Thursday, May 26, 2016

Opposing Team Exec Interrupts Telecast

This may be well be the first time that a team executive has interrupted another team's broadcast, but AZ Diamondbacks executive Tony LaRussa did just that on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. The Pirates and Diamondbacks were continuing their series which has included players being hit by pitches and taking some "very" inside as well.

On the Pirates telecast on ROOT Sports on Tuesday (5/24) night, they aired a series of "highlights" which showed the times that both teams appeared to be throwing pitches at each other. Play-by-play voice Greg Brown said on the air that LaRussa "has a history of retaliation", even though LaRussa is not the current manager of the Diamondbacks, but is in attendance for this road series.

Then, on Wednesday (5/25) night, LaRussa went as far as to enter the Pirates' TV booth to confront Brown about his comments, literally keeping Brown off the air during part of an inning.

On Thursday (5/26), Brown spent the majority of the 4th inning of the telecast (which, significantly, also aired nationally on MLB Network) talking about what happened. Brown explained how LaRussa kept him from his broadcast responsibilities while taking issue with his (Brown's) on air comments.

To his credit, Brown said that he did not intend to create anything controversial, and added that he "stands behind" his remarks.

While LaRussa has every right to defend direct criticism, even after all of these years he does not have the right to a direct confrontation in an attempt to provoke the other party. This is far from his first time doing this, or trying to do this, to a member of the media.

When he was managing the White Sox, TV analyst Jimmie Piersall, the former controversial partner with Harry Caray, was often critical of LaRussa's managing during his studio analysis during and after certain games. One night in late July 1982, LaRussa and (then) 3rd base coach Jim Leyland both went to the TV studio (in downtown Chicago - not at the ballpark) to confront Piersall following the broadcast about his remarks. Accounts of the incident varied as to whether or not there was any physical contact.

Years later, when LaRussa was managing the A's, there was a game in Chicago during which A's catcher Terry Steinbach was injured from being hit by a pitch followed by what appeared to be some retaliation pitches.

Following that game, Associated Press reporter Bob Glass was the victim of a verbal outburst by LaRussa after asking questions about the incident. This incident was recorded on audio tape.
This makes a total of three such instances of LaRussa provoking a member of the media doing his job - that we know of.

Whether you agree with him or not, good job by Greg Brown of standing his ground against LaRussa's own "pitch" of retaliation.

This coming Sunday's Indy 500 will make history. But not because of anything that may happen within the race itself. For the first time ever, the Speedway has announced a "sellout" of all tickets, with this being the 100th running of the race.

As a result, the race will be shown live in the Indianapolis market for the first time ever. It has been shown on delay previously.

The coincidence of the NHL not having any of its Canadian teams go as far as round two of the playoffs and the NBA Toronto Raptors advancing to round three has had quite the ratings impact. Never thought we would see the day when NBA television ratings are higher in Canada than Stanley Cup Playoff telecasts, but it happened twice last weekend when the Raptors were playing at the same time.

In fact, the Monday (5/24) telecast of the Raptors Game 4 vs. Cleveland set an all-time basketball viewership record for TSN's national (Canada) telecast.

HOUSTON: KILT 610 starts a new morning show on Tuesday (5/31). Actually, they are moving the successful midday show with Mike Meltser and Seth Payne into the morning spot.

John Lopez and Marc Vandermeer will move into the midday slot, and will be jointed by former Texas A&M and NFL receiver and return man Dante Hall.

BUFFALO: It's a good thing when a team official knows to publicly clarify a comment made which didn't come out as intended. Such was the case for Bills GM Doug Whaley. While appearing on WGR Radio on Tuesday morning, Whaley, when talking about concerns over serious injuries, made a comment to the effect of "humans are supposed to play".

Realizing later that the comment did not come out as he intended, he issued an apology. However, it wasn't by calling back to or going on WGR again to do so. Instead, the apology was issued by way of the Bills' team Twitter account.

From here, he should issue an apology to WGR and its audience by not directly apologizing to them. Social media has its place, but it should not be a place to hide behind.

CHICAGO: A bizarre set of circumstances made for a rough stretch on Monday (5/24) night for Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The regional sports network had the entire White Sox vs. Indians doubleheader on its main channel as well as the Cubs vs. Cardinals on its "Plus" channel.

For nearly an hour, only Comcast Cable subscribers were unable to receive the feed of either game. Ironically, it meant that DirecTV and other carrier subscribers were able to see the Comcast SportsNet feeds as usual, while Comcast's own subscribers could not.

ALLENTOWN: It's another of those "only in radio" stories for WSAN 1470. The station has dropped Fox Sports Radio as well as English language regular programming. At least most of it. As of this week, WSAN now airs ESPN Deportes, the Spanish sports network.

However, the station intends to continue airing Phillies baseball and Eagles football - in English.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dallas Viewers Not Reaching For The Stars

Local TV ratings are not often a source of market research, but in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, recent sports telecast ratings do not bode well for the NHL and the Dallas Stars these days. While the team draws well, it looks as though the majority of the fan base attends the games.

During the first round of the NBA and NHL playoffs last month, we noticed that the NBA Mavericks showed a much larger local viewing audience than the Stars, even though the Mavs were given little chance to advance, which they did not. Although the Stars did not advance, they were favored to defeat the St. Louis Blues in that opening round series.

Forward ahead to this week. On Monday (5/16), the local ratings for Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals between Golden State and Oklahoma City was 2.5 ratings points above the (local team) Rangers vs. Oakland A's baseball telecast, which is also a nice reflection of the market's interest in the NBA. At the same time, the NBCSN telecast of the NHL East Finals between Pittsburgh and Tampa drew only a .4.

Then on Wednesday (5/18), the Dallas / Ft. Worth ratings for Game 2 of the Golden State vs. Oklahoma City series drew a rating which was THREE and one-half rating points higher than the Rangers vs. Oakland game, and five full ratings points behind the NHL telecast.

On a national level, the Friday (5/13) telecast of Game 1 of the Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay series finished as NBCSN's most viewed Conference Final opening game in the network's history, and that's without any help from the large Dallas market.

Another week and another loss of talent from ESPN. Longtime college football analyst Chris Spielman has jumped over to Fox Sports, starting with the coming season. Spielman didn't stick around long enough to find out who he would have been paired with on the primary telecasts this coming season, since Sean McDonough will be moving up to Monday Night Football.

The strides made over the past couple of years by league originated channels MLB Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network are being noticed by the PGA. Sports Business Daily reports that PGA officials are exploring the possibility of forming their own network, which could result in using their opt-out of their CBS and NBC deals in 2018.

Although the PGA contract with The Golf Channel is locked until 2021, The Golf Channel does not air much of the late in the day third and final round coverage of the most important tournaments.

NEW YORK: While it's understandable that Howie Rose would want to decrease his play-by-play schedule after 30 years, it's a sad day for Islanders fans. Rose, who has called the Islanders games since 1995, announced that he is leaving their broadcast booth in order to ease back on what has been a constant year round schedule. Howie will continue to call the Mets games on WFAN 660, as he has done since the mid-80's.

MIAMI: Hard to believe it had been seven seasons since the Dolphins broadcasts aired on WQAM 560, but the Dolphins are returning to the station as part of a new long term deal which will also include the game broadcasts being simulcast on WKIS Kiss Country 99.9.

WQAM will air expanded pre and postgame shows, along with new head coach Adam Gase's Monday (or day after) press conferences and a "Dolphins Friday" extended interview show.

This ends what had been a six season run on WBGG 105.9.

FARGO: Jeff Culhane has been chosen as the new radio play-by-play voice of the North Dakota State University (defending national champion) football team starting with the upcoming season. In addition, Culhane was named as Sports Director for KQWB Bison 1660.

TULLAHOMA TN: WHMT 740 has just dropped its sports format and has joined its sister FM station in airing country music. The station, serving much of the area between Nashville and Chattanooga, plans to continue to air local high school football play-by-play.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Baseball Rules Radio Ratings

This year is no exception when it comes to the baseball impact on the radio ratings in many of the 'major league' markets, already showing in the latest Nielsen reports covering late March through April 20th.

Days after WEEI-FM extended its Red Sox contract, the station added another half point to its rating (over the previous month) and finished #5 overall in Boston. Just behind at #6 is rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub, which showed a slight audience increase itself.

San Francisco's KNBR 680, helped by being the Giants' flagship station, rose more than a full ratings point and finished #1 overall in the market. This while the A's flagship KGMZ The Game held steady and again did not make the market's top 20 ratings.

In Chicago, the first three weeks of being the Cubs radio flagship helped WSCR The Score 670 to jump .7 of a ratings point in one month and finish in the top ten overall (#10). This showing put some distance between The Score and WMVP ESPN 1000, which lost .6 of a ratings point over the same month.

WFAN The Fan 660, a sister station to WSCR Chicago, also went up to #10 overall in the NYC market as the Yankees flagship, despite the team's relatively poor start. The "baseball difference" in New York is even more evident when you realize that WOR-AM, a news/talk station which remains as the Mets flagship station, already showed a .4 ratings increase from the previous month, and is now nearly one full ratings point ahead of WESPN ESPN Radio.

An improving Tigers team helped WXYT-FM The Ticket rise back to #1 overall (from #7 earlier this year) in the Detroit market. This, in turn, hurt WMGC 105.1, the sports station which dipped again in the overall ratings despite an improved season from the Pistons (for which they are the flagship).

WMGC has already released Dave Shore from his Program Director duties as well as from his co-host role in afternoon drive. Co-host Lindsey Hunter (the former Piston) will remain on the show, with Rob Pascoe and Jake Chapman of the station sharing the co-host role until or unless a replacement is named.

Dallas' KTCK-AM The Ticket has put some breathing room into what has been a close race among the three sports stations, finishing #13 overall up to a 2.9 rating. KRLD-FM increased its audience by 10% over the previous month's ratings, and is now a full ratings point head of KESN-FM ESPN.

Even with the horrendous start by the Twins this season, alternative music station KTWN-FM actually gained .6 of a ratings point from March, finishing at #18 overall. That's slightly ahead of all sports KSTP-AM, although both trail KXFN-FM The Fan which came in an impressive #8 overall in the Minneapolis - St. Paul market.

As always with a new baseball season, WLW Cincinnati kicked butt with the Reds broadcasts back, while KMOX St. Louis went from 5th overall to #2 overall from March to April. Neither station is all sports.

Baltimore's WJZ-FM 105.7 The Fan, the Orioles flagship, rose 1.6 rating points in one month and shows its best numbers since June 2015. Seattle's KIRO ESPN 710 went up .6 from March as the Mariners station, Tampa's WDAE Sports Animal went up .8 with the new season of Rays broadcasts. Washington D.C.'s WJFK-FM 106.7 The Fan also went up .6 as the Nationals got off to one of the best season starts in franchise history.

Even Los Angeles radio listeners showed an interest in the baseball season. KLAC 570, the Dodgers flagship, literally doubled its ratings from the previous month. However, the station still has onlyh a 1.0 rating and is not near the market's top 25 stations. KSPN 710 and KLAA 830, which share the Angels broadcasts, remain below a 1 rating.

Elsewhere, ESPN continues to battle to protect its empire. ESPN and Verizon announced a settlement from a lawsuit filed to attempt to prevent Verizon from allowing its customers to choose whether or not to receive certain channels and groups. Verizon, had, understandably, created a price point for its customers which did not include the expensive monthly ESPN package.

For those who asked, Saturday May 21st is the day that will have Dick Enberg guest announcing on the Detroit Tigers telecast of its home game against Tampa. Enberg continues in his final season of play-by-play calling the Padres games for San Diego TV, but is fulfilling his dream of calling a game from Detroit. However, the Fox Sports Detroit telecast will not be carried on FS1 (which has another game scheduled for 4:10 ET that afternoon), nor on Fox Sports, which begins its prime time Saturday series with regional telecasts that evening.

DALLAS: The successful season for the Stars has not had the desired impact on the TV ratings during the team's playoff run. You may recall that we recently pointed out how the Mavericks (already eliminated) NBA playoff run was drawing higher ratings than the Stars telecasts, even though the Stars advanced. Now it seems that, though the first five games of the seven game series against the St. Louis Blues, had literally more than five times the ratings points for the telecasts in St. Louis than for the same games being shown in Dallas.

CHICAGO: The month of April, understandably, brought huge ratings success to Comcast SportsNet Chicago, making it the highest rated Chicago area station or network among male viewers (age 18 to 54), even including over-the-air broadcast TV. Having its highest rated Blackhawks telecast ever (Game 7 vs. St. Louis), combined with the excellent starts of both the White Sox and Cubs, went on to generate more than 5,500,000 households tuning in.

SAN FRANCISCO: CSN Bay Area also had reason to boast, as this past weekend's Giants telecasts, in which they swept Colorado in a series, had that regional network ranked as the #1 viewed show during the time period of each of the games.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why Padres Are Moving To An FM Music Station

Boston continues to be the big leader in sports radio listenership around the country, which makes WEEI extending its Red Sox play-by-play contract for seven additional seasons an even bigger deal in its battle against WBZ-FM Sports Hub.

WEEI, which has aired the Red Sox since 1995, now retains the rights through the 2023 season. This season is the 33rd for Joe Castiglione calling the games.

The parent company, Entercom, likes having baseball so much that it coincidentally secured the radio rights to the San Diego Padres starting next year, entering a five-year agreement. What makes this move even more shocking is that the games will air on KBZT 94.9, which is expected to remain under its alternative rock music format.

This gives Entercom the ability to further gauge the music format until next March. What makes this even more curious is that the Padres had the option to remain on (current flagship) XEPRS Mighty 1090 through the 2017 season but declined in favor of this new five year deal. Since the team is off to another poor start this season, they probably preferred to be locked in longer term to a radio deal.

A key factor for KBZT is that the majority of weekday road games begin airing during afternoon drive, which would take away an important daypart for a music station. This is much different than an east coast station doing this when the majority of the games air during the night hours.

Keep in mind that the NFL Chargers are not definite to remain in San Diego long term, as they are rumored to be looking to relocate slightly north to the L.A. area. If that happens, the Padres become the only major pro team in town. We can clearly see what Entercom wanted to lock them up.

The shuffle continues as ESPN. After also losing MLB analyst Curt Schilling last week, this week brings the departure of football analyst Robert Smith who had been with ESPN since 2005.
Smith has already joined Fox Sports and will be a studio analyst for Big Ten Network and Fox Sports college football telecasts starting in August.

It still won't be easy to find the national radio broadcast of the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals (at least without satellite radio), as NBC Sports Radio will once again air the games. Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti will call the games for those that can find them.

Even with no Canadian teams still alive in the NHL Playoffs, and this is only the second round, the NHL continues to rule the ratings roost in Canada. This past weekend had national TV coverage of the Toronto Raptors Game 7 vs. Indiana in the NBA Playoffs, the Blue Jays vs. Tampa MLB games, and the NHL draft lottery. Which do you think drew the biggest audience?

The Raptors win over the Pacers finished as the most watched Raptors game EVER in Canada with an average of 1.53 million viewers. The Saturday Blue Jays vs. Rays game averaged 1.1 million viewers.

And the NHL coverage? The 2nd round telecasts of the Pittsburgh vs. Washington series are, so far, averaging about 1.5 million viewers. And, Saturday's (4/30) NHL Draft Lottery telecast averaged, are you ready, 1.57 million viewers, the most viewers of any of these.

KANSAS CITY: Interesting concept from KCSP 610 Sports Radio following the Chief's drafting of Tyreek Hill who had earlier pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge. Co-hosts Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison launched a fund raising page for a local center for domestic abuse victims via The pair was critical of the selection, and decided on the air to do something about it. To their credit, more than $7,000 in donations were generated within the first eight hours of its existence.

NASHVILLE: It seems that both sides did not agree on the reason for the firing of Dan Phillips from his sports anchor role at WZTV Channel 17 last week.

Word is that the station was upset when WZTV reporter Meagan O'Halloran, conducting a live broadcast only on Facebook, went into Phillips' office to have him pull a listener question out of a fishbowl when Phillips went into a profanity filled tirade which went out live.

Phillips, however, claimed, on Facebook of all places, that he was dismissed because of what turned out to be his final sportscast being filled with Prince references following the performer's untimely death.

SYRACUSE: WTLA 1200 and 97.7 have added Dan D'Uva to their weekday lineup from 2 to 4 PM. D'Uva continues as play-by-play voice for the Syracuse Crunch minor league hockey team.

DOTHAN AL: Sister stations WULA 1240 and WYDK 97.9 are changing music formats this month but will continue their play-by-play affiliations. WULA will air Auburn football and basketball as well as most NASCAR broadcasts. WYDK will air University of Alabama football, along with some of their basketball games, plus originate some local high school game broadcasts.