Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Reason for NFL Lifting Blackouts for 2016? Los Angeles

Since when did sports on TV abandon Easter? Here we are in a time when holidays are associated with specific sports more than ever. Thanksgiving is dominated by NFL games, Christmas by NBA games, New Year's Day by college football, while Memorial Day and Independence Day are heavy on MLB.

Yet, for some unexplained reason, Easter Sunday (3/27) was abandoned this year.
We are into the final 10 games of the regular season which has the Warriors going for an all-time victory record and several teams fighting for their playoff lives. On the previous weekend (3/19) ABC scored excellent ratings for its prime-time telecast despite going up against the NCAA Tournament.

Not only was there not a prime-time telecast on ABC on Saturday (3/26), but ABC failed to show a national game on Easter Sunday. They could have easily shown an entire game prior to the start of the NCAA games, if that was their concern.

Over at NBC, there was no NHL national telecast at all early Sunday afternoon, even though there were just two weeks remaining in the regular season as playoff battles in both Conferences. A game airing at the usual time would have been completed well before the NCAA telecasts.

How do these networks expect to hype the post-season if they don't find it worthwhile to air games at their usual times with the regular season winding down?

It's the casual fan ("Is there a game on?") that thinks they can tune in early on a Sunday afternoon and catch an NBA or NHL game that would add to the ratings in the long run. You would think the networks would want to justify the ton of money they shell out for the rights by airing the games consistently.

NBC probably took the worst of this. No telling how many fans did not find an NBA telecast on ABC on Sunday and flipped over to NBC to catch some NHL action that would not have otherwise.

Although Fox Sports did not fall into this trap for Easter, their lack of consistency the past couple of seasons (and again for the upcoming season) of its Saturday Game of the Week (MLB) sends the same message to the fans that the games aren't important enough to air consistently.

In an era where holidays in sports have reached the point of the NBA issuing "special" uniforms for Christmas Day games and burdening us with the "Los Spurs" and other ridiculous uniform changes for national games, we have two major networks ignoring the audience on Easter.

Wonder what NBC and ABC thought when they found out that the Easter weekend ratings for the NCAA Tournament games were down almost 25% from the same weekend last year.

This coming weekend (April 2, 3, 4) is not a true national holiday, although for many sports it is very much like one with both the MLB season openers and the NCAA Final Four. Then again, these games will not be over the air, but instead on major cable networks.

It will be interesting to see how ESPN fares with the excellent idea of having MLB open on a Sunday with a live triple header. This takes away from NCAA fans complaining about the MLB coverage on Monday, and of some MLB fans not wanting interference from the NCAA Championship game on Monday night.

It may be "too little too late", but it is interesting to see a pro team step up to try and help its flagship radio station. While the AM band continues to shrink, the Cincinnati Reds have gone to bat (pun intended) for WLW Radio. The team filed an official letter with the FCC with regard to the proposal to limit the range of the powerhouse station, claiming that fewer fans will be able to hear the Reds games on the station. (The link to their letter is below.)

While this is for a good cause, the station will have a tough time using this letter as a basis to not have the reduction in coverage. The Reds, according to this letter, now have 60 affiliate stations throughout the region. While still quite impressive, the Reds Network was often nearly twice that size in years past, and served to reach fans who could not always hear WLW in the Midwest.

That was also in the days when many of the games were not also available on TV and radio was the exclusive means. In addition to almost every game being televised throughout the region, millions of baseball fans listen to the broadcasts via the At Bat app. In other words, they, unfortunately for this cause, no longer need WLW for their Reds coverage.

It is a shame that the powerhouse radio stations have lost their stronghold on play-by-play. And with today's technology, AM stations are no longer necessary for area sports, weather, and news information.

Speaking of the times changing, the word this week is that the NFL has decided to suspend blacking out home games again for the 2016 season. The League claims this move is to further evaluate whether or not to continue to black out home games which are not sold out.

I'm not believing that for one second. The real reason is the Rams move to Los Angeles. There is no guarantee that the local fans will care enough in the first season to even come close to selling out Rams home games. If the regular blackout policy was in effect, the local fans would only see the road games of the Rams - and the #2 TV market would have fewer telecasts over the course of the season.

The NFL knows it needs the ratings points from L.A. in order to help drive the media rights costs even higher. This is why the blackout policy is being suspended. No doubt about it.

HOUSTON: No word yet from KILT 610 about a new morning co-host (along with John Lopez) upon the upcoming departure of Nick Wright, who is scheduled to leave the station on Friday April 8th. Wright, another in the long line of sportscasters who graduated from Syracuse University, will be joining Fox Sports 1 in Los Angeles.

LOUISVILLE: Lachlan McLean is coming back to sports talk, joining ESPN 680/105.7 this week to co-host "The Midday Rush" with Andy Sweeney. McLean will also host call-in reaction shows following University of Kentucky football and basketball games starting later this year.

McLean is known from his long run on WHAS 840 as a sports talk host.

Happy Opening Day to all!

And here is the link to the letter the Reds sent to the FCC regarding WLW Radio:;NEWECFSSESSION=40fTW5XdtS2GfJ3Y6Z7GDNBHyQLx1Jg5YhFzFKHPTycVPKjXvZpd!-1651119231!1749169674?id=60001551840

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Remembering Joe Garagiola

So sorry to learn of the passing of Hall of Fame broadcaster and former player Joe Garagiola at the age of 90, known mostly for his years of play-by-play and color on NBC's national baseball telecasts during the 70's and the years surrounding.

It wasn't his play-by-play ability that made Garagiola so popular, at least in my opinion. It was his enthusiasm for the great game of baseball and his appreciation for the role that he had. He was very adept at communicating a player's perspective on the game.

One of my most wonderful personal experiences during my years as a sportscaster happened to have been the first time I met him in person. It was during spring training of 1977 and I was in Florida making the rounds of several of the training camps. The day I was in Sarasota at the Chicago White Sox camp, I had just watched their exhibition game and completed some interviews. I knew of a press lounge at the stadium and walked in expecting to use one of the desks to go through my tape and find the interview clips to send to the radio stations I was working for.

When I walked in, there was then White Sox owner Bill Veeck sitting on the couch talking with two other guys. Since Veeck knew me from seeing me around, I focused on him and he stopped talking and said "Hello". I then realized that the two other guys in the room (that Veeck was talking with) were none other than Garagiola and Hank Greenberg.

I said something like "Sorry", and turned to start walking out, not wanting to interrupt a conversation like that. Veeck said something like "It's OK", and then Garagiola said "You can stay here, sit down", and I did. I suddenly forgot I was supposed to get my work done and sat there listening to those three chatting about baseball.

After a few minutes, it was Garigiola who said something like "You can talk if you like", seeing my fascination at simply being there, which any baseball fan can understand. I think I said something like "I'm not sure I can add anything to this, but I'm sure I'll remember this forever", and they all chuckled a bit. I knew then and I know it now that Garagiola didn't have to be that nice to a kid with a cassette recorder and a press pass, but he was. He could tell I was a big baseball fan, and that was good enough for him. You'll be missed, Joe!

Speaking of baseball telecasts, kudos to ESPN for its all around coverage of the spring training game from Cuba on Tuesday (3/22), since the game between Tampa Bay and the Cuban team was far more than just an exhibition game. ESPN did an excellent job with their extended pre-game presentation and in-game activities as well.

Showing the behind the scenes workings both inside and away from the ballpark was most informative, along with the special guests which included President Obama from the stands. Having the broadcast team move around to several vantage points during the broadcasts is normally too much of a gimmick, but in this instance it totally worked.

As we prepare of another weekend full of the NCAA Tournament coverage, we have to look at all of the basketball consumed by TV viewers last weekend.

It is curious that the three most watched telecasts were all shown on CBS, the easiest for the casual fan to find. The Indiana vs. Kentucky game, understandably, drew nearly 10 1/2 million viewers to lead the way. Of course, CBS took most of the better opening week games. Some will argue it is because of that, while others point to many casual fans not understanding that Turner Sports was using three of its channels for the remainder of the games.

What adds to the demand for basketball is the fact that ABC-TV's telecast of the NBA Saturday Prime Time game between Western Conference powers Golden State and San Antonio was seen by more than 5.1 million viewers, despite the NCAA telecasts going on at the same time.

On Sunday (3/20) it was a most curious decision by NBC to concede to basketball on Sunday afternoon and not even bother to show a national NHL telecast during their usual window of opportunity. What makes that decision even more ridiculous is that if they used their usual 12:30 PM ET time frame, their selected game would have been over prior to the start of the evening's NCAA games.

Instead, NBCSN carried an NHL doubleheader up against the Tournament, and then failed to allow enough time between games. The Pittsburgh vs. Washington telecast, which turned in to a blowout game, ran into the first three minutes of the Minnesota vs. Chicago game. Even the Chicago market had to wait for their game of interest to be joined in progress, much to the frustration of Blackhawks and Wild fans. No reason one of those games couldn't have been played earlier in the day on NBC, allowing both games to be shown in their entirety with complete pre and post-game coverage.

Elsewhere, I seem to be in disagreement with many reporters regarding the Fox Sports decision to release Tony Siragusa from his duties on their NFL coverage after nine seasons as a sideline reporter. Siragusa was what a sideline "reporter" should be for an NFL telecast, or for that matter any football telecast.

As a former player with a true on air personality, he was able to provide some analysis as witnessed from a different perspective than what they crew sees in the booth. Whether you agreed with him or not, he was reporting and analyzing the plays and the players, instead of just interviewing the coaches and providing viewers with information which is otherwise available to the working press.

For the past few years, having Siragusa on the sidelines meant having one sideline reporter who actually contributed to the telecast. Now it might never matter who is on the sidelines.

BOSTON: The recent rumors about the future of CBS Radio could very well have an immediate impact on the Boston sports talk radio ratings battle. WBZ-FM Sports Hub had been rumored to be a heavy bidder for the Red Sox broadcast rights, which would have taken the games away from rival WEEI-FM after its ten year deal ran out.

WEEI-FM has signed what is termed a "short term" contract renewal, which seems odd given the potential of a bidding war between the two highly rated stations. The inside thinking is that the Red Sox want to wait and see what does or doesn't happen with CBS station WBZ-FM in order to hopefully (for them) facilitate a full on bidding war.

CLEVELAND: Indians fans are delighted with the word that long time voice Tom Hamilton isn't going anywhere, signing another multi-year contract to continue as the team's primary radio voice. Hamilton, whom The Broadcast Booth considers to be one of, if not "the", finest radio MLB play-by-play voice, has been on Indians radio since 1990 and served as the lead announcer since 1998 after Herb Score retired.

LOS ANGELES: KLAC 570 Sports has rescued the Clippers broadcasts for the remainder of this regular season and for the playoffs. The games had remained on KFWB 980 after it changed to new ownership and a foreign language format last month. No word yet on where the Clippers broadcasts will wind up when they conflict with Dodgers baseball.

BALTIMORE: WBAL 1090, while revising its news/talk lineup during weekday drive times, is continuing its 7 to 10 PM Brett Hollander Show, which is primarily sports talk.

HONOLULU: KIKI 990 has switched to an all sports format, although it currently only airs Fox Sports Radio programming when not airing play-by-play. The station will, of course, continue to air L.A. Dodgers games and Tennessee Titans football. The Titans games are carried there since QB Marcus Mariotta is from Hawaii.

JAMESTOWN NY: Sorry to learn of the passing of Jim Roselle earlier this week after more than 61 years with WJTN. Although Roselle was known for his (general) talk shows year after year, he actually began with WJTN in 1953 as a part-time sportscaster.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tough Month For Sports Radio

As everyone prepares for the onslaught of Tournament telecasts over the next few days, we have to wonder about the fallout at CBS over the disaster of the show announcing the pairings this past Sunday (3/13). They clearly should have taken our advice and cut the show to 30 minutes tops.

Instead, fans had to put up with technical gaffes as well as too much time given to analysts such as Charles Barkley, who made it quite clear that the NBA is his specialty and that it is not "all" basketball.

While we can understand CBS officials being upset that the pairings were announced on social media, and turned out to be correct, before the CBS telecast "revealed" them, in this instance it is hard to blame the media which jumped on the information. The sources which revealed the matchups did fans a big service by reducing the need to sit through almost an entire two hour show.

The mystery continued into Monday (3/14) when WFAN New York host Mike Francesa claimed during his afternoon show that he knows the source of the leak, but would not reveal it. Frankly, that is hardly "news", since nothing was revealed. Listeners don't know for sure that he knows anything. It may not be a coincidence that WFAN is a CBS owned radio station. It's not like CBS needs any more embarrassment over this.

The February radio ratings have been revealed for the major markets, and it is, understandably, not the most favorable for sports stations. This ratings period begins around Super Bowl time and begins the NFL off-season. It is also while the NBA and NHL are still weeks before the playoffs begin, while MLB spring training games had not begun. College hoops was still in the regular season as well, with all of this combining to be a less urgent time for sports.

In Boston, the two major sports stations continue to hold down top seven overall audience spots. WEEI-FM finished #5, despite dropping a full ratings point, while Sports Hub WBZ-FM came in #7 despite dropping two full ratings points in the month since the January book. Normally, this would be cause for concern, but this is actually a positive when these stations still have strong audiences, and this is likely the low point of the year.

New York City listeners kept WFAN 660 in the top ten overall despite a half-point drop from Januarym, while WEPN-FM held steady with well under half of the audience size of The Fan.

Chicago listeners have a battle on their hands, as WMVP ESPN 1000 overtook WSCR 670 The Score by one-tenth of a ratings point. While this would normally be considered a slim margin, what makes this interesting is that WMVP went up .2 while WSCR dropped by .2. WSCR wins the mornings while WMVP wins the midday and afternoon spots during the week.

In Philly, WIP-FM finished #9 in overall audience despite dropping by .9 of a ratings point. The station figures to show well if the Phillies get off with a decent start as the station begins as the exclusive station airing all of their games on FM only.

What had been a three station battle just a few months back has changed as KTCK-AM The Ticket has broken away from the pack. The station went up to a 2.7 Nielsen rating for February while the other stations both dropped. KRLD-FM, which led The Ticket by .2 in the previous January ratings period, lost 1.1 rating points overall to a 1.8, while KESN-FM dropped .3 down to a 1.1.

The three biggest markets in which sports stations generally struggle showed mostly declines this time around.

Not one of the three Los Angeles sports stations gained. In fact, not one of them shows up in the list of the top 30 stations. KSPN 710 has lost 20% of its small overall audience since December, while KLAC dropped .3 to its lowest standing in several months. KLAA 830 barely shows up with a .2 overall rating. KWFB 980, which had been a sports station for all but the last couple of days of the ratings book, again came in at .2 overall, so that audience leaving the now foreign language station won't have an impact anywhere else. And this is for a market getting an NFL team back in a few months.

In Houston, not one of its four sports stations made the top 20 stations overall, with KILT-AM losing more than 25% from its January audience. KMBE-AM, KFNC-FM, and KGOW-AM combined would only slightly edge KILT-AM, and none of them increased.

Similar story in Miami, where none of its three AM sports stations finished in the top 25 overall. WAXY 790 was the only station to reach the 1.0 rating, just ahead of WQAM 560 and well ahead of WINZ-AM which dropped again for the month.

Yahoo seems to be pleased thus far with its new deal to provide a live stream of up to four NHL games each week in a deal which already is set to run through the 2016-17 regular season. Although revenue figures have yet to be revealed, a Yahoo official was quoted as saying that their hope is to eventually provide a live major sports event stream every day.

The significance to Yahoo is the advertising revenue potential as well as increasing its audience and frequency of visits. For fans, the significance is that these streams are live, free, and do not require any cable or satellite subscriptions to view.

How nice of Fox Sports to allow Dick Enberg to check one more off his bucket list, especially during his final season of play-by-play before his retirement later this year. Enberg, who has been the Padres' TV voice since 2009, will call play-by-play in Detroit for the Tigers game vs. Tampa on Saturday May 21st. As of now, the telecast is scheduled for Fox Sports Detroit, with the hope being that FS1 will eventually share this telecast around the country. (However, this would make sense, so we shall see if Fox Sports does it or not.)

ATLANTA: While the YES Network and Comcast continue their dispute which keeps Yankees telecasts away, and Time Warner Cable and every system continue their dispute in L.A. keeping the Dodgers games a secret, Dish Network and Fox Sports have resolved their dispute over money.

Dish subscribers will now get every available Braves telecast after three seasons of missing out on a 50 game weekend package. Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast will combine to show 157 of the Braves games this season.

CHICAGO: WLS-AM 890, starting its first season ever as flagship station for the White Sox, has added Rachel Brady as a sports reporter starting next week. The station recently hired Connor McKnight as its White Sox pre-game and post-game host along with providing most morning sports updates.

SEATTLE: The Mariners broadcasts will continue on KIRO 710 under the new multi-year contract, which includes both in-season and off-season additional team related programming.

ALBANY: WTMM 104.5 has added Bob Wohlfeld, known as "Wolf" as co-host of its afternoon drive sports show, which now begins at 2 PM instead of the previous 3 PM, and runs until 7 PM. He joins Jeff Levack for the "Levack and Wolf Show". Wohlfeld was heard during morning drive on WPYX 106.5 for over 12 years.

NEW ORLEANS: Sorry to learn of the passing of Marty Mule~ at the age of 73 due to a heart attack last week. In addition to authoring seven sports books, including "Eye of the Tiger: 100 Years of LSU Football", he served as a reporter for the Times-Picayune from 1974 until 2005.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday Night Football - via Facebook?

Several media insiders are speculating that the live streaming package for NFL Thursday Night Football games this fall could wind up on Facebook. Yahoo, Amazon, and other streaming services are also believed to be in the running, with an announcement about the winning bidder is expected to be made on or around March 20th when NFL owners meet.

Facebook has been quietly looking to become more involved with live streaming over the past few months. Can't help but wonder if they would have a "Most Important Plays" default setting and expect visitors to watch plays shown out of sequence every time they check in.
This would only be for online streaming, since the Go90 service (owned by Verizon) has the exclusive on mobile.

Both the online and mobile streams would be taken from the over-the-air telecast, whether from CBS, NBC, and/or the NFL Network (cable) telecasts.

Speaking of live streaming features, Apple TV has come up with what they call an exclusive technical advancement for the NCAA Tournament which, of course, begins next week.

Those with Apple TV will reportedly be able to watch two separate games via their new "split screen" feature. While the ability to view two games simultaneously is exclusive to Apple TV users, the availability of the tourney by streaming will be available via several platforms, including Amazon Fire and Roku. Those who pay (and the key word is PAY) for cable or satellite TV packages will need to register (as proof of subscription) in order to use the apps to view in that manner.

This will be the first time ever that the entire Final Four will be completely on cable, with Turner Sports showing both the Saturday and Monday game action.

CBS and Turner Sports have added Carter Blackburn as one of their early round play-by-play voices for the tourney, paired with analyst Mike Gminski. Blackburn is still another in a long line of sportscasters who went to Syracuse University, having been a classmate of fellow tournament play-by-play voice Andrew Catalon. He replaces Marv Albert, who continues to reduce his "non-NBA" broadcast schedule.

Here's one you don't see every day. Wisconsin Green Bay play-by-play voice Matt Menzl was asked to leave his play-by-play position during the game against Valparaiso in Monday's (3/7) Horizon League tournament action.

Referee Pat Adams reacted strongly to Menzl's animated description to his radio audience and stopped the game until Menzl left his position. Menzl handed over the microphone to one of the Oakland University play-by-play voices (who was nearby since other conference teams were on hand for the tourney).

After going to meet with school and Horizon League officials nearby, Menzl returned to the microphone within five minutes and continued his call of the game. I'm sure some fans, players, and coaches, are wishing that game officials would be watching what is happening on the court that closely.

ESPN announced a couple of analyst changes for its NFL coverage beginning with the upcoming season. Mike Ditka, a part of the ESPN analyst family since 2004, will no longer be a part of "NFL Countdown" and will be featured during the week on several segments for SportsCenter.

Just retired QB Matt Hasselbeck, who most recently played for the Indianapolis Colts to wrap up an 18 year career, will join both the Sunday and Monday Night editions of "Countdown". As a side note, it's interesting that there were TWO former Colts QB's who just announced their retirements after 18 seasons in the NFL.

This may be a low point for CBS Radio Sports Network. In a strange money grab, the network will air a three hour "special" specific to wrestling late night on Sunday April 3rd. "The Taz Show" will air starting at 11 PM ET following a major wrestling event.

Granted, it is late on a Sunday night, not exactly a peak listening time. However, on that particular Sunday night it is the day of the MLB season openers and the night in between the NCAA Final Four games, with CBS being a TV partner in that event.

Instead, this money grab is to the point that the CBS sports stations in New York, Chicago, Dallas, D.C., and Philadelphia will also stream this 'special'.

ORLANDO: WRSO 810, after more than two years airing CBS Sports Radio Network, has dropped sports in favor of foreign language programming.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Two Hours Is Too Many For Tournament Announcement

While the NCAA Tournament selection and pairings show is highly anticipated, it seems to be getting out of control. The Sunday March 13 show will air on CBS, as always, but will be expanded again to a full two hours. That's longer than a tournament game takes.

Do we really need more hype? More analysis? Just show us the matchups and schedule of games. This shouldn't take more than ten minutes. I know it is show business and about hyping the games for ratings, but this borders on insane.

Ernie Johnson and Greg Gumbel will act as co-hosts, and there will be the usual endless stream of analysts. For what? Sorry, but it doesn't take a whole group of analysts to point out which teams didn't make the field despite winning records and which teams have the toughest seedings.

The show will begin at 5:30 ET and, yes, go for a full two hours. At this rate, maybe they'll show a marching band performing show tunes for ten minutes around 6:30 PM and then show a recap of the first hour's analysis.

MILWAUKEE: While the Brewers haven't shown much on the field over the past couple of years, their radio booth is a breeding ground for big league broadcasters. This season begins with another new partner for 82 year old Bob Uecker.

The honor goes to Lane Grindle, who comes to Milwaukee by way of the University Husker Sports Network, and will now handle play-by-play for between 50 and 60 games which Uecker will not travel to.

NEW YORK: WFAN 660 The Fan will continue with year round local play-by-play, signing a multi-year extension to continue airing the Brooklyn Nets games, as it has since the 2004-05 season. Games which conflict with Yankees broadcasts will continue to air on WCBS 880.
As a result, the coincidence continues of the Yankees and Nets sharing the same radio station, WFAN, and the same TV outlet, YES Network, for their games.

CHICAGO: WGN Radio has extended its coverage of Northwestern University football and basketball through the 2019-20 season. At the same time, the station signed play-by-play voice and morning sports anchor Dave Eanet to a four year extension. Eanet has called NU football since 1990.

PITTSBURGH: The Pirates broadcasts are staying put on KDKA 93.7 The Fan with a just announced multi-year contract extension following the just concluded four year deal. KDKA-AM aired the Pirates for more than 50 years until WPGB got the games from 2007 through 2011.

LOS ANGELES: KFWB 980 The Beast is now even less than a whimper. The poorly rated sports station went under new ownership earlier this week and has dropped all sports programming except for its Clippers (and Galaxy soccer) broadcasts.

Due to a strong contract, the Clippers will remain on KWFB through the regular and post-season, although there reportedly is an opening for another L.A. station to come in and take over as soon as possible.

FARGO: Sorry to learn of the passing of Scott Miller who passed away at the age of 57 due to Melanoma. Miller called North Dakota State University football and basketball games for the past 20 seasons, most recently for KFGO. He also did baseball for the Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks for the past ten seasons.