Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Broncos Lead The Ratings Charges

As predicted here last week, the AFC Championship game between Denver and New England was far and away the bigger draw this past Sunday (1/24) when determining the Super Bowl participants.

The national rating of 29 and amazing 51% share of the total audience is the highest rated AFC Championship game telecast in almost 30 years, and the highest "early" Conference championship telecast (either AFC or NFC) during that time as well. Even more impressive is that this telecast finished as the highest rated TV show (including non-sports) since last year's Super Bowl.

Obviously, not a good night to have the blowout game that Fox wound up with, although having two teams which had far less national exposure than they deserved during the regular season certainly contributed.

It is rare that an app can have a severe impact on sports media, but the "Sports Stadium" app that Facebook will be marketing in the near future could do just that. This app will provide in-game statistics and analysis, which is nothing unique. However, the integration with Facebook is unique because it will encourage users to comment on live game action and share and respond to their Facebook friends.

The hunch here is that this app could soon result in a reduction in viewership, especially for games which are only available on cable. Some casual sports fan will probably enjoy interacting with their friends about the game more than watching, especially when the game is not close and/or a favorite team is not having a good season. Many other consumers, who continue paying the continually rising cost of cable/satellite service primarily to follow sports, might use this app and have more incentive to 'cut the cord' and drop their provider, preferring to let their friends keep them informed about the games.

This application will be rolled out specific to football, with the other sports expected to be added in within "the near future". Recent research shows that more than 700,000,000 Facebook users consider themselves to be sports fans, while the app is being formed to have both the official score and key stats about the "followed" game, along with friends' reactions and comments on the same screen.

Those who still don't see the potential impact might find the recent research report by Moffett Nathanson Research to be stunning. The report, focused on ESPN viewership sorted by live coverage and its other programming, showed a 5.4% drop in SportsCenter viewership over the past six years.

Although that six year "average" may not appear significant, the report shows that SportsCenter actually lost more than 12% of its audience during (fiscal year) 2015.

This was more than triple the amount of the audience decrease that ESPN showed for its live play-by-play coverage during the same period. Frankly, SportsCenter has become so difficult to watch due to far too much jumping around from sport to sport and replaying the same extended features almost every hour, when it has so many other resources.

ESPN is planning to beef up its NBA coverage, adding a daytime half-hour program starting on Feb. 18th (out of the All-Star Game break). Rachel Nichols, who joins ESPN after a stint with Turner Sports, has been chosen to host the show, which will include talks with players and analysts, along with previews of the night's games.

Nichols is also expected to act as fill-in host for Bob Ley on Outside The Lines when called upon.

It's not NBC Sports' fault that Sunday's (1/24) scheduled NHL telecast from Washington D.C. was called off due to the winter storm that wreaked havoc over the Northeast. With no alternative, NBC Sports took over the 2 1/2 hour block with sports updates, highlights, and interviews. However, extended segments on figure skating and other categories with a limited audience among hardcore sports fans (who would be most likely to watch) made the programming a near disaster. As it was, this time block was a lead in to up to seven hours of live NFL football which began at 3 PM ET, with the CBS pre-game show having started at 2 PM.

Over the Canadian border, Rogers Media is showing signs of struggle after having paid so much for NHL rights. The network paid over $5 billion back in 2013 for only a 10-year NHL package for its SportsNet (network) in its drive to smother rival TSN. However, this season has brought the network a noticeable dip in the ratings compared with last season.

Rogers Media has just laid off 200 employees, which is in addition to 90 positions eliminated from within a separate newspaper chain it owns.

NEW YORK: WFAN's Mike Francesa somehow managed to give a news story (of sorts) about his radio show on a show other than his own, which is quite a distinction. Last week, Francesa,revealed on Fox Sports 1 that he plans to leave WFAN at the end of next year (2017) when his contract is up.

Instead of making the announcement on his show to "his" audience first, Francesa instead told Katie Nolan of his decision on FS1's aptly named "Garbage Time" show. He then followed that up by being almost 20 minutes late for his show on WFAN due to the FS1 interview. As popular as Francesa and his show are and have been, it was disrespectful to his regular audience to announce his intentions on another show before doing so on his own show to all of his fans.

Next year will mark 30 years since he first joined WFAN, with 19 of those years spent teamed with Mad Dog Russo.

Francesa and Russo still plan to reunite for a "one-time" pairing on the air on March 30th at Radio City Music Hall.

Nice to see the "Legendary Coaches" show, featuring interviews and profiles of major college football coaches, preparing to expand beyond its current stations, which include WPRT 102.5 The Game in Nashville. Beginning with the Saturday Feb. 13th show, it will also be heard via Yahoo Sports Radio, in hopes of eventually adding more stations to the mix.

BOSTON: This will most certainly change for next month, but the holiday period ratings for both major sports stations showed a drop of audience. Although WBZ-FM Sports Hub finished as the #2 station in the market in overall audience, and WEEI-FM came in #6, both stations lost .8 off their overall audience from the prior ratings period. With the Patriots' January run to the AFC Championship game, the audience size figures to rise for both stations for the current ratings period.

KANSAS CITY: The Royals getting further into the offseason has proven to be a ratings disaster for the two sports stations, showing it is how the local teams are doing and the current sports content that make all the difference. During the 4th quarter of 2015 (which began with the October ratings during the Royals World Series run), KCSP-AM lost more than 75% of the total audience it had from October through December, and is now at #19 in the market.

In fact, WHB-AM, which had slightly over half of KCSP's total audience size during October, overtook KCSP by more than one-half of a ratings point in the just release December ratings period.

INDIANAPOLIS: After it started to attract some attention in the early fall, WIBC-HD2 decided to drop its local sports shows over the past few weeks. The channel went to all ESPN Radio, and its December ratings showed it having lost more than 80% of the total audience it had as recently as October.

PHILADELPHIA: As of press time, still no further action taken by WIP-FM regarding host Josh Innes, on-air tantrum last week. On the same day that the Eagles held the press conference to introduce Doug Pederson as the team's head coach, Innes was commenting about how Jason Kelce was there to greet the coach.

During this tirade, on the air, Innes referred to Kelce as "lapdog for whoever the coach is", and seconds later referred to him as "the house negro".

Innes apologized, but not until later in the day, and it is not known if he apologized naturally or had been ordered to. Either way, it appears he may be getting away with having made those comments on the air.

That he might get away with this unscathed would not be that big of a story if it weren't for the number of reporters and analysts who have lost jobs or been more severely penalized for such comments via social media - which were NOT said on the air. These are radio (and in some cases TV) stations these people work for. The responsibility for what goes out over the air on a radio station is far more significant than comments on one station representative's social media.

ROANOKE: A new sports station has begun, although it is taking Fox Sports Radio plus the syndicated Dan Patrick Show and has yet to announce any local programming. At 610 AM, the call letters having been changed (from WVBE) to WPLY. The station will also be heard on 97.3 FM and in nearby Lynchburg on 98.5.

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