Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Let The Pro Football Season Begin!

Always an exciting weekend as the NFL season kicks off, especially with a Super Bowl rematch on Thursday (9/8).

With the return of a home team to the Los Angeles area, it will be interesting to see if there is an impact on the TV ratings for that market. The L.A. Rams open their regular season on Monday night, which, for Week 1, opens up the L.A. market for outside NFL telecasts.

The concern is that, if the Rams do not do well this season, that fans without Sunday Ticket will be stuck with Rams telecasts instead of more important regional or national telecasts they are used to seeing.

For this Sunday (Sept. 11), the L.A. market gets the San Diego at Kansas City game as the early game telecast on CBS. This appears to be the most appealing west game of those available, while it remains to be seen (pun intended) whether or not CBS will continue to air every Chargers game it can in L.A. as if it is still considered a secondary market for that team.

The Fox games in L.A. will be Oakland at New Orleans for the early start and then the same doubleheader game that the majority of the country gets, which is the Giants vs. the Cowboys with Joe Buck on the call. It's also curious that L.A. gets the Raiders game early, since rumors persist that the Raiders could also move to L.A. in the next few years.

Thus, Week 1 Sunday is just like it has been for L.A., with the Raiders, Chargers, and regular doubleheader game telecasts being shown.

On the radio side, Westwood One continues to provide the most important national broadcasts, starting with Thursday's opener with Denver and Carolina. Ian Eagle will handle the call. For its Monday Night Football broadcasts, it will again be Kevin Harlan and Boomer Esiason, although Kurt Warner will handle several of the broadcasts instead of Esiason this season.

What is interesting is the desire for the Westwood One broadcasts of the prime time games to air in Chicago no matter what. Those broadcasts air on WSCR 670 The Score. However, WSCR also airs Cubs baseball, which looks to also include post-season games.

When there are conflicts with Westwood One prime time NFL broadcasts, they will actually air on another Chicago station through a time purchase arrangement. It is highly unusual for a station to broker time on another station when not for a local team's game. No word as to whether WSCR or Westwood One is actually purchasing the time to keep those broadcasts on in Chicago for every prime time game.

For the Monday Night Football openers, the season, as always, begins with a Monday Night Football doubleheader. While the first game, between Pittsburgh and Washington, is an anticipated matchup between two teams with significant national fan bases, from a broadcast point of view, the second game will be the bigger story.

This will be the Rams' first regular season game as the Los Angeles Rams since the team moved to St. Louis years ago. ESPN will have Chris Berman on play-by-play for the game, which is an even less popular move (based on fan reaction I've read) this season.

Besides that, this will be the first regular season game for 49ers backup QB (as of press time) Colin Kaepernick. However, with an earlier game having priority, and based on ESPN's policy, the national anthem will not be shown prior to the Rams vs. 49ers game.
In the unlikely event that the Steelers vs. Redskins game ends early, it will be interesting to see if ESPN breaks format and shows the anthem and what Kaepernick does or doesn't do during it.

On the baseball side, it is easy to understand why so many fans are clamoring for Vin Scully's final regular season game to be shown nationally on the final day of the regular season, Oct. 2nd.

However, with all games starting at 3:05 ET that day, and with TBS holding exclusive national rights, it can't happen. TBS has the exclusive national contract because they paid for it. Since it will be the Dodgers hosting the Giants that afternoon, there is a possibility that could be the national game for TBS. It would be, however, the regular TBS announcing team.

In that event, the best we can hope for is that TBS would be able to carry Scully's call of the final inning nationally and use its own graphics. However, if TBS goes with, say, an American League East battle that afternoon, the final Scully inning (or game) would not be shown live beyond the Los Angeles market, where it will be available via KTLA-TV Channel 5.

There have been reports that the Dodgers will have Scully work Dodgers post-season games, which would be radio only. The hope here is that it would not happen.

Chances are that the regular season finale will not have an impact on the post-season. That scenario would allow for Scully to have the spotlight he so richly deserves. If he calls the post-season, fans won't know which game would be his last, and the final out means that one team advances while the other goes home. The team advancing is the story, and not Scully. Vin should get the chance to wrap up as scheduled, in a more likely situation where he can be the dominant story.

Fans should also keep in mind that Scully is not the only long-time baseball broadcast legend calling it a career at the end of the regular season. This will also be Dick Enberg's last telecast.

While Scully's final regular season telecast can't be seen beyond L.A., we have hope that Enberg's final home game telecast calling the Padres, which is on Thursday Sept. 29th in San Diego, can and will be picked up nationally by MLB Network. Oh my!!

The Padres' regular season finale is in Phoenix at the Diamondbacks on October 2nd. Clearly, there is zero chance that game would have any national interest.

ESPN did the Chicago audience a favor by moving the Cubs vs. Astros game to Sunday Night Baseball this week (9/11). This allows fans to see both ends of the "Chicago at Houston" doubleheader on Sunday. Fox has regional coverage of the Bears at Texans in their season opening early game.

The following Sunday (9/18), ESPN has scheduled, of course, the Yankees at Red Sox game. While this seems to be a MLB mandate that all of their games be nationally televised, that matchup actually could be the most appealing game available that night. It might still be tough for fans around the country to adjust to having a Red Sox vs. Yankees telecast on because there is a good reason for it.

Fox Sports Radio has dumped Mike North and Andy Furman from their morning show (for the Eastern and Central time zones), doing so in time for football season.

CHICAGO: WSCR 670 The Score has a new multi-year agreement to continue to air DePaul University basketball. The coming season will be the 20th season for WSCR to air those games.

CSN Chicago received its highest ratings for a Cubs telecast since 2009 last week, when its August 31st telecast vs. Pittsburgh was the highest rated show for the entire market during prime time.

OMAHA: KXSP ESPN 590 has added the locally based "TBL - The Bottom Line" sports show from Noon to 2 PM on weekdays. The show, produced by the New Channel Nebraska Television and streamed via the local newspaper's web site, actually runs from 10 AM to 2 PM.

ASHLAND KY: WCMI 93.3 has increased its involvement with University of Kentucky sports, re-branding as Cat Sports 93.3 (for Kentucky Wildcats). The station now airs the regional Kentucky Sports Radio show from 10 AM to Noon on weekdays, along with carrying the weekly shows such as coaches shows specific to the University sports. It will also continue to air the Cincinnati Bengals games. The remaining time will continue to be filled by ESPN Radio.

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