Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Einhorn Impact On Sports Media

It could be argued that no one made as much of an impact on sports media as we know it today than Eddie Einhorn, who just passed away at the age of 80. I have often referred to Einhorn as the "inventor" of college basketball.

It was back in 1968 when his TVS television network began airing college hoops on a regional and national basis. The prime-time telecast in 1968 in which the University of Houston defeated UCLA to end the Bruins' 47 game winning streak established college basketball as a TV attraction that has grown ever since.

Although Einhorn was not involved with the early years of ESPN, one has to wonder if ESPN would have gained any traction in the early 80's without the interest in seeing a ton of college hoops.

Einhorn moved into MLB when he became a co-owner of the Chicago White Sox following the 1980 season, initially taking the lead ahead of co-owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Eddie infuriated many White Sox and baseball fans by introducing "SportsVision" which charged fans a monthly fee in order to be able to see at least of the games on TV, talking about "wanting to the first since this is how it is going to be".

Following the 1989 season, Einhorn helped MLB to its first billion dollar TV deal, including ESPN televising at least three nights of national games beginning with the 1990 season.
Thus, his imprint on the TV success of college hoops, and to some extent, MLB, is impossible to dispute. Although I personally did not care for him as a White Sox owner, his accomplishments will be forever remembered for all of the televised games he brought our way as sports fans.

Coincidentally, new research from Nielsen about sports on TV and radio for 2015 reflects just how much sports programming impacts us all. The report shows that of the top 100 live programs on TV during 2015, a total of 93 of those were sports, led by NFL telecasts. Go back ten years and of the top 100 live TV events during 2005, sports telecasts consisted of only 14.
More than 31 billion (that is with a 'B') hours were spent watching live sports last year, an increase of 160% from the 2005 report.

Sports radio average quarter hour listening share showed a 12% overall increase from the 2011 report.

Meanwhile, even with the Golden State Warriors dominating the NBA this season, viewers are taking in this season across the board. ESPN's ratings are up roughly 7% through the first 50 games of the regular season. Of course, the battle for playoff spots is still a month away. ABC's ratings, including its first couple of Saturday prime-time telecasts, are also up about 7% over last season, while ESPN's streaming app is reportedly up more than 65% over the previous season.

However, ESPN needs to re-examine its attempt at Virtual Reality telecasts of a few of its college games. Last week's Ohio State vs. Michigan telecast was done entirely with its "floor seats" angle, as if to provide viewers with the feeling of sitting courtside for the entire game.
Plays in the "far" corner on both sides were tough to distinguish because of the distance from the camera and players getting in the way. While we understand the desire to enhance the telecast experience for the future, hopefully ESPN will realize that they have multiple platforms that could be used.

Here's hoping that the next time they will show the "regular" telecast on one network, and put their Virtual Reality game on another channel, and give the fans their choice of how they want to watch.

While we welcome baseball back with a solid month of spring training games starting this coming Tuesday (3/1) on MLB Network, some of the teams are taking an interesting course for their local telecasts.

Word is that the lead voice of the NHL on NBC and NBCSN, Mike Emrick, will be calling some play-by-play for the Pittsburgh Pirates on a couple of their local telecasts from Florida. Emrick has reportedly been in the Pirates' camp between hockey assignments and will work some games with long time play-by-play voice Bill Brown.

Once again this March, the Angels are going all out to capture baseball viewers who are fed up at still not being able to watch the Dodgers on TV. The Angels will televise 31 exhibition games on Fox Sports West, which is all of them except for a couple of split squad contests.

The Dodgers, for those few who can even get their TV games, the team will air 16 of their exhibition games on their SportsNet L.A., which is the third season in a row they are reducing the number of telecasts.

They are using the excuse of 'low viewership' for the weekday afternoon games as the reason. Of course, if low viewership was a true concern for the network, they would reduce their costs to other providers and get the games in front of as many fans as possible.

What makes this all even more infuriating for the fans is that this will be Vin Scully's final season calling the games. Scully, by the way, will reportedly call one spring game from Arizona, the Freeway Series games vs. the Angels, and be in San Diego to call the April 4th season opener.

RALEIGH/DURHAM: WCLY 1550 The Ticket and its extremely limited nighttime signal will drop ESPN Deportes this weekend and run a mish-mosh of syndicated programming starting on Monday (2/29). The station will pick and choose between ESPN, Fox Sports Radio, and CBS Sports Radio programming.

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