Thursday, June 30, 2016

Detroit: Where The Ticket Surpasses The Game

Detroit's WXYT-FM The Ticket, already the market's #1 overall radio station, scored its own victory earlier this week when WMGC-FM 105.1 suddenly dropped its "The Game" sports format and switched to a music format (which may be temporary). The Game never came close to The Ticket in the ratings over its approximately three year run.

WMGC-FM has confirmed that it will continue to air the Pistons broadcasts for the coming 2016-17 season, the scheduled final season of its broadcast contract. The Pistons will continue to sell their own advertising for their broadcasts.

It will be interesting to find out how the Pistons will handle their broadcasts after next season. If they look to return to The Ticket, they would, again, wind up behind the other local play-by-play broadcasts and have their games farmed out when there are conflicts. If they look to go to another station, it may not have sufficient ratings to increase interest in their broadcasts.

Sports fans who like to have accurate statistics on the screen would have blown a fuse at CSN Chicago on Tuesday (6/28) night. During the later part of the 15 inning game between the Cubs and Reds from Cincinnati, Cubs pitcher Travis Wood pitched and played some in left field after the Cubs ran out of position players.

After the Cubs took the lead in the top of the 15th, Wood (literally) came out of left field and was sent in to, once again, pitch and finish up the game. However, on the CSN Chicago telecast, the pitch count on the graphics box started from zero, although Wood had already thrown pitches to several batters already.

Over on the Fox Sports Ohio telecast, the 'Fox Box' was, correctly, updating Wood's total pitch count for the game.

I'm sure that I'll hear from some readers telling me "It's no big deal" and "Who cares?". The point is that viewers often rely on the information available on the screen during live sports telecasts. Just as we have replays to make sure the officials "get it right", we should be confident that the crew responsible for the telecast can also "get it right" every time.

Fox Sports continues to be aggressive about streaming its sports telecasts, adding a deal to be able to stream NHL games in market for the local teams it has the rights to at a cost estimated to be roughly $2 million per team it can show, according to Sports Business Daily.

This gives Fox Sports streaming rights for MLB, NBA, and NHL teams its regional networks have the rights to. In the case of the NHL, these are only for local telecasts and do not impact NBC or NBCSN national telecasts, which it already streams via the NBC Sports app.

This applies to Fox telecasts of the St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets. Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars, and Minnesota Wild. Also included are both the L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

What makes the L.A./Anaheim situation interesting is that Fox currently airs their games in the Las Vegas area. However, with Vegas to get its own NHL team starting with the 2017-18 season, Fox and the NHL will need to renegotiate that fee. Of course, it is also quite possible that Fox Sports could wind up with the TV rights to the new Vegas team as well.

NHL fans who also enjoy baseball will be interested to know that Mike "Doc" Emrick, the primary voice of the NHL on NBC, will continue his occasional baseball play-by-play work next week. He is expected to join Bob Costas on the call of the Cubs at Pirates game on Friday July 8th for an MLB Network Showcase telecast. Emrick appeared on a couple of Pirates telecasts in spring training this year.

Sports broadcasting lost still another legend last week with the passing of Tom Kelly, who died just two days before his 89th birthday. Kelly is most remembered in Southern California for his many seasons of broadcasting USC football and basketball, going back to 1962 when he took over for Chick Hearn (who went over to the Lakers when they first moved to L.A.).

Kelly also was a sports anchor for KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KTTV-TV Channel 11, along with play-by-play stints with the L.A. Clippers and San Diego Chargers. He also helped kick off the Prime Ticket cable network in 1985.

Just as MLB fans get used to MLB Network airing a live game on Sunday afternoons, along comes TBS to begin with Sunday telecasts (instead), starting on July 10th. TBS will air the Washington at New York (Mets) game with Ernie Johnson on the call. They also announced their July 17th telecast, which will be Texas at Chicago (Cubs) with Brian Anderson on the call.

BOSTON: While WEEI-FM 93.7 continues with its Red Sox broadcasts and its battle against WBZ-FM Sports Hub, it will do so without Mike Adams hosting the available weeknight shows. No 'permanent' replacement has been named, although that may not happen until the fall after the Red Sox games no longer dominate the evening hours. Adams had hosted (available) nights since 2005.

ATLANTA: WZGC The Game has expanded its contract to air the Hawks games, including more participation from sister station WVEE-FM starting with the coming 2016-17 season. Steve Holman will return as play-by-play voice for his 32nd season.

LAWRENCE KS: The University of Kansas has its new play-by-play voice for both football and basketball starting this fall. Brian Hanni, a Kansas graduate, has been selected. He replaces Bob Davis, who retired after last season from the role he held since 1984.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why ESPN Radio Rams Its Way Into L A

Even if these moves become loss leaders, ESPN Radio is making moves to spice up local play-by-play for its own radio stations. In Los Angeles, KSPN 710 has officially become the flagship station for the Rams for the next five seasons.

KSPN has full control over the broadcasts ranging from handling all of the production to selling all of the advertising, and promises an eight hour package of programming surrounding and including each game. As you would expect, there will also be a ton of Rams related programming during the week, which is most likely the reason for KSPN to make this move.

Having significant access to the Rams and the other NFL teams, along with ESPN Radio's NFL related features and programming will become a strength of the station from August through January. The Sunday (or other game day/night) programming is not likely to draw much of an audience.

Many NFL fans in the L.A. area will continue to follow other teams and have little interest in the specifics of the Rams games (unless "their" team plays the Rams during a given week). Many Sunday road games from the Eastern or Central time zones will start at 10 AM local time, which means their morning pre-game programming will start by 8 AM. NFL fans interested enough in the games of the day ahead at 8 AM are more likely to be watching or listening to Fantasy Football information than bother with an extended Rams pre-game show. From an economic standpoint, the station can sell the time to national advertisers based on reaching into the nation's second largest market during an NFL broadcast.

KLAC 570, the market's other full-time sports station, is now 49% owned by the Dodgers, which would not put up with moving their team's games when there are conflicts. KFI 640 and other prominent AM stations would not want to pre-empt weekend and occasional programming and advertiser commitments, along with the additional weekday support programming.

To add to its game coverage, KSPN has signed KSWD 100.3 The Sound, a classic rock station, to air the game broadcasts and to feature the Rams within its morning show. The hunch here is that ESPN Radio sees more opportunities to generate revenue from these broadcasts despite what figures to be a small audience.

Look for them to add a network of stations in markets within the region, such as Palm Springs, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, and others. Doing this will enable them to sell regional ads to the national advertisers to air on multiple stations. The secondary market stations will gladly have what they can promote as "local" NFL football every week instead of or in addition to the NFL national radio broadcasts which air.

In Chicago, WMVP ESPN 1000 is now being crushed by WSCR 670 The Score while having lost the NBA Bulls broadcasts to WLS 890 starting this fall. As a result, WMVP had no major local play-by-play, other than some college basketball games. Their announcement this week was taking on Notre Dame football and basketball broadcasts starting this coming season, along with taking on the coaches shows and various Notre Dame related sports programming.

Although it won't be enough to overcome not having any local MLB, NBA, or NHL team games, it allows ESPN to sell advertising to the big boys, just like having the Rams does in Los Angeles.

While WMVP will, in effect, be an affiliate for the widespread Notre Dame Football Network, it is expected to produce its own separate basketball broadcasts starting in November.

Notre Dame games had been airing on WLS 890 for the past 10 seasons. However, with WLS adding both the White Sox and Bulls flagship station duties this year, it had little to no time for the Notre Dame broadcasts anyway.

ESPN has also made media news this week at the national level. As expected, ABC benefitted from the seven game NBA Finals, peaking with the highest rated Game 7 telecast since NBC had the games in 1998. The viewership was 17% higher than for the most recent Game 7 in 2013 between Miami and San Antonio.

The entire series averaged more than 20 million viewers, which made it the most watched NBA Finals ever shown on ABC, and that's with the first six games all decided by 10 or more points.

On the college side, ESPN has re-upped for Big Ten Football with a new six year deal during which it plays second fiddle to Fox Sports. For the first time, Fox Sports will have first choice on which games it will air on its family of networks, along with Fox showing the Big Ten Championship game every year (rather than alternate seasons).

In the next round of fighting between a provider and a network, now its Dish Network dropping NFL Network this month while both parties blame the other, of course.

Frankly, this one isn't as significant as some are making it out to be. Chances are that the "serious" NFL fan subscribing to satellite TV has DirecTV because of the Sunday Ticket package. Dish is better off passing on the savings to its subscribers and taking the approach that they offer plenty of sports aside from the NFL.

CHICAGO: Best wishes to longtime WSCR 670 co-host Terry Boers who is off the air for up to two months recovering from a surgical procedure. This has also led to increased speculation that Boers will be using the time to determine how he feels about retiring sooner rather than later.

PORTLAND: Whether the Blazers move into contention or not next season, there will be mostly different voices describing them to their fans. Although radio play-by-play voice Brian Wheeler returns, and deservedly so, for his 19th season, he will either have a new analyst working with him or be doing the games solo. After 11 seasons, Antonio Harvey was told he is not being asked back. Looks like Wheeler will fly solo early on, with the possibility of guest analysts for home games at best, on KPOJ 620.

At the same time, TV voice Mike Barrett and analyst Mike Rice have also been let go. In this case, replacements are expected to be h

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Upon Further Review CBS Overturns Its Officials Analyst

Wednesday brought us a couple of interesting media items with regard to the NBA Finals coming to an end very soon. First, we have the wonderful gesture by ESPN to enable TNT's Craig Sager to work his first NBA Finals game ever on Thursday (6/16) night.

ESPN is allowing Sager, who continues his battle against Leukemia, to share sideline reporting duties on the ABC telecast of Game 6, which would be the last game of the entire season if Golden State wins.

And that's the other interesting thing. Late Wednesday (6/15) morning, a couple of news organizations noticed that the NBA-TV schedule, which is available through the Association's official web site,, did not show any coverage planned for a possible Game 7.

As of press time, more than eight hours after this was first publicized, the Sunday schedule, which includes scheduled replays of Game 1 through Game 6, still did not indicate any possible pre or post-game coverage for that evening. If Cleveland wins on Thursday, Game 7 would be played on Sunday night. Look for some media members to have some fun with the NBA site if the Warriors win it on Thursday night.

Over at CBS, the word is that its NFL coverage will make a change for its analyst of official's calls and will drop Mike Carey from its broadcast roster. Although Carey was an NFL ref for 24 seasons, his predictions of the upcoming decisions during replay reviews proved to be far less accurate than Mike Pereira has done over the past six seasons for Fox Sports during the games. 

Too soon to tell who CBS would bring in to handle the roll, but we expect a replacement to be named. It's doubtful that CBS would eliminate something they have been doing and let Fox be the only network to have analysis specific to the officials. Have to think that the official announcement from CBS would start with "Upon further review.......".

At NBC, having the cable networks in place was key this past Sunday (6/12). With the horrible tragedy having taken place in Orlando early Sunday morning, NBC News was able to stay on with continuing coverage all day on Sunday and move its scheduled auto racing coverage.

NBCSN carried the Canadian Grand Prix while the Firestone 500 Indy Car race was moved over to CNBC. It turned out that the coverage of these two races did not overlap as originally scheduled, since the Firestone 500 had a lengthy rain and weather delay and aired much later than intended on CNBC.

It was also a tough stretch for NBC after a ratings drop for the just concluded Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pittsburgh clinching the Cup on Monday (6/13) by defeating San Jose had national ratings about 25% less from the Game 6 clincher between Chicago and Tampa last year. The entire Cup finals series was down 23% in the ratings from last year. It didn't help that two of the finals games were shown only on NBCSN instead of NBC, where many casual fans would not know to find the games.

Not having teams from New York, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia in the later rounds also hurt the NBC group. The entire NHL post-season, with every game shown live on one of the NBC networks, was down about 14% in viewership from last season's playoffs.

LOUISVILLE: WKRD 790 is adding a Saturday morning soccer show, as "Soccer City" begins this Saturday (6/18) at 9 AM. The show, hosted by Steve Peake, is produced in conjunction with the city's USL team.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Baseball Boosts Local Radio Ratings Again

Once again, baseball rules the roost when it comes to radio listening. The just released Nielsen ratings for the period from April 21st through May 18th bear this out in many of the larger markets.

As expected, Boston area listeners put Red Sox flagship WEEI-FM at #4 overall in the market, increasing its already strong ratings by 1.2 ratings points over the past three months. They did not take away from rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub, which also showed an audience increase while finishing at #6 in the market. Boston continues to be the strongest sports radio market in the country.

Even with the poor start by the Yankees, WFAN 660 The Fan went up to #9 overall, showing a one-half point increase over the past three months. WEPN ESPN held steady but remains with just over one-third of the audience size which The Fan now holds.

WOR 710 has good news and bad news this time around. Having the Mets broadcasts has increased their night numbers significantly. In fact, their night audience has tripled in size over the past 12 months. However, none of the other times of the day have changed, which indicates that people are currently not interested in the other programming the station has to offer.

Having the Cubs broadcasts for the first time has already given WSCR 670 The Score a huge boost in the Chicago ratings. The station jumped up to #4 overall in the market, its highest ratings ever (in 24 years) and is now #1 at night. The Score was ranked as low as #17 in the market earlier this year, and was actually behind WMVP ESPN 1000 just three months ago. Since February, WMVP has lost more than 20% of its audience even with a strong afternoon drive showing.

San Francisco's KNBR 680 finishing #1 in the market is not a surprise at all, considering it is the flagship for both the Warriors and Giants. Their current 6.8 rating is that station's best ever, and that is without taking from KGMZ-FM The Game.

While The Game held steady from the previous ratings book, it now reaches 25% of the total audience of KNBR, and that's with being the A's flagship station.

In Detroit, even a poor start by the Tigers didn't stop listeners from making WXYT-FM The Ticket as solid #1 in that market. The station has gone up more than two full ratings points within the past three months.

Baltimore's WJZ-FM The Fan rose to #5 overall and is up almost two full ratings points since February as the Orioles flagship station. Over in D.C., WJFK-FM has increased its total audience by more than 33% over the past three months thanks to the hot start by the Nationals, for which it is the flagship station.

WIP-FM Philadelphia, which is now the exclusive radio home of the Phillies as of this season (no longer shared with 1210 AM) increased to #9 overall based on the team's surprisingly good start (which has since ended). Rival WPEN-FM, which came in at #15 overall in the market, is still ahead of WIP-FM during afternoon drive as The Fanatic's Mike Missanelli has an even stronger lead over WIP-FM's Josh Innes. This marks the 7th consecutive ratings period in which Missanelli and his various co-hosts have won the battle against Innes' show.

Seattle's KIRO 710 has benefitted from the Mariners' good start, pulling the station into the top ten in the market with an audience increase of more than 40% since February. In Dallas, the Rangers' hot start propelled KTCK-AM The Ticket (flagship station) into the #10 spot in the market, now leading KRLD-FM by a full ratings point. Yet, with The Ticket rising by .6 over the previous month, KRLD-FM increased by .3 during that same time and KESN-FM held steady.

The impact of the final season of Vin Scully and limited TV is even picking up KLAC 570 in the Los Angeles market. While still mired at a lowly #29 in the market, the station's audience size has more than doubled since February while KSPN 710, the Angels flagship station, is now behind KLAC and remained steady from the previous ratings period.

This Friday (6/10) is a sad day for sports fans everywhere as the funeral will be held for Muhammad Ali. ESPN is among the networks promising extended live coverage.

Although details are not complete (as of press time) we do know that the service will be streamed via Comcast SportsNet Chicago at

Perhaps arrangements are still in the works, but we were unable to find confirmation of other CSN regional networks also airing or streaming the service, which, according to them, begins at approximately 2:00 PM ET on Friday.  (ESPN shows different times for its coverage as of press time.)

LOS ANGELES: Josh Lewin becomes the next play-by-play voice to be booked solid in the fall, along the lines of Kenny Albert and Kevin Harlan. Lewin has been named as the new radio voice of UCLA football and basketball starting this season, replacing Bill Roth who only held the job for one season.

Lewin continues calling the Mets games as well as San Diego (for now) Chargers football. Josh probably thinks that the Chargers will move to L.A. and that very soon both the Charges and UCLA will be local to make his football weekends less complicated.

WASHINGTON D.C.: WTEM 980 won't be the same starting July 1st as Tony Kornheiser is leaving his midday spot at the end of this month. Kornheiser has been with WTEM since its launch back in 1992.

RALEIGH/DURHAM: Sorry to learn that Woody Durham, the former voice of University of North Carolina football and basketball for 40 years, will no longer be on the air or doing any public speaking appearances. It's not because of retirement, however. It was revealed a few days back that Durham was diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder which impacts his speaking abilities.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On The 'Verne' Of College Football Season

Just as Keith Jackson was "the" voice of college football for all those years on ABC-TV, the same can still be said for Verne Lundquist on CBS. At least it can be said only for a few more months, because it is now official that the 2016 season will be Verne's final one calling college football.

Lundquist, whose credentials also included being the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys years ago, will call the prime SEC games for CBS this year, a role he has handled since the 2000 season.

Even with an announcement of this magnitude, CBS didn't waste a moment before revealing that Brad Nessler will replace Lundquist as its SEC football voice beginning with the 2017 season, also being paired with analyst Gary Danielson.

Nessler will be calling a couple of SEC games this year, along with the Sun Bowl and will also continue to call some of the college basketball telecasts. He is, of course, known for extensive play-by-play work from this 24 years with ESPN, which also included some NFL play-by-play.

The good news is that this is nothing more than a schedule reduction for Lundquist, who is expected to continue to call some basketball telecasts along with some of the PGA golf tournaments. 2016 is his 53rd year of calling sports on TV.

It could have been the nicer than usual Memorial Day weather throughout much of the Midwest, but for whatever reason, Monday's (5/30) Indy 500 telecast on ABC was over a full ratings point below the 2015 telecast.

This was certainly not the fault of the people of Indianapolis. As soon as the race was officially announced as the first ever "sellout" of tickets, it meant that the race was shown live in Indianapolis for the first time ever. It's hard to believe that ever since ABC began televising the race live (after years of airing it around the country on tape delay) that it was not shown in Indy previously.

Early results showed a Nielsen audience rating of 33.6 for Indy (which means that more than one-third of TV sets were tuned to the race, including those not even in use. This added somewhere around .2 to the national rating.

The comeback from the Golden State Warriors from a 3-1 series deficit to return to the NBA Finals was major for TNT. Games 6 and 7 of the Warriors' comeback against Oklahoma City showed huge ratings, as one might expect. TNT had already reported a 33% increase in viewership, through the first six games of the series, over its previous Western Conference Finals coverage in 2014.

Looks like ESPN Radio wants to beef up its college football coverage for this season. Or, it wants to see how many of its affiliates around the country want to. For this coming season, ESPN Radio will not limit the Paul Finebaum Show on weekday afternoons to only the markets which cover SEC football.

Finebaum will be available during the 3 - 7 PM ET time period to any ESPN station which wants to air the show, even instead of the regular network programming during that time period.

ATLANTA: This week brings an area sports radio "network" to Macon and Warner Robins as 93.1 in Macon and 99.5 in Warner Robins will simulcast local shows in addition to being "Middle Georgia ESPN".

The Bill Shanks Show will air from 3 to 6 PM on weekdays along with a 2-hour midday show, while the remainder, at least for now, will be ESPN Radio programming.

SCHENECTADY: WOFX Fox Sports 980 has added a local show for its 3 to 6 PM slot as a move to compete with the local programming on WTMM 104.5 The Team. The Tred Show began on Tuesday (5/31), as hosted by Tred Hulse, who is more known in the market for being a music host., and now competes against Levack and Wolf.

Fox Sports 980 had been airing Jay Mohr Sports during the afternoon. However, rather than dumping Mohr all together, the station now airs Mohr on delay from 6 to 9 PM, replacing Steve Gorman Sports". Sure, the audience wants a show on delay while the evening's games are taking place.