Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another College Sports Network Coming Soon

Sometimes the strategy of showing the games is even greater than the strategy used by the coaches to try and win those same games. The Atlantic Coast Conference is unveiling plans for its own TV network to showcase its games and events, along the lines of what the SEC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 have been doing.

It appears that starting this network within the next year in a streaming platform is the first move. While it will be presented as introducing the network and enticing viewer interest, the reasoning behind it is to allow for some current rights deals, such as the one with Raycom to syndicate selected telecasts, to run their course. However, Raycom has some ACC game rights for the next 10 seasons.

It looks as though ESPN will handle the digital portion and make selected telecasts available via its streaming and app over the next year or two. The thinking is that this gives ESPN more ammunition, especially on the east coast, for negotiations with carriers and providers over the next year.

MLB local team telecast ratings are going strong this year, as the team by team reports for the first half of the 2016 season indicate. The K.C. Royals are the local leaders, yet are one of ten teams which are #1 rated during prime time in their markets including both broadcast and cable offerings. Other cities with top evening telecast ratings include St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Detroit, Boston, Cleveland, and Dallas.

The report also shows the Chicago White Sox with a 30% increase in TV ratings over last year. In this case, it could be because of the addition of Jason Benetti, who handled play-by-play for the home game telecasts (plus one road series in April). This is the first break that White Sox fans have had from Ken Harrelson, who this season is only doing road telecasts. Although there is no breakout of home vs. road telecasts, the team is also around .500 this season, leading one to indicate that fans prefer announcers who actually describe the game and discuss the team ahead of rants about the umpires, excuses for every run the opponents score, and the other incessant babblings from Harrelson.

Houston Astros telecast ratings are more than six times higher now than they were just two seasons ago. In this case, it is the combination of the team's rise to contention along with the change from now defunct CSN Houston and the start of ROOT Sports.

And after the understandable protests in Boston when Don Orsillo was not rehired, Red Sox telecast ratings were up 11% over the first half, coming in 6th among local telecast ratings. It helps to be a contender this season, as opposed to last season's horrendous start.

It is worthy of note that while the local team telecasts are up, the ESPN game ratings are down this season. It may not only be because fans are more interested in the local teams. ESPN has reduced its Baseball Tonight load, often skipping entire nights from either ESPN or ESPN2. It is less consistent with when it airs games, now showing some Tuesday games instead of its traditional Monday and Wednesday nights. Reduced coverage means reduced interest in watching.

For those keeping score on the name of the network, the former One On One Sports, Sporting News Radio, and now Yahoo! Sports Network is changing names still again during the week of August 1st. It will soon be called SB Nation Radio.

BALTIMORE: The Ravens have extended their radio and pre-season TV agreements through 2022 as both will remain in place. The radio play-by-play team of Gerry Sandusky (the one with the same name, but not "that" Gerry) and Stan White will continue on WBAL 1090 and WIYY 98 Rock for regular season (and any post season) games. They will again move over to the TV booth to call all available pre-season games (not shown on a national network) on WBAL-TV Channel 11.

MILWAUKEE: Although the Brewers are again struggling through a poor season, WTMJ 620 has decided to continue to long standing relationship and extend its contract beyond this season. The team has aired on WTMJ for all but two seasons on WISN since its inception in 1970.

Making this season tolerable for the audience is the 46th year of Bob Uecker calling the games, although understandably on a reduced schedule these days. Jeff Levering and Lane Grindle are also in the radio booth and are expected to continue.

MIAMI: The NHL Panthers have extended their radio contract with WQAM 560 for what is termed a "multi-year" deal to continue.

SAN FRANCISCO: KTCT 1050, the sister sports station to KNBR, is now the focus of the parent company's attention while KNBR 680 maintains its lofty ratings status. The Ticket is adding a local morning show starting the week of August 8th. Their morning show will include former pitcher Kevin Frandsen, as well as Drew Hoffar and Rudy Ortiz. Ortiz had been hosting a weekend show on KGMZ 95.7 The Game.

At this time, the station will fill the remainder with syndicated programming, dropping CBS Sports Radio and adding ESPN Radio. This does mean that Mike & Mike will air live in the market from 3 to 6 AM.

CHICAGO: WMVP ESPN 1000 will air a special live broadcast with University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh next Wednesday (7/27) from 2:00 to 3:00 PM CT, which will also stream. It will come from a Chicago restaurant, where Tom Waddle, who was a teammate of Harbaugh's with the Chicago Bears, will co-host the broadcast.

The station, now without any play-by-play of the five major pro teams in town, has also expanded its Cubs coverage. Ace pitcher Jake Arrieta will make a weekly appearance with Waddle and Mark Silverman on their afternoon show, while Anthony Rizzo will appear on Tuesday afternoons (when the team's schedule permits) with host David Kaplan.

BIRMINGHAM: Still no replacement for the "Matt and Scot Show" for WJOX 94.5 as of press time. The station ended the show by releasing Matt McClearin and Scot Harrison from their 6:00 to 9:00 PM show. For now, the station is doing an instant replay of Paul Finebaum's show, which airs live from 3:00 until 6:00 PM.

Have to wonder if they are in a hurry to replace, thinking that Finebaum a second time might be a nice fit during the college football season.

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