Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Long Time Voices Leaving Chicago and St. Louis

While the legal battles continue regarding daily fantasy sports, still another company is entering the fray and could actually help the stations and networks televising the games. A company called Boom Fantasy plans to expand beyond some resorts and web sites and into several states with its offering of 'real time' fantasy sports.

The company plans to offer what can best be termed as spur of the moment fantasy contests which could last under an hour or even a few seconds. Their marketing plan includes examples such as "Will LeBron James score more than eight points this quarter?", and allow the participants to compete against each other with a series of questions in somewhat of a tournament format.

Its impact on sports media could be significant. Daily fantasy players can follow their players in a variety of ways, such as online and via mobile devices. The idea of Boom Fantasy and its games will be for fans who are actually watching, listening, or possibly following the game online at the time.

Although, as mentioned earlier, some of the owners of NFL teams have investments in the major daily fantasy companies, Boom, to this point, has raised more than one million dollars in private funding to date. Wonder how long it will be before at least one of the regional or national sports network either takes a stake or creates their own version so this concept can be used in conjunction with games they are televising.

Which theory do you have for the NFL Division Playoff ratings from last weekend (Jan. 16 / 17) being down a bit from last year? It certainly wasn't for lack of excitement considering the Arizona OT win over Green Bay and the Denver narrow escape over Pittsburgh.

The four telecasts were down an average of just over one million viewers for the weekend. Some TV experts think it is because of the absence of teams from the largest TV markets in these games. New York, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Washington/Baltimore, and Philadelphia are among the largest markets in the nation, and none of them had a team still involved.

Others think that viewership might be on the decline instantly from St. Louis and northern California (Raiders fans) who are abandoning following the NFL because of losing their team to Los Angeles. Some think it is because the Dallas Cowboys were not in the playoffs, and they remain a strong ratings draw.

We might get an answer when we see the ratings for this coming Sunday's Conference Championship telecasts. Denver and New England both have large followings throughout their respective regions. And football fans everywhere realize this could very well be the final post-season matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Yet, as good as the NFC game appears to be, the fact is that neither Phoenix or Charlotte is a top 20 TV market. The feeling here is that the teams involved are what impact the ratings, and that the more casual fan is not used to seeing Arizona, Carolina, and Kansas City (now eliminated) in the post-season.

The prediction from here is that this coming Sunday's ratings will have Denver vs. New England as one of the highest AFC telecasts ever, and Carolina vs. Arizona as one of the lower NFC Championship telecasts in years.

Tuesday (1/19) brought possible eventual good news for fans as the cost of the MLB streaming package was reduced somewhat, and a single team package will be introduced. MLB settled a class action lawsuit regarding the availability of local team streaming packages within hours of its scheduled court date.

Although specific details were not released (as of press time), it appears that MLB.TV will be able to offer in-market streaming, allowing fans to stream the local team(s) instead of being blacked out. Sources were reporting that MLB.TV will, as part of the settlement terms, offer "single team in-market streaming" for $84.99 for the season, whether or not the subscriber also pays for cable or satellite including the televising local station and regional network.

However, according to Sports Business Journal, it is not certain whether or not roughly half of the MLB teams have reached a deal regarding local streaming. At last report, only 15 of the teams have a streaming deal in place, all of these via Fox Sports regional networks.

On the radio side, the "holiday period" radio ratings for the largest markets were released earlier this week. Although the always interesting Boston ones were not available at press time, the holiday music stations mostly took away from the other music stations in the big markets. Not much change for sports talk stations, with the one exception being Atlanta.

WZGC-FM The Game went up again, and has now increased its total audience by one-third within the past three months, rising to #14 overall in this new ratings book.

NBC Sports Radio plans to make still another change to its weekday lineup as of the week of February 8th, even though it will include a morning repeat. "Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio" is moving to mornings, airing live from 6 to 9 AM ET, and then being instantly replayed in order to serve the west coast from 6 to 9 AM PT. As if they can't pick up a live west coast originated show.

To make the double morning show happen, the network is moving Voices of the Game to Noon to 3 PM ET, and among other changes, also plans to repeat the 10 PM to 1 AM ET "Going Deep" show from 3 to 6 AM ET.

To sum up, a nationally available sports talk network is changing its schedule, and it includes six hours every weekday (1/4 of its broadcast day) of repeat programming.

Over at Fox Sports, their USGA golf coverage will continue without Greg Norman as an analyst. The announcement, at least according to Fox Sports, was a "mutual decision" by the network and by Norman. Yet, there has not been (as of press time) a "mutual" announcement from Greg Norman.

ST. LOUIS: It will seem strange after all of these years, but those who have noticed how drained Mike Shannon sounded last season on Cardinals broadcasts on KMOX will be relieved to know that Shannon will not broadcast the Cardinals' regular season road games, effective immediately. The 76 year-old Shannon will continue with spring training broadcasts, all home games, and call every post-season game if the Cardinals get there again.

It is good news for the many fans of John Rooney, who will take the lead on the road broadcasts and, deservedly call a lot more innings. Rich Horton will come over from the TV booth to help out on the road radio call, along with Mike Claiborne, whose exact role is still to be determined.

CHICAGO: WGN-TV will be adding a new sportscaster between now and June. On one hand, it is a replacement, but on the other hand, it is next to impossible to replace. The name Rich King might not ring a bell with a lot of sports fans, but everybody who watched WGN-TV in its days as a full superstation showing plenty of baseball and basketball has seen him on telecasts and on many of their newscasts.

King has just announced that, after 48 years on the air in Chicago radio and TV, he will retire mid-June of this year. The 68 year-old Chicago native has spent all of that time at either WBBM Radio/TV and WGN-TV, including a few play-by-play stints on White Sox telecasts and sideline reporting for other games.

ERIE IL: Having worked with sportscasting students, both independently and teaching at Columbia College Chicago, I have encountered my fair share of students looking to break in to the play-by-play side of things by going to a smaller market. It appears that one such opportunity is coming up in the near future in Erie.

WQUD 105.5 has been under new ownership for the past few months, and has is going from playing music via automation to some live programming this month. The new ownership is big on local sports, and is expected to look to add high school play-by-play starting this summer. I know of several broadcasters who started by selling some of the time (making themselves a source of revenue for the station) and getting to call the games on the air as an additional reward.

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