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

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