Thursday, April 14, 2016

Final Four Telecasts Staying Put

A sports coincidence this week has a pair of "last time" games in Los Angeles this week, although neither figures to be a big ratings winner.

On Wednesday (4/13) night ESPN had Kobe Bryant's final NBA game. However, little did ESPN know months ago that it was scheduled for the same time as the Warriors going for the NBA all-time season record for victories.

In another great decision for NBA fans, ESPN showed both the Warriors and Lakers games on its networks head-to-head. In fact, time allowed for both ESPN channels to simulcast a portion of the pre-game ceremony for Kobe. As odd as that was to see, it added to the significance of the event.

To its credit ESPN/ABC did a similar thing this past Saturday (4/9), when the Warriors went for their 71st win against the rival San Antonio Spurs in prime time. ESPN added that game, and started it 30 minutes before its previously scheduled Cleveland at Chicago telecast, which aired on ABC.

Also to its credit, ABC/ESPN kept the score and time remaining of the opposite game in the upper right hand corner during most of the telecasts. The network knew that fans of the Chicago Bulls were interested in the Warriors' attempt to break the Bulls' all-time season victory record and would want that score.

On the other side, fans of the Warriors and Spurs were interested, although to a lesser extent, in whether or not Cleveland would clinch the best record in the Eastern Conference.

As great as it is that ESPN is doing the pair of games both nights as a service to the fans, it comes after the previous weekend (Easter Sunday) on which ABC did not show any games despite it being 10 days before the end of the season and playoff positions up for grabs.

NBC, on the other hand, continued to play hide and seek with the NHL this past weekend, following up their skipping an Easter Sunday with a quiet Saturday afternoon telecast of the Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia game. Go figure.

Back in Los Angeles, Tuesday (4/12) was the Dodgers home opener and the (expected) 67th and final home opener which Vin Scully described.

The Dodgers telecast, still only available to less than one-third of L.A. area cable subscribers, was picked up, thankfully, by MLB Network nationally.

When it was time for the opening pitch, MLB Network joined in, only to have nothing but crowd sounds through the leadoff batter.

It seems that Dodgers officials overlooked that Scully, at age 88, needed more time to return from the amazing on field ceremony for him back up to the booth. Vin came on at the start of the second batter, explained the situation, and took over as usual from there.

Even after lower ratings for the Final Four games on Turner Sports, having CBS and Turner alternate years of televising them will continue for many years. Turner Sports claims their revenue was up, even if the ratings were not, and was glad to join forces with CBS and expand the current contract through the 2032 Tournament.

From a revenue standpoint, there actually is a method to the madness for Turner Sports. This expanded deal gives Turner Sports additional digital rights to the entire tournament. They are well aware that a large number of fans stream the early round games (on weekday afternoons) because they are at work and not able to view on TV. That number doesn't figure to drop anytime soon, given the recent contracts for streaming of pro sports telecasts, including the NFL.

Next year's Final Four will air on CBS-TV.

Kudos to MLB Network for a nice innovation during the MLB Showcase telecasts (which the network originates). The idea of a "Scoring Update" on their bottom scroll to recap the scoring in the game they are showing is a nice touch. MLB Network is also experimenting with an additional graphic when batters come up to show how the defense is positioned. With so much more shifting of players these days, this could very well become an added part of baseball telecasts sooner rather than later.

The Nielsen radio ratings for the period of late February into late March are being released this week, with this period not being significant for sports stations.

Of course, the ratings battle in Boston is always significant, with the March ratings showing WBZ-FM Sports Hub now in an overall audience tie (for #6 in the market) with rival WEEI-FM. It seems that WBZ-FM has dropped the most since January although both stations are down since then.

In San Francisco, KNBR came in at #3 overall in the market, and this is before the Giants' regular season began, while KGMZ-FM The Game has dropped roughly 20% since January.

Washington D.C. finds WTEM-AM and WJFK-FM now in a ratings tie, although this is for #19 overall. What makes it interesting is that WTEM rose one-half of a ratings point from February to reach that tie.

In Los Angeles, the sports radio struggle continues across the board. During one of the busiest sports times of the entire year, none of the three sports stations could even muster a "1" rating.

DENVER: It's the end of an era for Denver sports fans and Mile High Radio with the retirement of Irv Brown after 40 years of hosting local sports talk shows at the age of 81. In a wonderful move, the final show aired live from a local restaurant, which drew a big crowd to watch Brown sign-off one final time last week, along with long time co-host Joe Williams.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Here we go again. WTEM ESPN 980 is going back to having a local morning show. Actually, that's a good thing, although other attempts in recent years have failed. Now, the "Morning Blitz" airs with Al Galdi from 5 to 7 AM with the newly teamed Chris Cooley (moved from afternoons) and Kevin Sheehan (moved from Noon to 2 PM) co-hosting from 7 to 11 AM.

The station is moving its afternoon drive show, known as "The Sports Reporters" airs from 4 to 7 PM and is co-hosted by Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin. These shows will also air on WWXT 92.7 Prince Frederick and WWXX Buckland (VA) 94.3.

NEW ORLEANS: Sorry to learn of the passing on Monday of Hokie Gajan, who was the Saints' radio analyst since 2000. The former LSU and Saints running back died of cancer at the age of 56.

CLEVELAND: The Fan 92.3 has officially terminated the contract of J.G. Spooner following his arrest last week and subsequent court appearance resulting from theft of several thousand dollars from a fund raising campaign he had helped to start. The station hopes to have a replacement within the next three weeks.

KANSAS CITY: In a nice touch, the Royals TV on Fox Sports has begun its Sunday home games segment of "Sundays With Denny", during which long time team voice Denny Matthews visits the booth for part of the telecasts. This past Sunday (4/10), Matthews joined Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler during the 6th and 7th innings, including conversation and Royals trivia.

HOUSTON: In another nice touch to honor a long time broadcaster, the Astros held a ceremony to rename their Press Box in honor of the late Milo Hamilton, who, of course, broadcast the Astros on radio for 25 years and had passed away last fall.

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