Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Will Philly Sports Fans Ride The "Whip"?

While many sports radio stations emphasize their personalities, we have another clear case of on the field dictating the sports radio audience. A very busy fall season with a ton going on has had a significant impact in several key markets, based on the just released Nielsen ratings for the September/October period.

As usual, Boston listeners rule the roost, with two of the top four stations in total audience being the rival sports stations. WBZ-FM Sports Hub jumped up to #3 in total audience with a huge increase from a 4.4 rating to a 6.3 in just one month. The Hub also leap frogged past WEEI-FM, which aired the Red Sox post-season contests during this time and also rose to a 6.2 rating.

WEEI-FM finished #2 in morning drive as well as the obvious #1 at night with Red Sox baseball, which will not be there for the next ratings period.

Nothing short of amazing to have two sports stations rated this highly, given how few markets even have one sports station with this large of an audience throughout the broadcast week.
In Philadelphia, the unexpected solid start by the Eagles is paying dividends for both sports stations.

As you would expect WIP-FM, which airs their games, moved up to #6 overall showing a roughly 20% increase in its total audience from the August/September ratings period.

Having this large of an audience made it good timing for WIP-FM to unveil its new weekday lineup as of this week. The station moved (former Eagles linebacker) Ike Reese into the afternoon drive spot, and has chosen Chris Carlin from New York City's "Loud Mouths" on SNY to join him. Carlin and Reese replace Josh Innes in that spot. The station also has hired Joe DeCamara, who left 97.5 The Fanatic earlier this month, to team up with (also a former Eagle) Jon Ritchie for the new midday show which began this week.

As a result of these moves, Michael Barkann is no longer with the station. Barkann had been co-hosting middays along with Reese until this week.

Over at WPEN-FM, even with less than 25% of the total audience of WIP-FM, the ESPN affiliate showed a roughly 33% total audience increase over the past month, now at #17 in the market.

Perhaps the biggest shocker of these new ratings comes from the Twin Cities, where KFXN-FM The Fan has skyrocketed to the #1 station in the entire market for the first time ever. The station has gone from a 5.3 to an 8.9 rating in just two months. Obviously, the undefeated start (during the entire ratings book) by the NFL Vikings was a huge contributor to this. Especially when you note that
KSTP-AM, even though it increased its audience for the second consecutive month, now has a 1.5 rating.

KFXN-FM's win includes being first in morning drive, and second in total audience for both middays and afternoon drive.

In New York City, both stations gained in audience for the month. Even without a post-season appearance by the Yankees, WFAN 660 finished #10 overall with a .6 rise from the previous month. WEPN ESPN increased its audience by 20% overall, although it still did not finish in the top 20.

Chicago's WSCR 670 The Score actually dropped .3 from the previous month, although the Cubs flagship station came in #6 overall. WMVP ESPN 1000 gained .4 but again finished out of the top 20.
It is significant to note the gains by ESPN stations in Philly, NYC, and Chicago, as well as in Dallas, as the network airs all post-season baseball games.

The Giants' post-season run (at the time of the ratings) helped KNBR 680 finish #3 and ahead of every music station in the market (with news and talk stations at #1 and #2), while KGMZ-FM gained slightly but still has roughly 30% of the total audience of KNBR.

The brief post-season run of the Rangers helped KRLD-FM rise to #7 in the market (for this ratings book), while KTCK-AM The Ticket rose to #14 overall, and KESN-FM ESPN also went up by .3 of a ratings point. However, KRLD-FM's #2 ranking at night is sure to dive without the Rangers, and the station was only 19th in morning drive. KTCK-AM did rise to #5 in morning drive.

WXYT-FM 97.1 is still The Ticket in Detroit, again at #1 overall, which includes dominating afternoon drive and being the most listened to station at night and on the weekends.

Denver's KKFN-FM The Fan increased by 1.3 and rose to #6 in the market. In Baltimore, the Orioles' one-game post-season existence helped this ratings book. The station rose by 1.1 in the ratings to #5 overall. However, without local baseball for the next ratings book, this figures to be temporary.

In Los Angeles, even with the final broadcasts of Vin Scully and the Dodgers making it all the way to the NLCS, KLAC 570 still didn't even show up among the top 25 most listened to stations in the market. And while the L.A. Rams are helping the TV ratings, KSPN 710 still finished with an overall rating of under 1.0, while KSWD "The Sound" (music station) also fell slightly. KSPN and KSWD both act as flagship stations for the Rams broadcasts.

As for ratings of recent national telecasts, it's quite the mixed bag. Opening night of the World Series (the only game played as of press time) showed Fox's ratings up roughly 20% over last year's opener which included the Mets (vs. Kansas City). In Chicago, the telecast had an impressive 34.1 overnight rating for the first Cubs World Series game since 1945.

Yet, TNT, which had the NBA season opening doubleheader including the championship ceremony from Cleveland (down the block from the World Series game), scored its best opening night doubleheader rating in three years at and after the same time.

Last Thursday (10/20) was an interesting one for the Chicago area, having Game 5 of the Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS on against the NFL rivalry between the Bears and Packers. Around the country, CBS won the night among ratings for the national networks (while Fox Sports was content to air the baseball game with two of the top three markets on FS1 instead of Fox Sports).

This resulted in the NFL telecast having over 7,000,000 more viewers than FS1 did for its hidden away post-season coverage. In Chicago, over 400,000 more households were watching FS1 for the baseball than the Bears on the NFL telecast.

SAN ANTONIO: This is a big deal locally. The Spurs have changed their Spanish radio station after 22 seasons. Both the home and road broadcasts (as has been the case for years) now air on KXTN 107.5. This is big for the team, as KXTN currently has more than six times the total audience of KCOR 1350, which had aired the games since the mid-90's.

HOUSTON and DETROIT: Sorry to report that we have lost two important sports media members within the past few days.

Bob Allen, the former Sports Director of KTRK and KHOU Houston, who covered sports there since the 70's, passed away at age 70.

Long time Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp, who wrote for the Free Press since 1999, passed away at the age of 56. Although most known as a sports columnist, he also served the newspaper as beat writer for Michigan State and Pistons during his tenure.

Both will be missed by the respective local sports community.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

No Capital Gains For D.C. Hockey Fans

The Washington Capitals have their share of coverage struggles as we begin the NHL regular season, despite their strong record last season and expectations of contending again this season.

For that matter, the NBA Wizards are suffering almost as much with the NBA season opening next week.

D.C. area radio stations don't appear to be willing to spend the big dollars for the radio rights to either team. The Capitals no longer air on 106.7 The Fan.

As a result, the only station airing both teams is WFED 1500, and that isn't all. When both teams play at the same time, which tends to happen at least once per week on average, the Wizards will have priority, and no other local station will pick up the Capitals broadcasts.

You got that right. One of the strongest teams in the NHL will not even have all of their games broadcast on local radio. Instead, the Caps are asking their fans, on those nights, to use a mobile app and listen on their phones, or to listen via the Caps web site. That will be the only way to hear those games at all.

Having spent many of my recent professional life in marketing, this makes little to no sense. As much as I can understand radio stations not wanting to spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to secure radio rights, moves such as this one are what send consumers away from listening to the radio at all.

Many pro teams negotiate their own deal with radio stations around the country in place of receiving rights fees. Some teams will purchase the air time and then sell the commercial time themselves to advertisers, which also receive stadium advertising and other promotional value along with their commercial time.

By not having all of their games on local radio, the team will lose in the in car audience on some of the nights, including following home games. (Unless somebody actually listens on their cell phone in car, with cell phone use while driving being illegal or restricted in some municipalities.)

Some casual fans, understandably accustomed to hearing the broadcasts on radio for all of the years of being a fan will give up listening or even trying to find the team's games. And radio stations will lose out by not having the chance to attract fans to their station's other programming.

Incredibly, the Caps' season opener, which was against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, did not air on local radio because WFED was airing the Nationals playoff game vs. the Dodgers. (Not saying that the playoff game was not more important - but not having an overflow station to air an interesting hockey game is inexcusable.)

At least the Wizards, which also have a live app to hear the broadcasts within 150 miles of D.C., will have all of their games on the radio, even though it will be on 1550 AM. Play-by-play voice Dave Johnson begins his 20th season on the call, with analyst Glenn Consor beginning his 10th season.

Our fear is that in the long run this situation will hurt radio stations, which now offer even less at a time when there is more competition than ever for the listening audience, as well as the teams, which will not be "in front" of as many casual fans on a regular basis. We shall see if there is a long term impact on attendance.

As for the NBA regular season starting next week, it could be quite the coincidence for TNT. They will have the season opening game from Cleveland on Tuesday (10/25), and have already announced plans to do their pre-game and half time segments from outside of the venue in Cleveland. Little did they know that they could be on the same block as the opening game of the World Series if the Indians win the ALCS. (The Indians were up 3 games to 1 over Toronto at press time.)

On the baseball side, it continues to be astounding how Fox Sports 1 is bragging about their record ratings for the NLCS telecasts. It should be making them realize how if they had the games over the air on Fox Sports, as they did for years in the past, they would have even more sensational ratings.

MLB will suffer in the long run from shutting out fans who cannot afford or no longer with to be gouged for cable/satellite costs. And that does not take into account the casual fan who does have cable/satellite but has no idea of where to find these telecasts.

Of course, we can't help but mention Ernie Johnson referring to sideline reporter Sam Ryan as "Sam Roberts" on the air at the conclusion of ALCS game last week on TBS. Ooops.

NBCSN got off to a great start with its NHL coverage. The season opening night doubleheader last week (10/12) with attractive matchups St. Louis vs. Chicago and L.A. vs. San Jose gave NBCSN its best NHL regular-season doubleheader audience in its history.

On the NFL side, we are getting evidence that the networks can no longer put "any" NFL matchup on and expect the biggest possible audience. Monday Night Football (10/17) with the Jets and Cardinals, was a record MNF rating for a Week 6 telecast.

Yet, the Sunday doubleheader game on Fox between Dallas and Green Bay finished as the most watched NFL game of the entire season to date. It's the same weekend, folks.

Fox Sports should be pleased that through the first five weeks of the regular season (with Week 6 figures not available at press time) that its Fox NFL Kickoff pre-game show has shown a 21% audience increase over last season.

And how insane is this for the Rams fans in Los Angeles. While the team's game from London this Sunday (10/23) against the N.Y. Giants will air nationally on CBS, kickoff will be at 6:30 AM PT. Wonder how many will be listening to the local radio pre-game show starting at 4:30 AM local time.

To the surprise of many, the Rams do have fans watching their games. The team's first six games have averaged 878,000 viewers, with Fox and CBS combining for a 7% increase in viewers (for the Los Angeles market) on those six game days/nights.

CBS and CBS Sports Network have announced many of their 270 college hoops telecasts for the upcoming season. The first CBS telecast won't be until Saturday Dec. 3, but it will be between UCLA and Kentucky. CBS Sports Network will air roughly 231 games.

While the Pac-12 Network is still struggling for distribution (such as no deal with DirecTV), Dish TV has moved the channel off its sports only tier and to a more available tier in time for the coming basketball season.

As the NBA continues to reach to international markets, the Association has announced making a League Pass available via computers and mobile devices for this season - in China. In US dollars, the plan in China costs $164 for the season, with individual games available for what would be $2.20 each in USD.

CHICAGO: Good news for WSCR 670 The Score (besides the excellent ratings thanks to being the Cubs flagship station). Afternoon host Terry Boers will return to his afternoon show on Monday (10/24) after a medical leave started back in June. The 72 year-old Boers has been with WSCR since its inception in 1992.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fox Sports Riding The Cowboys

Many of the NFL nationally televised matchups thus far this season have not been the most appealing, which is the likely reason for the ratings decline one quarter of the way through the regular season. Research shows that NFL viewership among the 18 to 49 age group is down roughly 11% compared with last season.

As has been the case for four of the five weekends, the Dallas Cowboys will again be the featured national game on Sunday (10/16), taking on Green Bay in the Fox doubleheader game. This figures to be a winner for the network. In addition to both teams attracting national interest, viewership figures to be high in Cowboys rival cities such as New York, Washington, and Philadelphia, which will air the game. In fact, the telecast follows the Redskins vs. Eagles game on Fox.

As of press time (on Wednesday), there is the possibility that the Packers vs. Cowboys game could be a lead in to the MLB NLCS game in prime time, which could feature the Washington Nationals playing in Chicago against the Cubs. (Even if only shown on FS1, Joe Buck will call the baseball instead of the NFL game, which will be Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman.)

This past Sunday (10/9), the Washington D.C. market ratings showed that the Cowboys vs. Ravens telecast on Fox drew nearly five times the total audience as the rescheduled NLDS playoff game between the Nationals and Dodgers.

However, Fox sports will suffer a bit this coming Sunday, as coincidence has both the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears home games being televised locally on CBS.

Speaking of suffering TV fans, Fox Sports is a leader in that category for MLB fans. As of press time, we don't know how many of the NLCS telecasts will be on Fox Sports or hidden away on FS1.

It was with some amusement on Wednesday (10/12) when the overnight ratings for the thrilling NLDS game between the Cubs and Giants showed this epic game as the most watched telecast ever on Fox Sports 1. Both the Chicago and San Francisco markets produced ratings at or above 19.0. The Monday night Game 3, which lasted until 1:45 AM CT, showed that more than 450,000 homes were still tuned in within the Chicago market when the game ended. And this was on a Monday night!

While Fox Sports is boasting about these ratings, they should be furious (like many fans who didn't know where to find the game) that they didn't air these games over the air on Fox Sports. There were plenty of fans who still have no idea where to find these games that would have increased these ratings had they been able to find the game, or even receive it.

FS1 would be fine for overflow (when one game runs into another) and for expanded pre and post-game coverage, but hiding these telecasts is an outrage to baseball fans. The sports suffers with both Fox Sports and TBS not making these games available over the air or having local telecasts, such as the NBA and NHL do for the first round.

It's time to welcome the NHL regular season, and NBCSN has some excellent matchup for the first couple of nights. After showing rivals St. Louis vs. Chicago and Los Angeles vs. San Jose on Wednesday, the network comes back with Pittsburgh raising the Stanley Cup banner and opening against Washington on Thursday. They get a tough break, as it turns out, because the D.C. audience also has the NLDS Game 5 with the Nationals and Dodgers to choose from.

PHILADELPHIA: Although it is from the 6 to 10 PM slot when the games are going on, 97.5 The Fanatic is temporarily without a night time sports talk host. After a year and one-half of hosting nights, Joe DeCamara is out and even removed from the station's web site. No reason given as of press time.

ORLANDO: For the Magic's pre-season game vs. San Antonio on Wednesday (10/12), the team is streaming a telecast via Facebook within a 75 mile radius of the arena as an experiment. This will be the arena feed combined with the radio play-by-play with Dennis Neumann and Richie Adubato. The Atlanta Hawks streamed an open practice on Facebook Live back on October 1st.

WASHINGTON D.C.: It is now definite that there will not be a new "in house" cable channel created for the Capitals and Wizards games. The teams, whose ownership had been considering their own channel and adding other area teams, have taken a deal from NBC Sports Group to partner in Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. As a result, the Caps will reportedly receive around $28 million per season in rights, while the Wizards will receive about $35 million per season through the 2031-32 seasons. For this coming season, this will be roughly double the revenue each team received for last season.

NEW YORK: WABC-TV 7 has hired Ryan Field away from Fox Sports to become its lead sports anchor. Field has been anchoring on Fox Sports 1 for most of the past three years.

DETROIT: Sorry to report that WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket host Terry Foster suffered a setback in his recovery from the stroke he suffered in August. Foster had planned to return to co-host along with Mike Valenti last week.

Fox Sports Detroit has confirmed that Mario Impemba and Rod Allen will return to the Tigers telecasts for 2017.

MINNEAPOLIS: Two outlying area stations have dropped their sports programming. WXCX 105.7 (Siren MN) dropped its simulcast of The Fan from Minneapolis, as did WXCE 1260 (Amery MN), which had been airing NBC Sports Radio. Both stations have gone to music formats, as sister station WHSM 910 (Hayward MN) had done earlier following an ownership change of all three of these stations.

ROCHESTER: With 990 AM discontinuing its sports programming Rochester Americans hockey has moved to WROC 950 and 95.7 ESPN in time for the new season. Don Stevens continues as the team's play-by-play voice.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Week in Sports Media - 10/5/16

It appears that the networks are showing some concern about the slight drop in NFL ratings through the first quarter of the season. Some of the games being shown in key cities and announcer assignments would seem to confirm this.

As I have commented since even before Los Angeles got an NFL team again, there appears to be an impact from the #2 TV market in the country not always getting the more important Sunday afternoon games because of the Rams.

CBS has Cincinnati at Dallas for its doubleheader game this Sunday (10/9) to most of the country, but the Los Angeles market instead gets the Rams vs. Buffalo. You can't tell me that the casual fan or fantasy player would choose that game ahead of the Dallas game. It's just that for this week, CBS has no choice.

In markets where there is a choice, we are seeing some interesting developments. The St. Louis market has been stuck with the Rams telecasts thus far this season while there are clearly fans in that area who no longer care. The low point for them was last Sunday when Fox showed the Rams vs. Cardinals, the two teams which left St. Louis, against each other.

This coming Sunday CBS in St. Louis is sparing their viewers from the Rams vs. Buffalo and instead showing the Cincinnati vs. Dallas game.

Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and other Midwest markets will, obviously, get the Chicago at Indianapolis game as the early Fox game. What makes this interesting is that Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call this game, even though it goes to fewer markets than the Philadelphia vs. Detroit telecast. Interesting timing considering that it is a rare month when the Bears are not the biggest sports story in Chicago.

Kansas City and surrounding markets will get the Oakland vs. San Diego telecast ahead of the Cinci-Dallas game since it features division rivals.

Last Sunday CBS had to bail out on the finish of its Denver at Tampa Bay telecast when a weather delay ran the game well into prime time. Only KCNC-TV Denver and KKTV-TV Colorado Springs, along with WTSP-TV Tampa and WKMG-TV Orlando returned for the last part of the telecast. Stations including WBBM-TV Chicago which were also airing the game were sent off to the regular CBS Sunday night lineup.

At ESPN, while it continues with its post-season coverage, it became official this week that analyst John Kruk is no longer with the network, after having been there since 2004.

ESPN also reported that the 9.3 million for Louisville-Clemson game on Oct. 1st was 3rd most-watched regular season Saturday Night Football game ever, and the 2nd biggest since the 2008 season.

HOUSTON: Josh Innes, recently bounced from WIP-FM Philadelphia's afternoon drive slot following a ratings struggle, has returned to Houston. Innes will be hosting the 3 to 7 PM weekday slot on KMBE Sports 790. Prior to going to Philadelphia, Innes was heard on KILT 610. There will be other lineup changes on KMBE, which is the flagship for the Astros and Rockets along with airing U. of Texas football and basketball. "The Proper Gentlemen" Lance Zierlein and Matt Thomas will air from 6 to 10 AM.

KILT 610 has a new addition, bringing in Derek Fogel as a sports anchor and weekend host. He comes to Houston from WXLT 103.5 "ESPN Southern Illinois" and sister station WJPF 1340.

NEW YORK: Not only did the Mets go further than the Yankees in the regular season, but the local TV ratings went in their favor as well. For the first time since SNY began Mets telecasts 11 seasons ago, the Mets games finished with a higher audience rating than the Yankees telecasts on YES Network. Some of this is due to the dispute between YES Network and Comcast, which kept YES out of approximately 900,000 homes this season.

WFAN 660 is going hockey crazy for the coming NHL season. The station will air 59 New Jersey Devils games and has now picked up 30 of the Islanders broadcasts. This gives the Islanders a much needed strong signal and market presence. The remaining Isles games will air on 970 The Answer and WRHU-FM.

CHICAGO: As much as I try not to pick on sportscasters who mess up big time, this one is beyond belief. Lauren Magiera, who just this summer replaced the retired Rich King on WGN-TV Sports amazed local sports fans this past Sunday (10/2) night.

During her hosting role on "Instant Replay", WGN-TV's expanded 20 minute Sunday night sportscast, her first blunder was showing the highlights of the afternoon's White Sox season finale vs. Minnesota. Nothing wrong with the highlights package. However, after showing footage of this meaningless game she THEN presented the story that Robin Ventura announced he would not be returning as manager after the game. Most other TV stations led with the Ventura story that night, even ahead of the first Bears win of the NFL season. Instead, Lauren and the crew totally reversed the order.

If only that was the worst of this. Later in the show, while showing highlights of the NHL Blackhawks pre-season game against Detroit, Magiera showed a goal "in the third quarter". Yes, the "third quarter" of a three period NHL game. On the TV station which airs 20 regular season Blackhawks games.

FAYETTEVILLE NC: As much as we respect media members taking a stance when the occasion calls for it, WFAY-AM and its decision to cancel its scheduled broadcast of the East Carolina game at South Florida this Saturday (10/8) seems a bit extreme.

Station CEO Jeff Andrulonis said the station is doing this in protest of the school's band members kneeling during the national anthem last week in their game against Central Florida. This, even though the band members later apologized and the station acknowledges it will lose the advertising revenue. The station plans to, as usual, broadcast all of the team's remaining games this season. Even if the station actually airs the anthem (and not all of them do from the various college football games) this is still radio, and the listeners can't tell who is standing or not standing during the anthem.