Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Full Holiday Weekend of Viewing

So much for the years when there would be no games on Christmas Eve and maybe a couple of games to watch on Christmas Day. The NFL is taking over this year with games on both nights after a full slate of Saturday afternoon games. Although this is due to the holiday falling on a Sunday this year, it lessens the impact of the ABC/ESPN slate of five consecutive live NBA games which usually are dominant on Christmas day and night.

The latest Nielsen radio ratings have come out, these for the period from early November (after the World Series ended) into the first week of December. As is often the case, this ratings period proved terrible for the majority of sports radio stations.

In Boston, the two sports stations both finished in the top seven overall, which is still a strong showing. However, WBZ-FM Sports Hub dropped .7 of a ratings point from the month before but came in #4 overall. WEEI-FM dipped .9 during the same time, dropping to the #7 spot overall.

Minneapolis listeners continued to grow KFXN-FM The Fan, although this ratings book is a "good news - bad news" result. The good is that the station remains #1 in the market on weekends (surrounding the Vikings broadcasts), but it fell from 4th place to 8th place for weeknights in just one month. The Fan dropped by more than one full ratings point from the previous month, yet came in #2 overall, down from #1 the previous month. With the Vikings in contention all month, it will be interesting to see what the next ratings bring.

Chicago listeners clearly came down from the high of the Cubs championship in November, as flagship station WSCR The Score 670 lost more than half of its overall audience in just one month, dipping from an all-time high of 6.2 to a more typical 2.6. The Score went from #2 in the market to #13, while WMVP ESPN 1000 came in at 2.0 (having dropped .9 as well from the MLB post-season month.

Strong sports stations in San Francisco and Detroit also saw dips during November. KNBR 680 (San Fran.) dropped from #3 overall to #7, losing 1.5 rating points. Yet, KGMZ-FM The Game actually gained .2 during the same time, although still well under half of KNBR's total audience. Both of Philadelphia's sports stations dropped, with WIP-FM losing .6 and WPEN-FM losing .2.

While the Cowboys ride to the post-season, even the three Dallas sports stations all failed to gain any (overall) audience during November. KTCK-AM dropped .4 but leads the sports race at 3.2. KRLD-FM dropped .3 to a 2.9, while KESN-FM ESPN held steady but trails with a 1.5. In Houston KILT-AM dropped .4 from the previous month, while both KFNC-FM and KMBE-AM held steady with their ratings of less than 1.

In Los Angeles, KSPN 710 gained slightly while KLAC-AM 570 dropped .8 with no more Dodgers broadcasts to carry it, dropping it back behind KSPN for the sports radio "lead".

Meanwhile, the media era of not having editors double check the facts hit still another low point for a group of newspapers in Michigan owned by Advance Publications on Monday. The Grand Rapids Press, Muskegon Chronicle, Kalamazoo Gazette, and other smaller papers in the same group were among those newspapers with a wrong front page headline published.

They each had "Lions Roped By Cowboys" as a headline. However, the Lions lost that game to the N.Y. Giants in real life. This was the front page of the entire newspaper - not just the sports section.

That falls under News Editor in addition to Sports Editor. Now we know that no one checks a headline for facts on the front page. While the executives wonder why the circulation drops. Yikes.

CBS will get away with a sneak attack this Saturday (12/24) to run up against Fox which actually has the NFL doubleheader telecast. While Fox gives more of the country the Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans game (called by Kenny Albert, since Joe Buck and Troy Aikman get the Green Bay vs. Minnesota early telecast) among its late games, CBS has a regional late telecast of its own.

The Indianapolis at Oakland late game regional telecast will air (against a Fox game) in markets including Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and Denver, among others. To that point, CBS has assigned its top team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to the game. They figure that more fans might want to check out the Raiders than the Tampa game in those markets, and they may have a point. It could be like CBS having an "extra" double header telecast. But that's a great move for them under the current TV rules.

MINNEAPOLIS: KFAN 100.3 has announced a three year extension of its contract as flagship station for the Wild, which goes through the 2019-20 season. The station is now in its sixth season as the team's flagship.

Have a great holiday weekend!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Former Coach Caught In The Wake

Normally it doesn't matter to me about the person or source which breaks a sports (news) story. Getting the facts right is far more important. In the case of the Tommy Elrod firing, I'll make an exception and congratulate for being first to report this unfortunate event.

As a web site which covers that Conference, its staff did some digging and was the first to report that Wake Forest University had found that its football radio analyst (Elrod) had been fired by IMG Management due to being discovered leaking some of the team's confidential game strategies to an undetermined number of opponents since the start of the 2014 season.

Technically, Elrod did not work for Wake Forest, since IMG owns the broadcast rights and hires the personnel. However, Elrod got the job from his experience as a player, graduate assistant, and 11 seasons as an assistant coach with the school's football team. Elrod lost his assistant coach position prior to the 2014 season when Dave Clawson became Head Coach.

Reports are that Elrod provided confidential game information he received as a team broadcaster to "multiple opponents" over the past three seasons, according to the report.

The web site should be commended for researching and reporting on this story. This is difficult on the reporting media. As much as this needed to be reported in detail, there is now concern among game broadcasters about what the future holds. Pro and college team broadcasters, as well as national network play-by-play announcers and analysts usually attend practices and have ample opportunities to talk with coaches and players leading into the games about strategies so they can be better prepared to communicate what is happening to the fans.

With coaching and team management positions being highly competitive, it would not be surprising to see media access become more strict or limited from now on.

There are many incidents of media members who either broadcast for or regularly cover a team (or school sports) who are aware of internal things taking place which are not to be reported to the public. This incident, which hopefully is isolated, is going to put a lot of doubt into a lot of coaches, players, and management about confidentiality.

It is also another story (since this is a sports media blog only) to think that it appears that certain opposing coaches and perhaps players may have actually used the information that Elrod wrongly revealed to their advantage. Even if they did not, which we'd all like to think is the vast majority, the question must be raised as to why no one reported Elrod's actions earlier than after his third full season of doing this horrible thing.

Congratulations to those about to be inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, which just announced its inductees for its 10th year. Verne Lundquist clearly leads the pack, fitting as he retires from his (seemingly) hundreds of seasons of calling college football, as well as hundreds NFL and NBA games from local radio (Dallas Cowboys) to network TV.

Other inductees include long time baseball analyst Tim McCarver and CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus.

Fox Sports' FS1 may have a long way to go in the ratings game, but it is catching up to ESPN in terms of the number of on air people it shares with them. Now Fox has added NFL analyst Chris Carter to the fold. For now, Carter will appear on various studio shows until or unless he is assigned to one. The rest of the list of "common" personalities includes Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, and Jason Whitlock.

As the NFL season hits playoff crunch and the prime-time matchups start to get better, the audience is returning. On Sunday (12/11), the Dallas vs. N.Y. Giants finished as the highest prime time rating for a Week 14 telecast since 1997. Then on Monday (12/12), the New England win over Baltimore tied for the highest Monday Night Football audience of this season.

On the college side, it could be because the game was moved back at least a week later than its usual time and came up on a much weaker Saturday lineup, but last Saturday's Army vs. Navy football game actually drew a decent audience. CBS reportedly had nearly eight million viewers during the game, making it the most watched of these matchups since the 1992 game.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

King Finally Treated As Royalty

How nice to finally have the colorful Bill King be the broadcaster to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame next July 29th in Cooperstown.

Although King was officially selected for his 24 years of excellence on the Oakland A's radio broadcasts, his Bay Area career made him a total broadcasting Hall of Famer as well. He is probably better known and remembered for his 26 seasons of calling the Oakland (and Los Angeles) Raiders broadcasts including much of the John Madden coaching era. He also called Warriors basketball games on radio for 21 seasons, and earlier served as Sports Director for KFRC Radio.

If only this overdue honor had happened sooner, since King passed away on Oct. 18, 2005. I'm sure his acceptance speech would have been as colorful and entertaining as all of his play-by-play broadcasts. His baseball broadcasting brought much needed enthusiasm to the A's radio broadcasts, as he shared much of his time with the always calm and boring Lon Simmons.

King was the clear choice over other nominees such as Dewayne Staats and Mike Krukow. Other nominees such as the Cubs' Pat Hughes and the Mets' Gary Cohen will likely have their day in coming years.

If it wasn't for Jerry Jones, the TV networks with NFL rights would be the happiest about the amazing season the Dallas Cowboys are having, both in the standings and in the audience ratings.

Their game against Minnesota last week wound up as the most watched Thursday Night Football game in its less than three season history on major networks. To the surprise of no one at all, NBC has flexed their Dec. 18th game against Tampa Bay to Sunday Night Football from its original early game schedule on Fox. This bumps the Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati match, which CBS put into an early game spot that day.

One flex change for this Sunday (12/11) has CBS taking over the Chicago at Detroit telecast in the 1 PM ET spot from Fox.

On the college football side, the Big Ten Conference has become a hot commodity these past two weekends. Coming off the understandably high rated Ohio State vs. Michigan game on ABC on Nov. 26th, Fox scored well with its Penn State vs. Wisconsin prime time telecast on Dec. 3rd.

Even though its telecast was technically down in audience from the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game telecast, Fox outdrew ABC and the ACC Championship Game (Clemson vs. Virginia) by more than 70%.

ABC's Saturday night college football prime-time telecasts finished roughly 10% higher in total viewership over the 2015 season, making it the first time since 2011 that the prime-time games finished with better ratings than CBS had for its late afternoon SEC game of the week telecasts.

As expected, the ESPN/ABC lead crew of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will call the biggest assignments. These include the Jan. 9th national championship game, the Jan. 2nd Rose Bowl game, and the semi-final game with Clemson vs. Ohio State. The other semi-final between Alabama and Washington will be called by Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge. Tessitore took over, in effect, from Brad Nessler when Brad signed with CBS.

NASHVILLE: Clay Travis, host of the syndicated "Outkick The Coverage" weekday morning show from 6 to 9 AM ET, has gained two hours locally but lost in the ratings and the broadcast signal locally. Travis airs his show from Nashville (where it is 5 to 8 AM CT).

Only his first hour (5 to 6 AM) had been carried in Nashville, but on WGFX 104.5 The Zone, the sports station with decent ratings. Now, his entire three hours airs live locally, but on little known WLAC 1510, which is not a sports station (as evident by Glen Beck following at 8 AM).

EVANSVILLE: After two and one-half years, WJLT 105.3 has dumped ESPN Radio as of this past Monday (12/5) to go to a music format. The station is airing holiday music all month before going to an 80's to today format late this month.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Programming From Within For Boston

Looks like even the most successful stations don't like paying relocation costs. When it comes to sports radio, what happens in Boston, where the two stations continue to each consistently rank in the top seven in overall audience, is important.

WEEI-FM, the flagship station for the Red Sox, has been without an official Program Director for almost six months, despite its ratings battle with rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub. After all this time, what happens?

They hire from within. Congratulations are in order for Joe Zarbano, who moves up from Assistant Program Director to the coveted P.D. position, which also puts him in charge of the Red Sox Radio Network. Zarbano has already been with the station since 2007, working his way up the ladder during that time, and is an ideal candidate for the position.

It has to be asked what took so long. If they couldn't find a more ideal candidate from outside of the organization in, say, 60 days, who was going to come along in the next four months? As it goes in radio and TV these days, it is probably about money. Again, there are zero costs for relocation. Let's figure that the pay for "interim" Program Director for six months is less than the pay for the official
Program Director is going to be, resulting in the saving of thousands of dollars.

Again, Zarbano is a good candidate for this important position. It took too long to get to this point. The hiring from within didn't stop there. Ben Kichen moves up from "Senior Producer" to "Assistant Program Director" to take over most of Zarbano's previous duties.

Fans with a paid subscription to CBS All Access service get an added bonus starting immediately. After some behind the scenes negotiating with the NFL, CBS is now able to stream its NFL game coverage to subscribers. This plan begins with this Sunday's telecasts and will include regular season and post-season games televised by CBS. Users will also be able to stream content from NFL Game Pass, which is the League's digital video subscription service. This is part of a multi-year deal, although terms were not disclosed.

Thanksgiving Day gave CBS and Fox a lot to be thankful for, as the holiday NFL games were huge. The Dallas vs. Washington game wound up as the most-watched regular season telecast of all-time on Fox with more than 35 million viewers. This was also the most watched NFL regular season game on ANY network since 1995, which happened to be for the Thanksgiving matchup between Dallas and Kansas City.

Earlier that day, even the Minnesota at Detroit game, with two teams struggling to stay in the NFC North race, wound up as CBS' most watched NFL game for the entire season, with more than 27,000,000 viewers. The Thanksgiving Thursday Night Football game (Pittsburgh vs. Indy) on NBC, however, had nearly 21 million viewers, which was down roughly 7,000,000 viewers from last year's turkey night game between Green Bay and Chicago.

The prime-time decline stayed for Sunday's (11/27) Kansas City vs. Denver game, even though it went into overtime. While it did still win prime time for NBC, its overnight national ratings were down more than 35% from the similar night 2015 game, also with Denver, but against New England.

We'll never know how much of a difference it might have made, but NBC had flexed to have the K.C. vs. Denver telecast instead of New England vs. N.Y. Jets.

One thing for sure is that this years Cowboys team spells huge ratings. Of the NFL's five highest rated regular season telecasts as of Nov. 30th, FOUR of them have been Cowboys games. The only one which is not is the Thanksgiving Detroit vs. Minnesota game, which scored high ratings leading into the Cowboys vs. Redskins game.

Fox and CBS will be flexing for Sunday Dec. 11th. Fox has moved the New Orleans at Tampa Bay game from 1:00 to 4:25 ET to have three late games to show, while this moves Chicago at Detroit over to CBS during the 1 PM ET window. Of course, NBC won't even think of changing its scheduled game that night, which is Dallas vs. N.Y. Giants.

CHICAGO: The emotional run for WSCR The Score 670 afternoon host Terry Boers continued this week. Boers, who has missed months of 2016 due to major medical issues, returned on Monday after missing nearly a full month. On Tuesday (11/29), he then announced that, as many suspected, he will retire from the station (and his long and successful career) on Jan. 5th, 2017.

Boers has a very good reason for picking that date to retire. Jan. 2, 2017, marks the 25-year anniversary of the debut of WSCR The Score (on a different Chicago frequency), and Boers was a part of the station from the start.

His replacement will likely come from within (which sounds familiar), with speculation pointing toward current night host Laurence Holmes, whose show is so often pre-empted or shortened by play-by-play broadcasts.

PHILADELPHIA: Although the number of years and terms have yet to be released, it is official that WIP-FM 94 will continue as the flagship station for the Phillies on a multi-year extension. Scott Franzke, Larry Andersen, and Jim Jackson will continue as the broadcast team.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Again, Teams Drive Sports Radio Ratings

The proof is in the ratings. When it comes to sports radio, it's what is going on with the local teams that makes the difference. The Chicago Cubs run to a World Series win is a prime example. Neither Chicago all sports station made any program lineup changes in the past couple of months.

Due to WSCR 670 The Score being the flagship station for the Cubs, and WMVP ESPN 1000 airing the national broadcasts, both stations posted significant ratings gains for the ratings period of early October to early November, which timed out to include the entire Cubs post-season run. During this time, The Score's afternoon co-host, Terry Boers, continued to be away for most of the month due to medical problems, which means its on-air staff was not at full strength.

The Score increased its total audience by roughly one-third from just the previous month, finishing a record high #2 overall in the market. At the same time, WMVP increased by .8 of a ratings point, finishing a respectable #11 overall in the market. As you would expect, both stations provided expanded pre-game and post-game programming along with local discussion about the Cubs throughout the broadcast day.

At the same time, Boston, which continues as the strongest market in the country for sports talk radio, had the Red Sox eliminated in the first round and had both stations combine to lose one full ratings point for the month. Even with that, however, WBZ-FM Sports Hub came in at #3 overall in the market, now .7 of a ratings point ahead of WEEI-FM (Red Sox flagship), which already lost .8 of a ratings point for the month which included that Red Sox playoff series and finished a strong #6.

New York City listeners appeared to be interested in the ESPN national post-season baseball broadcasts, as WEPN-FM ESPN gained .3 of a ratings point for the month. At the same time, WFAN 660, while still finishing well ahead of WEPN, lost exactly .3 of a ratings point during the same period.

We saw a similar move in Dallas, where KTCK-AM The Ticket gained .5 for the month and finished #10 overall in the market. By doing so, it leaped past KRLD-FM which dropped .5 and to #12 in the market. KESN-FM ESPN held steady.

Both Philadelphia sports stations held steady (each down .1), with WIP-FM coming in at #7 with more than double the total audienc eof WPEN-FM ESPN. In Detroit, WXYT-FM The Ticket dipped to #3 in the market, losing 20% of its overall audience from the month before.

In Minneapolis, KFXN-FM The Fan held at #1 overall in the market despite a .4 drop, while maintaining more than four times the total audience of KSTP-AM, even though it went up .2.

The Dodgers post-season run deep into the NLCS helped KLAC 570 to one of its best ratings periods ever (as a sports station), although the station still did not crack the market's top 25. Similar to what happened in Chicago, KSPN ESPN 710 gained .4 during the same period.

On the NFL side, this past Sunday's (11/20) NBC game between Green Bay and Washington was up roughly 2% from last season's Week 11 telecast, and this was likely from a big push in the Milwaukee/Green Bay market. The Milwaukee market scored an amazing 42.3 Nielsen rating and a 59 share of the local audience. The next three biggest markets, understandably, were Richmond, Washington D.C., and Norfolk, with ratings all in the 20's.

On the college football side, while we can understand the hype this year for the Ohio State vs. Michigan game coming up on Saturday (11/26), ESPN is expanding its GameDay show to five hours in length. As you might expect, the show will originate from Columbus.

This past Saturday (11/19) was a disappointing one for CBS, ad its Missouri vs. Tennessee telecast came in with a lower audience than NBC's telecast of Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech, even with the disappointing season for Notre Dame.

CHICAGO: It appears that the Comcast SportsNet regional networks are looking at blowing up their SportsNet Central sportscasts and go with a revised format. The Comcast SportsNet Chicago has announced that 'Central' will be replaced starting on December 5th. They plan to have a 15-minute "In The Loop" show with what it claims will have an emphasis on social media and interactive content.

Sure. Fans would rather see opinions from local fans just like them instead of more highlights and analysis from experts. What an awful decision.

COLUMBUS: It won't be easy to compete against 97.1 WBNS The Fan, but WXZX 105.7 is going to give it a try. The station is dropping its alternative music format for a sports format surrounding its airing of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cincinnati Bengals broadcasts. Its new morning show will be local, co-hosted by Bruce Hooley and Maddie Spielman.

Happy Turkey!!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Better Matchups Attracting More Viewers

Those of us who believe that the TV live sports ratings variations have more to do with matchups than other circumstances have even more to go by from the past week as proof. It appears that with all of the live sports tugging for fans' attention that fans have flat out become more selective.

Even the most hardcore sports fans admit that there is a lot going on these days, even with the historic World Series now behind us.

College hoops have begun. ESPN brought us a big time doubleheader on Tuesday (11/15) night to help get the weeks of seemingly non-stop live telecasts underway. The opening game with Kentucky vs. Michigan State, two teams with strong national traditions, actually produced ratings roughly one-third less than last season (which paired Kentucky vs. Duke). The 2014 ratings for the similar first game (Michigan State vs. Duke) drew a roughly 19% better rating. Safe to say that this season's matchup was down in viewers from what was expected.

Before you draw a conclusion, move on to the second game which followed between Kansas and Duke. This game, also on ESPN, drew 2.4 million viewers, which was a roughly 27% increase over last season (Michigan State vs. Kansas). While we rarely include streaming via ESPN in ratings information, it is noteworthy that the reported 83,000 streaming viewers for this game is the most ever for a college basketball regular season game via the ESPN app.

Two games, same night, each with 'major' schools which have a national following. The more appealing matchup drew the most viewers. That's called fans being more selective.
The same can now be said for the NFL. Having games every Thursday night, three early Sunday games from London (making four live Sunday games those weeks), plus Monday night, appear to be making viewers more selective. Fans simply don't have 12 hours to watch games regardless of the quality of the matchup.

Last Thursday (11/10) the Cleveland vs. Baltimore game was down roughly 25% in viewers from last year's same week matchup, and that included Buffalo (vs. NY Jets), not exactly a huge draw.

Yet, on Sunday (11/13), the attractive Dallas vs. Pittsburgh doubleheader game on Fox which went down to the very end wound up as the most watched doubleheader game for either network (Fox or CBS) this season. Then, the Seattle vs. New England battle on NBC Sunday Night Football was NBC's best Sunday Night rating since the season opener (Week 1), which also featured the Patriots.
Monday night (11/14), which had Cincinnati vs. N.Y. Giants, not considered a compelling matchup, came up nearly 1.5 million viewers short of last season's equivalent game, which also featured the Bengals (vs. Houston).

Now you get the picture. Fans are becoming more selective.

The pre-game shows are feeling the same crunch. According to Sports Business Daily, NBC's Sunday "Football Night In America" pre-game show had a roughly 18% drop in viewers through Week 9 compared with last season.

ESPN's Monday Night Countdown pre-game show has a roughly 22% drop in viewers during the same weeks. It's "Sunday NFL Countdown" is down roughly 15% over its 2-hour show, although that includes the weeks it was up against a live game from London.

NFL Network's 4-hour Sunday pre-game show is down only about 1% over last season.

Having the three networks which have extended Sunday pre-game programming all down at the same time is an indication of this trend. It would be different if one of them rose in audience and took away from the others.

Although it is early in the season for both the NBA and NHL, we have also seen similar trends of "better" matchups shown nationally drawing better than the average weekly totals.

Whether it really was the NFL holding this up or not, it's nice to see that Mike Tirico will indeed be calling some NFL games for NBC, and starting sooner than we thought.

Al Michaels gets a "bye week" in an indication that the 72-year old play-by-play voice may indeed begin to reduce his workload. Tirico will call this week's Green Bay vs. Washington telecast.

Mike will take over for Thanksgiving week as well, calling the Thanksgiving night matchup with Pittsburgh vs. Indianapolis and then the Sunday (11/27) game between K.C. and Denver. He will also call the Dec. 22nd Thursday night game between N.Y. Giants and Philadelphia.

As a means to further cement its relationship with the NHL, NBC is adding streaming for its regional Comcast SportsNet groups which have rights to a local NHL team.
Cable/satellite subscribers using the NBC Sports App can stream local teams games, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and San Jose, as of this week.

Just this past Tuesday (11/15), CSN ranked first in males 25-54 during the time period of NHL telecasts in both Chicago and Philadelphia for its on-air telecasts.

DALLAS: Now that the paperwork is back in place, as they say diplomatically, ESPN Deportes is back on the air at KZMP 1540 after a two week "absence".

TORONTO: Best wishes to a full recovery for Blue Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth, who is about to undergo cancer surgery. Here's hoping that Howarth is back in the booth for his 37th season of calling the Jays games next spring.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why NFL Ratings Are Down While Others Are Up

It is most interesting to hear and read a variety of opinions as to why NFL viewership is down overall this season. The trend continues as this past Sunday's (11/6) CBS doubleheader and NBC Sunday Night Football were each down roughly 20% from the same week in 2015, while Fox regional telecasts were down roughly 9%. And that was the first Sunday in a month without competition from the baseball post-season.

There are the "after the elections", "the number of player arrests and legal challenges", and the "many less attractive prime time matchups" theories all over the place. Perhaps the decline is really a combination of these three to whatever extent.

What makes this especially intriguing at this point in the season is the fact that while NFL ratings are down overall, the other major pro sports TV ratings are going in the opposite direction.

We have already documented the strong World Series numbers, and the nice start for NBCSN with its early regular season NHL telecasts.

On the NBA side, this past Friday (11/4) brought ESPN a more than 40% ratings increase for its doubleheader over week 2 last season. That is impressive, although having four of the nation's top six TV markets involved certainly helped.

Opening up was the NY Knicks at Chicago, which marked the return of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to their previous home court for the first time. In Chicago, where the ESPN telecast was exclusive, it was the highest rated ESPN telecast of an NBA game in almost two years.

The second game, which had Golden State vs. the Lakers, was Lakers coach Luke Walton going against the team he left (as an assistant coach) to take the job prior to this season for the first time. That telecast was up 58% nationally from the late week 2 matchup last season (Houston vs. Sacramento).

While those were both strong and appealing early season matchups, the point is that the fans were paying attention. This happened leading into the same weekend as the NFL ratings dip on the three major networks airing games.

Let me add one more theory about the NFL ratings decline, even though I think the earlier ones contribute. This season, the NFL is losing viewers from some key markets because of the teams which are shown.

Los Angeles has a team once again, and the market is back to showing the struggling Rams games instead of some more appealing national matchups. In Chicago, the Bears are a miserable 2-6 for the first half of the season and with the Cubs post-season run and the Blackhawks on a winning streak (6 in a row at press time), the Bears no longer dominate the local sports media all week.

In San Francisco, the 49ers are struggling, just as the Jets are for the NYC audience. Then there is St. Louis, which lost the Rams to L.A. starting with this season. Fox and CBS started out with the thought that viewers in St. Louis would still give a crap about the Rams. Let's put it this way. For this Sunday (11/3), St. Louis gets the Philadelphia vs. Atlanta telecast from Fox and not the Rams vs. Jets telecast at the same time.

Maybe the local team performance does make a difference in the ratings, as it should.

Fox Sports Radio has a new NBA analyst, as Chris Broussard will co-host a couple of weekend shows on the little heard network, including Saturday 8 - 11 PM ET with Brian Noe. Broussard had been with ESPN.

ATLANTA: WCNN 680 and 93.7 The Fan have extended their contract to air the Braves games all the way through the 2016 season. In addition, the studio shows surrounding home game broadcasts will originate from studios located adjacent to the new stadium. WCNN began broadcasting the Braves games with the 2010 season.

NEW YORK: Will it be "Let's go to the videotape!" to hear Warner Wolf from now on? The 79 year-old Wolf (with that as his TV catch phrase for many years) gave a farewell speech during his spot on WABC this past Friday (11/4) morning during the Don Imus Show. Nothing about any future gigs as of yet. Sid Rosenberg, who co-hosts on WABC from 10 AM to Noon, expands to cover sports during the morning show.

CHICAGO: Sorry to report that WSCR The Score 670 host Terry Boers is back off the air after returning for only a few days due to continuing health problems. No return date is set, and rumors continue that he will retire early next year, which would be 25 years since starting with the station.

College basketball still doesn't do well in the Chicago market, even with some 50,000 watt AM stations giving it a try in recent years. The UIC (University of Illinois - Chicago) Flames basketball games, which have aired in part on WMVP ESPN 1000 since 2009, will not (as of press time) have any Chicago radio station airing their games. Yet, the ESPN family will televise some of their games instead.

ESPN3 will televise 19 of the team's games this season, with Sam Panayotovich on play-by-play. For the remaining 11 games, they will be broadcast (audio only) online only at, with Jonathan Hood returning to call play-by-play.

The problem is that this system eliminates the casual fan who would have (in the past) stumbled upon the broadcasts, gives those who do follow the team one less reason to listen to a local radio station, and hurts the school's visibility for recruiting and potential ticket buyers. Sorry, but nobody wins with this type of arrangement.

ALBANY: Siena College hoops will now have A.J. Kanell as its new play-by-play voice while Andy Grazulis returns as analyst. Kanell replaces Robert Lee, who had called the games for the previous 14 seasons.

COLUMBUS MS: Good for KNMQ 103.1 The Team. Starting Nov.28th, the station will go local from 4 to 6 PM during the week. The station adds "Drive Time with Steve & The Professor", co-hosted by Glen Lautzenhiser and Steve Rogers. How local will it be? It seems that Lautzenhiser has lived in Columbus since 1974.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Big Week For TV Sports Ratings

With so much media attention, understandably, focused on the exciting conclusion of the World Series, there has not been enough coverage of a lawsuit filed on Wednesday (11/2) which could have an impact on the high cost of watching sports events on cable TV.

This lawsuit also has a couple of very ironic elements to it. It seems that U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles which accuses DirecTV of illegal conduct by working with other large cable/satellite providers in Southern California against carrying SportsNet LA which televises the Dodgers games. The suit alleges that DirecTV has worked with Charter Communications, Cox Communications, and AT&T to all not carry the channel and collectively limit the options of consumers frustrated by not being able to receive Dodgers telecasts.

One ironic element is that the Justice Department is actually suing AT&T, which now owns DirectTV, with this coming shortly after AT&T has a multi-billion dollar bid under federal review in its attempt to purchase Time Warner Cable. TWC owns the company which produces SportsNet LA, which is currently available to less than 30% of the Los Angeles area TV market.

Of course, the other ironic element is that this is happening after the retirement of Vin Scully, which potentially makes Dodgers telecasts less attractive for some consumers starting next season.
Although SportsNet LA is a local channel, this situation could potentially impact the Time Warner purchase deal, as well as the potential for federal intervention regarding sports and other pay TV services for consumers.

Speaking of the World Series, Fox Sports hit a ratings bonanza. Game 7 in Cleveland drew a bigger local audience than NBA Finals Game 7 in June in which the Cavaliers won their first ever championship completing a comeback from being down three games to one to defeat Golden State.
Game 5 on Sunday (10/30) outdrew Sunday Night Football on NBC after SNF was the bigger head to head draw during the prior two years.

While Fox has reason to be delighted over this, we can't help but wonder what their ratings would have been had they aired both the NLCS instead of hiding it from potentially millions more viewers on Fox Sports 1.

Sure, Fox promoted FS1 to a large audience. However, after rare ratings success for FS1 during those two weeks of post-season baseball, it is back to reality. For last week, which included regular Fox Sports having the World Series while ESPN and TNT had NBA doubleheaders to start the season, FS1 finished in 60th place during prime time among all cable networks. After having been in first place the very week before. If you don't think content is king, keep in mind that NFL Network had more viewers last week than FS1.

The new NBA season starts out with healthy ratings even with the highly rated World Series taking place. Even NBA-TV's total viewership for the month of October (which included pre-season telecasts) was up more than 20% over last year. ESPN should have solid ratings on Friday (11/4) when it has the Knicks and Bulls in its early telecast, featuring Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah returning to Chicago to play against the Bulls for the first time in the careers of both players.

Over at ESPN, there should be concern over the Monday Night Football ratings this week. The shocking Bears upset of the Vikings (on 10/31) earlier this week was actually down roughly 18% from the same week last year. Last season's game was Indianapolis vs. Carolina, which are smaller markets than both Chicago and the Twin Cities.

DALLAS: It looks as though the Rangers want Dave Raymond to become their primary TV play-by-play voice starting in 2017. Although nothing is official (as of press time), the Rangers have confirmed that Steve Busby's contract will not be renewed. Raymond, who has filled in on Rangers telecasts, will have Tom Grieve as his analyst.

CHICAGO: WFLD-TV had a ratings feast as the local station showing the World Series, but it seems not everyone at the station was ready. On Tuesday night during the game telecast, a local station break featured a promo for the station's local morning show. Included in that promo was "And you will get complete coverage from Game 5 of the World Series!". Of course, the station would be excited about making this announcement. However, this promo aired in prime time - during Game 6.

Then there was WGN-TV's new sportscaster Lauren Magiera on the air this past Sunday (10/3) morning on the station's newscast. Magiera, who earlier this season told of a Blackhawks (NHL) goal being scored "in the third quarter", was narrating a highlight segment from the previous night's Chicago Bulls game. While showing a basket scored early in the 2nd quarter, she described it as "one minute in to the half".

OKLAHOMA CITY: Oklahoma University basketball radio broadcasts will have a new analyst starting later this month when the season gets underway. Kevin Henry, who acts as the school's Director of Community Relations and has appeared on some Sooner Sports TV telecasts within the past year, will take over the role as full time radio analyst.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Will Philly Sports Fans Ride The "Whip"?

While many sports radio stations emphasize their personalities, we have another clear case of on the field dictating the sports radio audience. A very busy fall season with a ton going on has had a significant impact in several key markets, based on the just released Nielsen ratings for the September/October period.

As usual, Boston listeners rule the roost, with two of the top four stations in total audience being the rival sports stations. WBZ-FM Sports Hub jumped up to #3 in total audience with a huge increase from a 4.4 rating to a 6.3 in just one month. The Hub also leap frogged past WEEI-FM, which aired the Red Sox post-season contests during this time and also rose to a 6.2 rating.

WEEI-FM finished #2 in morning drive as well as the obvious #1 at night with Red Sox baseball, which will not be there for the next ratings period.

Nothing short of amazing to have two sports stations rated this highly, given how few markets even have one sports station with this large of an audience throughout the broadcast week.
In Philadelphia, the unexpected solid start by the Eagles is paying dividends for both sports stations.

As you would expect WIP-FM, which airs their games, moved up to #6 overall showing a roughly 20% increase in its total audience from the August/September ratings period.

Having this large of an audience made it good timing for WIP-FM to unveil its new weekday lineup as of this week. The station moved (former Eagles linebacker) Ike Reese into the afternoon drive spot, and has chosen Chris Carlin from New York City's "Loud Mouths" on SNY to join him. Carlin and Reese replace Josh Innes in that spot. The station also has hired Joe DeCamara, who left 97.5 The Fanatic earlier this month, to team up with (also a former Eagle) Jon Ritchie for the new midday show which began this week.

As a result of these moves, Michael Barkann is no longer with the station. Barkann had been co-hosting middays along with Reese until this week.

Over at WPEN-FM, even with less than 25% of the total audience of WIP-FM, the ESPN affiliate showed a roughly 33% total audience increase over the past month, now at #17 in the market.

Perhaps the biggest shocker of these new ratings comes from the Twin Cities, where KFXN-FM The Fan has skyrocketed to the #1 station in the entire market for the first time ever. The station has gone from a 5.3 to an 8.9 rating in just two months. Obviously, the undefeated start (during the entire ratings book) by the NFL Vikings was a huge contributor to this. Especially when you note that
KSTP-AM, even though it increased its audience for the second consecutive month, now has a 1.5 rating.

KFXN-FM's win includes being first in morning drive, and second in total audience for both middays and afternoon drive.

In New York City, both stations gained in audience for the month. Even without a post-season appearance by the Yankees, WFAN 660 finished #10 overall with a .6 rise from the previous month. WEPN ESPN increased its audience by 20% overall, although it still did not finish in the top 20.

Chicago's WSCR 670 The Score actually dropped .3 from the previous month, although the Cubs flagship station came in #6 overall. WMVP ESPN 1000 gained .4 but again finished out of the top 20.
It is significant to note the gains by ESPN stations in Philly, NYC, and Chicago, as well as in Dallas, as the network airs all post-season baseball games.

The Giants' post-season run (at the time of the ratings) helped KNBR 680 finish #3 and ahead of every music station in the market (with news and talk stations at #1 and #2), while KGMZ-FM gained slightly but still has roughly 30% of the total audience of KNBR.

The brief post-season run of the Rangers helped KRLD-FM rise to #7 in the market (for this ratings book), while KTCK-AM The Ticket rose to #14 overall, and KESN-FM ESPN also went up by .3 of a ratings point. However, KRLD-FM's #2 ranking at night is sure to dive without the Rangers, and the station was only 19th in morning drive. KTCK-AM did rise to #5 in morning drive.

WXYT-FM 97.1 is still The Ticket in Detroit, again at #1 overall, which includes dominating afternoon drive and being the most listened to station at night and on the weekends.

Denver's KKFN-FM The Fan increased by 1.3 and rose to #6 in the market. In Baltimore, the Orioles' one-game post-season existence helped this ratings book. The station rose by 1.1 in the ratings to #5 overall. However, without local baseball for the next ratings book, this figures to be temporary.

In Los Angeles, even with the final broadcasts of Vin Scully and the Dodgers making it all the way to the NLCS, KLAC 570 still didn't even show up among the top 25 most listened to stations in the market. And while the L.A. Rams are helping the TV ratings, KSPN 710 still finished with an overall rating of under 1.0, while KSWD "The Sound" (music station) also fell slightly. KSPN and KSWD both act as flagship stations for the Rams broadcasts.

As for ratings of recent national telecasts, it's quite the mixed bag. Opening night of the World Series (the only game played as of press time) showed Fox's ratings up roughly 20% over last year's opener which included the Mets (vs. Kansas City). In Chicago, the telecast had an impressive 34.1 overnight rating for the first Cubs World Series game since 1945.

Yet, TNT, which had the NBA season opening doubleheader including the championship ceremony from Cleveland (down the block from the World Series game), scored its best opening night doubleheader rating in three years at and after the same time.

Last Thursday (10/20) was an interesting one for the Chicago area, having Game 5 of the Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS on against the NFL rivalry between the Bears and Packers. Around the country, CBS won the night among ratings for the national networks (while Fox Sports was content to air the baseball game with two of the top three markets on FS1 instead of Fox Sports).

This resulted in the NFL telecast having over 7,000,000 more viewers than FS1 did for its hidden away post-season coverage. In Chicago, over 400,000 more households were watching FS1 for the baseball than the Bears on the NFL telecast.

SAN ANTONIO: This is a big deal locally. The Spurs have changed their Spanish radio station after 22 seasons. Both the home and road broadcasts (as has been the case for years) now air on KXTN 107.5. This is big for the team, as KXTN currently has more than six times the total audience of KCOR 1350, which had aired the games since the mid-90's.

HOUSTON and DETROIT: Sorry to report that we have lost two important sports media members within the past few days.

Bob Allen, the former Sports Director of KTRK and KHOU Houston, who covered sports there since the 70's, passed away at age 70.

Long time Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp, who wrote for the Free Press since 1999, passed away at the age of 56. Although most known as a sports columnist, he also served the newspaper as beat writer for Michigan State and Pistons during his tenure.

Both will be missed by the respective local sports community.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

No Capital Gains For D.C. Hockey Fans

The Washington Capitals have their share of coverage struggles as we begin the NHL regular season, despite their strong record last season and expectations of contending again this season.

For that matter, the NBA Wizards are suffering almost as much with the NBA season opening next week.

D.C. area radio stations don't appear to be willing to spend the big dollars for the radio rights to either team. The Capitals no longer air on 106.7 The Fan.

As a result, the only station airing both teams is WFED 1500, and that isn't all. When both teams play at the same time, which tends to happen at least once per week on average, the Wizards will have priority, and no other local station will pick up the Capitals broadcasts.

You got that right. One of the strongest teams in the NHL will not even have all of their games broadcast on local radio. Instead, the Caps are asking their fans, on those nights, to use a mobile app and listen on their phones, or to listen via the Caps web site. That will be the only way to hear those games at all.

Having spent many of my recent professional life in marketing, this makes little to no sense. As much as I can understand radio stations not wanting to spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to secure radio rights, moves such as this one are what send consumers away from listening to the radio at all.

Many pro teams negotiate their own deal with radio stations around the country in place of receiving rights fees. Some teams will purchase the air time and then sell the commercial time themselves to advertisers, which also receive stadium advertising and other promotional value along with their commercial time.

By not having all of their games on local radio, the team will lose in the in car audience on some of the nights, including following home games. (Unless somebody actually listens on their cell phone in car, with cell phone use while driving being illegal or restricted in some municipalities.)

Some casual fans, understandably accustomed to hearing the broadcasts on radio for all of the years of being a fan will give up listening or even trying to find the team's games. And radio stations will lose out by not having the chance to attract fans to their station's other programming.

Incredibly, the Caps' season opener, which was against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, did not air on local radio because WFED was airing the Nationals playoff game vs. the Dodgers. (Not saying that the playoff game was not more important - but not having an overflow station to air an interesting hockey game is inexcusable.)

At least the Wizards, which also have a live app to hear the broadcasts within 150 miles of D.C., will have all of their games on the radio, even though it will be on 1550 AM. Play-by-play voice Dave Johnson begins his 20th season on the call, with analyst Glenn Consor beginning his 10th season.

Our fear is that in the long run this situation will hurt radio stations, which now offer even less at a time when there is more competition than ever for the listening audience, as well as the teams, which will not be "in front" of as many casual fans on a regular basis. We shall see if there is a long term impact on attendance.

As for the NBA regular season starting next week, it could be quite the coincidence for TNT. They will have the season opening game from Cleveland on Tuesday (10/25), and have already announced plans to do their pre-game and half time segments from outside of the venue in Cleveland. Little did they know that they could be on the same block as the opening game of the World Series if the Indians win the ALCS. (The Indians were up 3 games to 1 over Toronto at press time.)

On the baseball side, it continues to be astounding how Fox Sports 1 is bragging about their record ratings for the NLCS telecasts. It should be making them realize how if they had the games over the air on Fox Sports, as they did for years in the past, they would have even more sensational ratings.

MLB will suffer in the long run from shutting out fans who cannot afford or no longer with to be gouged for cable/satellite costs. And that does not take into account the casual fan who does have cable/satellite but has no idea of where to find these telecasts.

Of course, we can't help but mention Ernie Johnson referring to sideline reporter Sam Ryan as "Sam Roberts" on the air at the conclusion of ALCS game last week on TBS. Ooops.

NBCSN got off to a great start with its NHL coverage. The season opening night doubleheader last week (10/12) with attractive matchups St. Louis vs. Chicago and L.A. vs. San Jose gave NBCSN its best NHL regular-season doubleheader audience in its history.

On the NFL side, we are getting evidence that the networks can no longer put "any" NFL matchup on and expect the biggest possible audience. Monday Night Football (10/17) with the Jets and Cardinals, was a record MNF rating for a Week 6 telecast.

Yet, the Sunday doubleheader game on Fox between Dallas and Green Bay finished as the most watched NFL game of the entire season to date. It's the same weekend, folks.

Fox Sports should be pleased that through the first five weeks of the regular season (with Week 6 figures not available at press time) that its Fox NFL Kickoff pre-game show has shown a 21% audience increase over last season.

And how insane is this for the Rams fans in Los Angeles. While the team's game from London this Sunday (10/23) against the N.Y. Giants will air nationally on CBS, kickoff will be at 6:30 AM PT. Wonder how many will be listening to the local radio pre-game show starting at 4:30 AM local time.

To the surprise of many, the Rams do have fans watching their games. The team's first six games have averaged 878,000 viewers, with Fox and CBS combining for a 7% increase in viewers (for the Los Angeles market) on those six game days/nights.

CBS and CBS Sports Network have announced many of their 270 college hoops telecasts for the upcoming season. The first CBS telecast won't be until Saturday Dec. 3, but it will be between UCLA and Kentucky. CBS Sports Network will air roughly 231 games.

While the Pac-12 Network is still struggling for distribution (such as no deal with DirecTV), Dish TV has moved the channel off its sports only tier and to a more available tier in time for the coming basketball season.

As the NBA continues to reach to international markets, the Association has announced making a League Pass available via computers and mobile devices for this season - in China. In US dollars, the plan in China costs $164 for the season, with individual games available for what would be $2.20 each in USD.

CHICAGO: Good news for WSCR 670 The Score (besides the excellent ratings thanks to being the Cubs flagship station). Afternoon host Terry Boers will return to his afternoon show on Monday (10/24) after a medical leave started back in June. The 72 year-old Boers has been with WSCR since its inception in 1992.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fox Sports Riding The Cowboys

Many of the NFL nationally televised matchups thus far this season have not been the most appealing, which is the likely reason for the ratings decline one quarter of the way through the regular season. Research shows that NFL viewership among the 18 to 49 age group is down roughly 11% compared with last season.

As has been the case for four of the five weekends, the Dallas Cowboys will again be the featured national game on Sunday (10/16), taking on Green Bay in the Fox doubleheader game. This figures to be a winner for the network. In addition to both teams attracting national interest, viewership figures to be high in Cowboys rival cities such as New York, Washington, and Philadelphia, which will air the game. In fact, the telecast follows the Redskins vs. Eagles game on Fox.

As of press time (on Wednesday), there is the possibility that the Packers vs. Cowboys game could be a lead in to the MLB NLCS game in prime time, which could feature the Washington Nationals playing in Chicago against the Cubs. (Even if only shown on FS1, Joe Buck will call the baseball instead of the NFL game, which will be Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman.)

This past Sunday (10/9), the Washington D.C. market ratings showed that the Cowboys vs. Ravens telecast on Fox drew nearly five times the total audience as the rescheduled NLDS playoff game between the Nationals and Dodgers.

However, Fox sports will suffer a bit this coming Sunday, as coincidence has both the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears home games being televised locally on CBS.

Speaking of suffering TV fans, Fox Sports is a leader in that category for MLB fans. As of press time, we don't know how many of the NLCS telecasts will be on Fox Sports or hidden away on FS1.

It was with some amusement on Wednesday (10/12) when the overnight ratings for the thrilling NLDS game between the Cubs and Giants showed this epic game as the most watched telecast ever on Fox Sports 1. Both the Chicago and San Francisco markets produced ratings at or above 19.0. The Monday night Game 3, which lasted until 1:45 AM CT, showed that more than 450,000 homes were still tuned in within the Chicago market when the game ended. And this was on a Monday night!

While Fox Sports is boasting about these ratings, they should be furious (like many fans who didn't know where to find the game) that they didn't air these games over the air on Fox Sports. There were plenty of fans who still have no idea where to find these games that would have increased these ratings had they been able to find the game, or even receive it.

FS1 would be fine for overflow (when one game runs into another) and for expanded pre and post-game coverage, but hiding these telecasts is an outrage to baseball fans. The sports suffers with both Fox Sports and TBS not making these games available over the air or having local telecasts, such as the NBA and NHL do for the first round.

It's time to welcome the NHL regular season, and NBCSN has some excellent matchup for the first couple of nights. After showing rivals St. Louis vs. Chicago and Los Angeles vs. San Jose on Wednesday, the network comes back with Pittsburgh raising the Stanley Cup banner and opening against Washington on Thursday. They get a tough break, as it turns out, because the D.C. audience also has the NLDS Game 5 with the Nationals and Dodgers to choose from.

PHILADELPHIA: Although it is from the 6 to 10 PM slot when the games are going on, 97.5 The Fanatic is temporarily without a night time sports talk host. After a year and one-half of hosting nights, Joe DeCamara is out and even removed from the station's web site. No reason given as of press time.

ORLANDO: For the Magic's pre-season game vs. San Antonio on Wednesday (10/12), the team is streaming a telecast via Facebook within a 75 mile radius of the arena as an experiment. This will be the arena feed combined with the radio play-by-play with Dennis Neumann and Richie Adubato. The Atlanta Hawks streamed an open practice on Facebook Live back on October 1st.

WASHINGTON D.C.: It is now definite that there will not be a new "in house" cable channel created for the Capitals and Wizards games. The teams, whose ownership had been considering their own channel and adding other area teams, have taken a deal from NBC Sports Group to partner in Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. As a result, the Caps will reportedly receive around $28 million per season in rights, while the Wizards will receive about $35 million per season through the 2031-32 seasons. For this coming season, this will be roughly double the revenue each team received for last season.

NEW YORK: WABC-TV 7 has hired Ryan Field away from Fox Sports to become its lead sports anchor. Field has been anchoring on Fox Sports 1 for most of the past three years.

DETROIT: Sorry to report that WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket host Terry Foster suffered a setback in his recovery from the stroke he suffered in August. Foster had planned to return to co-host along with Mike Valenti last week.

Fox Sports Detroit has confirmed that Mario Impemba and Rod Allen will return to the Tigers telecasts for 2017.

MINNEAPOLIS: Two outlying area stations have dropped their sports programming. WXCX 105.7 (Siren MN) dropped its simulcast of The Fan from Minneapolis, as did WXCE 1260 (Amery MN), which had been airing NBC Sports Radio. Both stations have gone to music formats, as sister station WHSM 910 (Hayward MN) had done earlier following an ownership change of all three of these stations.

ROCHESTER: With 990 AM discontinuing its sports programming Rochester Americans hockey has moved to WROC 950 and 95.7 ESPN in time for the new season. Don Stevens continues as the team's play-by-play voice.