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.

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