP ESPN 1000 has added former Bears standout Brian Urlacher as an analyst for a Tuesday afternoon studio shot most weeks.

DALLAS: After being tightly bunched just a few months ago, the new (July-August) radio ratings for the big three sports stations are showing much more of a spread. KRLD continues a strong lead (.8 overall) over KTCK-AM The Ticket even though The Ticket showed a 10% overall increase over the previous month. KESN-FM ESPN is now an even more distant third.

HOUSTON: While the Astros continue with impressive ratings growth for their telecasts on Root Sports, football remains king on the local scene. The exhibition game between the Texans and Saints drew a 19.9 Nielsen rating, while the Astros vs. Minnesota (two teams surprisingly very much in the post-season hunt) drew no better than a 3.0 for the weekend.

NEW YORK: While the Yankees battle for first place against Toronto, the fans are saying "YES" to watching the telecasts. The YES Network ratings for the Yankees telecasts are reportedly up by more than 30% since the All-Star break in July, with eight of the nine highest rated telecasts for the season airing since July 29th. Also since the All-Star break, the YES pre-game show has shown a 38% ratings increase and a 17% post-game show increase.

CHARLOTTE: The Hornets are going to a three-person booth for their telecasts starting this season. Fox Sports Southeast has added Stephanie Ready to the actual game broadcasts, working with Eric Collins and analyst Dell Curry. This is believed to be the first "regular" three person team for any local team NBA telecasts. This will be the 12th season for Ready to be a part of the telecasts. She was an assistant coach in the WNBA, as well as having become the first woman to help coach for NBA team when she was also an assistant in the NBA D-League.

NEW ORLEANS: WMTI-FM 106.1 has dropped its all sports format and gone to music. However, the station will continue to air Tulane football this season, as well as the Curtis Johnson (Tulane head football coach) Show each week. The station had also been airing Tulane basketball, but, as of press time, there has been no announcement either way on that.

CORPUS CHRISTI: ESPN Radio is on the move this week. KEYS 1440 has dropped its affiliation and has gone to general talk, while KLHB (Portland TX) 105.5 has dropped its Spanish format to pick up ESPN Radio as of September 1st.

HAMILTON ONTARIO: A big change for 90 year old station CKOC 1150 this week, as the station drops its oldies format to become TSN sports radio.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Up Periscope For Pro Sports Leagues

The pro leagues are becoming more and more aware that they have more to monitor than just the content on social media. New applications, in particular Periscope, appear to have their attention, even in their early stages. A story to this effect (within the past week) in USA Today has brought out even more of what is going on in league offices.

It probably won't surprise everyone that the NFL is already doing an "about face" regarding the application, which allows users to show live video feeds from anywhere with a Wi-Fi or phone signal. The USA Today story refers to an NFL spokesman saying the NFL is not worried about Periscope, while the web site (through the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society) claims that the NFL has already filed as many as four "take down" requests to the powers that be at Periscope.

The newspaper story also claims that MLB officials are not yet "worried", while the PGA Tour has said it would take legal action "against someone who is streaming the entire competition to develop a following". Of course, lawyers could well have a field day with someone who is "not trying to develop a following", but that's another story.

What will make this even more interesting in the months to come is to see if and when the pro leagues take action to hinder the technology within the stadiums (and golf courses, tennis courts, etc.) so that consumers are unable to get a signal sufficient to use Periscope and others like it. At the same time, several of the newer stadiums have been making efforts to actually increase the use of phone and internet technology during their events in order to enhance the fan experience. Something has got to give!

While tennis fans get ready for extensive U.S. Open coverage (which begins next Monday 8/31), this year marks the first time that ESPN has exclusive coverage of the entire tournament, ending the years and years of CBS airing the most important parts.

With college football now upon us, the SEC Network has added three more analysts to its coverage, each of whom played for SEC schools. They are Chris Doering (Florida), Jabari Greer (Tennessee), and Clint Stoerner (Arkansas), each of whom also played for NFL teams.

HOUSTON: The Astros' incredible success story this season comes at an ironic time for Comcast. Within the past week, a federal judge has ruled that Comcast is not able to recover the $100 million dollar loan it had given to Houston Regional Sports Network, which launched in 2012 to air Astros and Rockets games. That network went into bankruptcy after other carriers failed to air it.

Since that time, DirecTV Sports formed Root Sports Southwest, which now airs those teams, and has Comcast as a carrier of the service. During the Comcast time, the Astros were among the poorest performing MLB teams, to the point of some reported 0.0 ratings. This season, however, has the Astros in first place at the end of August and drawing stronger ratings. The Monday (8/24) telecast from Yankee Stadium was, according to the early numbers, the most watched prime time show in the Houston market.

In fact, the entire three game Astros vs. Yankees series is being shown as the primary telecast on MLB Network this week.

KILT SportsRadio 610 has added former Texans center Chris Myers (not the Fox Sports announcer) as a football analyst, both on its Texans post-game coverage and its talk shows during the week.

BOSTON: The story breaking at press time has Don Orsillo being out as the voice of the Red Sox on NESN at the end of this season. NESN is expected to bring Dave O'Brien over from the radio booth to handle the majority of the telecasts. It is not yet known if O'Brien would continue to broadcast games for ESPN. Orsillo has been popular in Boston, in addition to having called some post-season games nationally for TBS in recent years.

NEW YORK CITY: Since the ratings were not kind to Mike Lupica and his daily two-hour show on WEPN ESPN 98.7, he has now been dropped after a nearly four year stretch as host from 1 to 3 PM. No "official" replacement has been named as of press time, although speculation has Ryan Ruocco and Dave Rothenberg expanding from one hour (Noon to 1 PM) to the full three hours.
Lupica will continue, as usual, with his national presence on ESPN including "The Sports Reporters". Since WEPN is owned and operated by ESPN, it should be noted that this is still another payroll reduction for the company.

Meanwhile, this coming Saturday (8/29), N.Y. Jets fans will not be able to watch "their" telecast of the team's preseason game against the Giants, even though this is technically a road game for the team. For whatever reason, only the Giants are televising the game from the Meadowlands, with Bob Papa and Carl Banks on the call for WNBC-TV Channel 4. Even the Jets' web site shows the game as only being on WNBC.

MIAMI: The Ticket 790 and 104.3 appears to be taking some important risks with its audience, even though the station has been ahead of WQAM 560 in most of the recent ratings. Management is likely very concerned over the possibility of Dan LeBatard's afternoon drive program (first hour local, remaining three hours also on ESPN Radio) being moved into the midday time slot to fill the national opening for the 10 AM to 1 PM ET slot. This would force the station to come up with a replacement for its successful afternoon drive show.

Even with this going on, the station suddenly abandoned the FM simulcast on August 21st, when it switched to alternative rock music. Research reports show that while the station is branded as "790 The Ticket", more of the audience was actually listening via the FM signal, which is now gone.

PHILADELPHIA: While this is fresh news at press time, chances are Phillies broadcaster Larry Andersen will catch some flack for calling Mets fans "obnoxious" on the air during Monday (8/24) night's game between the Phillies and Mets. This came after a double by the Mets' Michael Cuddyer, when Andersen commented "I'll take Nationals fans over Mets fans" while the Mets fans who came to Philadelphia for the game were cheering. When asked why by play-by-play voice Scott Franzke, Anderson replied "They are just obnoxious".

DENVER: Former University of Colorado head coach Gary Barnett appears to be in line to replace Larry Zimmer on KOA as the analyst for the team's football broadcasts in 2016 and beyond. Zimmer plans to retire, after 50 years in broadcasting, following the Colorado game vs. USC on November 13th.

Barnett will join the KOA broadcast team for two games this season (vs. UCLA on Oct. 31 and USC on Nov. 13), while serving in his 10th, and reportedly final, season as an analyst for Sports USA Radio Network.

TULSA: KYAL 1550 Sports Animal will be an additional ESPN Radio affiliate starting next week (9/1), including weekdays. Currently, KYAL-FM 97.1 airs ESPN after 8 PM and on weekends when it does not air local play-by-play.

LANSING: WQTX 92.1 The Team has added a new 1 to 3 PM weekday show, "The Schuiling Report" with Ryan Schuiling, replacing "The Griff and Grinz Show". Schuiling will continue his role on "The Michael Grey Show" on WBBL 107.3 in Grand Rapids. In addition, he will continue to do hockey play-by-play, calling home games for the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ratings Take A Turner For The Better

While ESPN is busy reducing its payroll and Fox Sports is busy trying to attract viewers to Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, Turner Sports is quietly having a good summer in the ratings world.

As reported last week, TBS is doing better this year with its Sunday afternoon MLB telecasts, despite not starting them until after the All-Star break.

This past Sunday (8/16), TNT had the final round of the PGA Championship, and scored the highest ratings for the final round since 2010, with initial ratings reports showing a 45% audience increase over 2014. The top local markets for the telecast were Milwaukee, Columbus, Memphis, San Diego, and Orlando.

MLB is being careful about going up against the NFL with its World Series telecasts this season. The two travel dates during the Series happen to fall on Thursday Oct. 29th (when Thursday Night Football airs) and on Monday Nov. 2nd (when Monday Night Football airs). If and as there is a Game 5, it would compete against some or all of NBC Sunday Night Football which has the Packers facing the Broncos. 

MLB Network continues to add to its excellent staff of studio analysts this week. Former Padres infielder and Giants third base coach Tim Flannery made his debut earlier this week and will be a regular contributor on the various weekday shows and studio updates. Flannery worked in the Padres broadcast booth for three seasons (2004-06).

In addition, the Network is auditioning former outfielder Juan Pierre for an analyst role for this week only. No further announcement was made as of press time. Pierre officially retired earlier this year after playing for several teams over his career.

It appears that Comcast Cable was violating the ESPN blackout rule on Wednesday night (8/19) when it mysteriously blacked out the Chicago Cubs vs. Detroit Tigers national telecast throughout most of the Chicago area. The current MLB contract prevents local blackouts for ESPN scheduled nights (Monday and Wednesday) along with TBS Sunday telecasts. The local Cubs telecast aired as usual, while ESPN was showing a tennis replay instead. Earlier this month (8/9), the TBS telecast from Chicago between the Giants and Cubs aired on the same Comcast systems.

BOSTON: WBZ-FM Sports Hub has gained added ammunition in its bid to overcome WEEI-FM. Comcast SportsNet New England has added a simulcast of the Toucher & Rich morning show from 6 to 10 AM. Good for the Sports Hub, but it deprives fans of the chance to see game highlights and recaps of the previous night's action on CSN in the morning. CSN New England already simulcasts Felger & Mezz, the afternoon drive show of WBZ-FM, except when pre-empted by live game action.

This means that on most weekdays, CSN New England's schedule will consist of one-third (8 hours) of simulcasting sports radio. I suppose it's better than some of the infomercials and lesser so-called sports shows.

DALLAS: Now that the Cowboys are underway with their pre-season, it comes as an even bigger surprise that fans are aware of the Rangers now making a run toward a post-season berth after a poor first half. Monday's (8/17) Fox Sports Southwest telecast of the Rangers' win over Seattle scored the highest ratings of any Rangers telecast so far this season. FSSW could be in luck next week when the Rangers host Toronto in a three game series, all of which is scheduled to air on FSSW.

MINNEAPOLIS:  The Ticket got punched. After showing up with a combined rating of .1, the lowest possible rating, the trimulcast of WGVX, WRXP, and WGVZ known as Sports Talk The Ticket has vanished and been turned into a hip-hop format. The market's other two sports stations, KFXN The Fan and KSTP ESPN, are both in the top 20 in the ratings.

CHICAGO: Radio stations continue to battle for Bears fans even though the team is not expected to be in playoff contention for the upcoming NFL season. Once again this year, no fewer than three of the major AM stations will air at least two full hours of post-game programming after each Sunday Bears game.

While flagship station WBBM 780 continues its two hour post-game show. WGN Radio 720 will again deliver a three-hour post-game discussion show as well. And now WSCR 670 has announced a new two hour post-game show to be hosted by former Bears players Olin Kreutz and James 'Big Cat' Williams. WSCR's show, however, will likely air later on three of the first four Sundays during the regular season, airing after its White Sox baseball coverage.

GAINESVILLE: WRUF ESPN 850 has added 95.3 FM and now simulcasts as of this week. The station continues to air its share of area play-by-play, including Rays baseball from Tampa, Jaguars football from Jacksonville, and University of Florida football and basketball.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fox Is Ready For Some Football

Fox Sports announced a couple of changes on its broadcast team roster for the coming NFL regular season. The top two announcing teams of Joe Buck with Troy Aikman, as well as Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch, will remain in tact. The network has brought analyst Charles Davis over from its college football coverage, and is teaming him with Thom Brennaman and Tony Siragusa starting this year. As a result, Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston will no longer have Siragusa working with them from the field. In addition, Fox will have Chris Myers and Ronde Barber as one of its two regional telecast teams when needed, while Dick Stockton will now be paired with David Diehl when needed.

Fox also has added Colin Cowherd, who just joined the Network, to its Fox NFL Kickoff Show, which it will air at 11 AM ET for one hour, giving Fox a two hour block of NFL pre-game programming.  Cowherd will also be handling the Noon to 3 PM ET spot on Fox Sports Radio, starting on September 8th. His radio show will also be simulcast on Fox Sports 1, pushing the live feed of WFAN's Mike Francesa over to Fox Sports 2 on most days.

As a result, the few who watch Fox Sports 1 or 2 will have a choice of which radio show to "watch", while Fox Sports Radio will actually give its stations the choice of airing Cowherd's show or The Rich Eisen Show, which will be simulcast from DirecTV. Put it all together and it means that sports fans in some markets can choose between listening to Eisen's TV show on the radio or watching Cowherd's radio show on TV.

Even though TBS didn't televise any MLB games during the entire first half of the current season, and does not have a uniform starting time, baseball fans were watching this past Sunday (8/9) when the network aired the Giants at Cubs telecast. The ratings were double that of the corresponding game from last year (Angels vs. Rays). As a result, TBS telecast ratings are up more than 30% compared with its first five telecasts from the 2014 season.

PHILADELPHIA: Being on sports talk radio is now staying within the Eskin family. WIP-FM has added Spike Eskin, son of long time host Howard Eskin, to its afternoon drive show, which now airs from 2 to 6 PM. The 39 year-old Eskin will be a part of the Josh Innes Show starting this coming Monday (8/17), as will former Eagle Hollis Thomas. Eskin will continue to serve as the station's Program Director. As a result, the Mike & Ike Show (Michael Barkann and Ike Reese) will air from 10 AM to 2 PM.

MINNEAPOLIS: KFXN The Fan, which already is simulcast on stations in other markets in Minnesota and North Dakota, now has a Wisconsin station airing much of its programming. WXCX 105.7 in Siren WI, has dropped music and picked up The Fan for weekdays until 7 PM. But with an interesting twist. KXFN The Fan is, obviously, fixated on the Vikings throughout the football season.  Yet, WXCX happens to be that region's affiliate for Green Bay Packers broadcasts. At least WXCX airs Minnesota Wild games so some of their play-by-play will tie in directly. The station, however, plans to air NBC Sports Radio programming on nights it does not air a game and throughout the weekend.

COLUMBIA SC: The Point 1470 and 95.9 is expanding its sports programming. The stations will now air the full two-hour Phil Kornblut SportsTalk Show from 6 to 8 PM on weeknights, adding the second hour of the statewide sports show. In addition, the station will again air The Citadel football.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

NHL To Play Ball With Streaming

The fact that the NHL has sold its digital and streaming rights in a half billion dollar deal is not the shock. The fact that the NHL has a new six year partnership for that purpose, and it is with MLB Advanced Media, is the shock. This is in contrast with the NBA, which has its primary TV network partner, TNT, handling its content along with its TV network, NBA TV.

It is somewhat surprising that MLB Advanced Media would choose to devote a percentage of its time and resources to another professional sports league, and spend hundreds of millions over the next six years to do so. While MLB's At Bat application is extremely popular, and lucrative, it's hard to believe that a similar application, even including live streaming of the games, would be anywhere near that popular for the NHL on a national basis.

MLB Advanced Media is growing even more as a result of this deal. The company also has a deal with the PGA already in place, although there has yet to be much coming from it as of yet.
Another curious part of the NHL deal is the absence of NBC Universal, the major U.S. TV partner of the NHL, from this announcement. Once most or all of the NHL games are available via live stream and on phones (such as At Bat provides), you have to think this could potentially hurt NBCSN's national audience for its games when fans of the local teams can watch other games of more interest at the same time.

We'll see how this plays out, and how much or how little the NHL respects NBC and NBCSN game nights. However, from a media standpoint, this increases the amount of content for fans which will be controlled by the leagues and the teams, which, obviously, does not figure to include much negative or investigative coverage.

Actually, the NFL provided a hint of what could soon be happening in this regard late last week. The Chicago Bears, with a new GM and Head Coach heading into training camp, actually went to the point of announcing revised media coverage policies for coverage of its training camp.

This policy, for the first two weeks of camp prior to the first exhibition game, goes as far as limiting the amount of time that local TV stations can record actual practice, and that reporters are not allowed to report on which players are practicing with individual units. The Bears are also implementing limits on player availability (for interviews) after practice.

However, as we reported last year, the team has its own video production facility at its team offices, which are located where the team practices throughout the regular season, as well as producing multiple team focused TV shows which air on local TV and cable stations and networks at scheduled times.

Combine all of this with the increasing number of reporters who are dismissed, suspended, or face a change of responsibilities following negative reporting, and you see the fear of how sports fans will receive their "news" with increasing team and league controlled content taking over.

Just as replay reviews are welcome in sports so that the officials "get it right", the sports media should be concerned to the same level about getting its reports "right".

Last Thursday (7/30), the media reports involving the possible trade of Wilmer Flores from the Mets as fact before it happened (which it didn't) showed how some "reporters" would rather be first than make sure they are right. For whatever reason(s), the trade was halted before a "real" official announcement was made. Had certain "reporters" waited a few minutes and instead been ready with the story the second it was confirmed, the embarrassing incident never would have happened.

At least Fox's Ken Rosenthal addressed the issue very clearly in his column about the incident, explaining what happened behind the scenes and admitting that it was not a good thing to jump the gun. Hopefully the "reporters" learned a lesson from that.

It appears that the St. Louis Cardinals may have gotten in under the wire with their amazing $1 billion TV deal, over the next 15 years, announced with Fox Sports Midwest. Adding to the revenue, according to Forbes Magazine, is that the Cardinals will reportedly also acquire a 30% stake in FSMW.

We say "under the wire" because of the possibility that the media bubble could be closer to bursting. This contract comes within a few weeks of ESPN beginning major cost cutting measures after spending so much on retaining rights to televise games and events.

In keeping with its recent cost reduction theme, ESPN Radio appears to be in no hurry to replace its late morning slot since the departure of Colin Cowherd. Rather than come right back with another high profile national personality, the network will continue to use programming from some of its big market stations.

This week, ESPN Radio is airing Max & Marcellus from its Los Angeles station KSPN 710, although the two hosts are adding this shift to their local afternoon drive show. For the following two weeks, ESPN2's Michelle Beadle (of Sports Nation) and ESPNLA's Ben Lyons will co-host the 10 AM to 1 PM ET show. For the week of August 24 to 28, the ESPN 1000 Chicago team of "Waddle & Silvy" will do double duty and also host a separate national show.

As a result, Tom Waddle and Mark Silverman (Silvy) will be live on the air for seven hours each day, with the three hours on ESPN Radio and then their regular 2 to 6 PM CT shift for Chicago. ESPN 1000 will air all three of the national hours, thus airing the pair for their entire seven hours total each day, while reducing its midday show to Noon to 2 PM during that time.

We don't know yet whether these hosts will return for a week or more in September, if other ESPN stations or hosts will rotate, or if a new host will be brought in.

BOSTON: The latest radio ratings (for the June into July period) show that sports radio continues to attract a huge audience, even as the two stations continue to battle it out. This time around, the two are together at #6 and #7 in the market for overall listeners (all days, all age groups). WBZ Sports Hub has regained the lead (among the two) with an impressive gain of one full ratings point (more than a 20% audience increase) from the previous month. While WEEI-FM has been within .3 of a ratings point over the past three months, it fell to .2 behind WBZ this time around. With the Patriots camp opening and the question about how the team will start out the season without Tom Brady, the next month could easily see both stations on the rise again.

St. LOUIS: Even with the Cardinals playing extremely well and easily in first place, sports did not make a difference during this most recent ratings period. KMOX 1120 is a solid #2 overall in the market, but dropped in overall rating from 8.8 to 7.9 in just the one month. At the same time, WXOS-FM sports radio dropped again, and has lost more than 33% of its overall audience within the past three months.

RALEIGH: Michelle McMahon has been named as a host for Fox Sports Carolinas of their Hurricanes Live pre-game and studio shows within and surrounding game coverage, starting with the upcoming season. McMahon comes from The Big Ten Network where she spent the past three years as a host and reporter. She had also done some freelance reporting for Fox Sports and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

DALLAS: If there is anyone left who doesn't realize how important the Cowboys are on the local scene, check those Dallas TV listings for this coming Sunday (8/9). You will see that KTXA-TV Channel 21 plans to televise the "Blue-White Scrimmage", which is nothing more than an intra-squad game among team members shown from the team's training camp.
KTVT-TV Channel 11 will air the exhibition games (not shown nationally) again this year, with Bill Jones and Babe Laufenberg on the call.

On the basketball side, Mavericks telecasts won't be the same during the upcoming season as Bob Ortegel announced that he is taking this coming season off. Ortegel has been a part of Mavs telecasts since November 1988 when he took over as analyst when Bob Weiss was hired away for an assistant coach position with Orlando. Four years ago, he was moved to Fox Sports Southwest's studio coverage. He holds the distinction of calling Mavericks games with all nine of the teams head coaches.

PITTSBURGH: The Penguins are looking (as of press time) for a full-time host for their pre-game and post-game shows, as well as for the Penguins Radio channel on HD.

WILLIAMSPORT PA: Here is one radio market where we can say that something stays the same no matter what. WRAK 1400 has announced, as usual, that it will broadcast the Little League World Series locally, as it has every year since the tournament started in 1947. The station will have a rotating broadcast team, with Gary Chrisman and Ken Sawyer on play-by-play, and Scott Lowery and Mike Fogarty on color. Chrisman is in his 42nd year with the station, hosting mornings on sister station WKSB 102.7 for the past 28 years.