Wednesday, January 6, 2016

NFL Playoffs Take Golf Out of the "Fore" Front

Tons of playoff football to dominate our next few days. For the first time, the four NFL first round playoff games will feature four networks each showing one game, ending the time of NBC having the two Saturday games and then Fox and CBS each airing one on the opening playoff Sunday.

NBC appears to have been caught off guard by getting the 1 PM ET Sunday slot for its Seattle vs. Minnesota telecast. The network had been scheduled to air the final round of the PGA Tournament of Champions from Maui on Sunday. With the possibility of overtime, NBC has moved its final round coverage to The Golf Channel, and it will air going into prime time during the 6 PM to 10 PM ET spot.

This also means that the third round Saturday Tournament coverage will now be split up. NBC will air the first two hours from 4 to 6 PM ET and then move over to its Golf Channel for the next two hours. While not the best of news for the PGA (being bumped off NBC), the later Sunday coverage means that the later part of the final round will air after the NFL games have (most likely) been decided.

On Monday night (1/11), ESPN will again offer its "Megacast" of the College Football National Championship game between Alabama and Clemson. In addition to all of the ESPN platforms featuring different versions, including ESPN Deportes, the Megacast will also include the SEC Network.

Paul Finebaum and (Arkansas coach) Bret Bielema will be commenting on the telecast on SEC Network, while different crews will be offered up on each "network". The primary ESPN telecast will have the regular crew of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit on the call, while Mike Torico and Todd Blackledge have the ESPN Radio call.

How the network faired for 2015 depends on who you talk to. You can make a case either way for ESPN. On the plus side, it finished, according to Sports Business Daily, as the number one most viewed cable (only) network for 2015 for prime time. However, their supposed "need" to have SportsCenter running at all times and re-airing the same features hour after hour is taking its toll.

The report shows the lowest "total day" ratings since 2007, with an overall ratings drop of around 8% from the same report for 2014.

New Year's Day wasn't nearly as good for NBC, even with the less attractive college bowl games (the day after the national semi-finals) as competition. The NHL Winter Classic between Boston and Montreal finished with the lowest ratings since the outdoor game began in 2008.

This bears monitoring, as the Winter Classic telecast has traditionally produced the highest ratings of any of the NHL regular season telecasts. The guess from here is that future New Year's Days will include both teams being from U.S. markets. Since Montreal was involved this time, that market is not an NBC market, leaving NBC with only one of the participating markets factored in.

From the "It must be nice" category comes the reality that retired CBS Radio president Dan Mason actually did and is doing some play-by-play for the rarely watched CBS Sports Network. Mason called the women's basketball game between U. of South Florida and East Carolina (and you missed that?) last Saturday. He is also scheduled to call the George Washington vs. Dayton game on Saturday (against the NFL playoffs), and the Davidson vs. VCU game on January 17th.

BOSTON: The Red Sox have their new radio play-by-play voice to start for the coming season. After reportedly evaluating more than 200 candidates, Tim Neverett will join the radio booth, leaving his role of handling some radio and TV for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Neverett grew up in Nashua NH and attended college in the Boston area. He will join Joe Castiglione, who has been in the Red Sox radio booth since 1983, on WEEI-FM. The position opened when Dave O'Brien was moved from the radio booth to the TV booth following the surprising departure of Don Orsillo after last season.

LOS ANGELES: It's still in the rumor stage (at press time) but the Clippers could wind up on a radio station that actually has an audience, possibly before this season is over. Long time local "reporter" Don Barrett is hinting that KFWB 980 has actually been sold, after being on the sales block for years. If Don is correct, the buyer would immediately go to an ethnic and brokered time format and would not wish to continue with sports talk or play-by-play. 

CHICAGO: WMVP ESPN 1000 is forced to air the college football championship game on Monday night (1/11) ahead of a Chicago Bulls vs. Washington NBA game. As a result, the Bulls broadcast will be moved over to WLS 890, which is under different ownership, and which will become the flagship station for the Bulls starting next season.

It appears there is more to the arrangement between the competing ownership groups. Last Thursday (12/31), WLUP 97.9, an album rock station and sister station to WLS, aired a spot for the bowl game telecast which had already started on ESPN (TV). There I was thinking that they were running this promo spot too late (knowing the game had already started), when the spot encouraged listeners to "tune in NOW to ESPN to watch....".

I could understand this if it were ESPN Radio, or another radio station owned by Disney/ESPN, but I do not ever recall hearing a radio station air a commercial encouraging listeners to tune to a TV network at that moment. After checking around, I have no reports (as of press time) of this happening in any other markets.

SAN DIEGO: The Mighty 1090 sports has added Kevin Acee, also of the Union Tribune, to its evening lineup on nights when it doesn't carry play-by-play. The station continues as the flagship station for Padres baseball, along with San Diego State basketball (and football) and San Diego Gulls hockey.

DES MOINES: KXLQ 1490 The Jock is being sold. No word yet if the new owners would continue or drop the sports format if and when the sale is approved. The well-kept secret of a station is only 500 watts during daylight hours. One could say we will soon find out if "The Jock" is strapped.

Enjoy the playoffs!!

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