Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Full Holiday Weekend of Viewing

So much for the years when there would be no games on Christmas Eve and maybe a couple of games to watch on Christmas Day. The NFL is taking over this year with games on both nights after a full slate of Saturday afternoon games. Although this is due to the holiday falling on a Sunday this year, it lessens the impact of the ABC/ESPN slate of five consecutive live NBA games which usually are dominant on Christmas day and night.

The latest Nielsen radio ratings have come out, these for the period from early November (after the World Series ended) into the first week of December. As is often the case, this ratings period proved terrible for the majority of sports radio stations.

In Boston, the two sports stations both finished in the top seven overall, which is still a strong showing. However, WBZ-FM Sports Hub dropped .7 of a ratings point from the month before but came in #4 overall. WEEI-FM dipped .9 during the same time, dropping to the #7 spot overall.

Minneapolis listeners continued to grow KFXN-FM The Fan, although this ratings book is a "good news - bad news" result. The good is that the station remains #1 in the market on weekends (surrounding the Vikings broadcasts), but it fell from 4th place to 8th place for weeknights in just one month. The Fan dropped by more than one full ratings point from the previous month, yet came in #2 overall, down from #1 the previous month. With the Vikings in contention all month, it will be interesting to see what the next ratings bring.

Chicago listeners clearly came down from the high of the Cubs championship in November, as flagship station WSCR The Score 670 lost more than half of its overall audience in just one month, dipping from an all-time high of 6.2 to a more typical 2.6. The Score went from #2 in the market to #13, while WMVP ESPN 1000 came in at 2.0 (having dropped .9 as well from the MLB post-season month.

Strong sports stations in San Francisco and Detroit also saw dips during November. KNBR 680 (San Fran.) dropped from #3 overall to #7, losing 1.5 rating points. Yet, KGMZ-FM The Game actually gained .2 during the same time, although still well under half of KNBR's total audience. Both of Philadelphia's sports stations dropped, with WIP-FM losing .6 and WPEN-FM losing .2.

While the Cowboys ride to the post-season, even the three Dallas sports stations all failed to gain any (overall) audience during November. KTCK-AM dropped .4 but leads the sports race at 3.2. KRLD-FM dropped .3 to a 2.9, while KESN-FM ESPN held steady but trails with a 1.5. In Houston KILT-AM dropped .4 from the previous month, while both KFNC-FM and KMBE-AM held steady with their ratings of less than 1.

In Los Angeles, KSPN 710 gained slightly while KLAC-AM 570 dropped .8 with no more Dodgers broadcasts to carry it, dropping it back behind KSPN for the sports radio "lead".

Meanwhile, the media era of not having editors double check the facts hit still another low point for a group of newspapers in Michigan owned by Advance Publications on Monday. The Grand Rapids Press, Muskegon Chronicle, Kalamazoo Gazette, and other smaller papers in the same group were among those newspapers with a wrong front page headline published.

They each had "Lions Roped By Cowboys" as a headline. However, the Lions lost that game to the N.Y. Giants in real life. This was the front page of the entire newspaper - not just the sports section.

That falls under News Editor in addition to Sports Editor. Now we know that no one checks a headline for facts on the front page. While the executives wonder why the circulation drops. Yikes.

CBS will get away with a sneak attack this Saturday (12/24) to run up against Fox which actually has the NFL doubleheader telecast. While Fox gives more of the country the Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans game (called by Kenny Albert, since Joe Buck and Troy Aikman get the Green Bay vs. Minnesota early telecast) among its late games, CBS has a regional late telecast of its own.

The Indianapolis at Oakland late game regional telecast will air (against a Fox game) in markets including Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and Denver, among others. To that point, CBS has assigned its top team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to the game. They figure that more fans might want to check out the Raiders than the Tampa game in those markets, and they may have a point. It could be like CBS having an "extra" double header telecast. But that's a great move for them under the current TV rules.

MINNEAPOLIS: KFAN 100.3 has announced a three year extension of its contract as flagship station for the Wild, which goes through the 2019-20 season. The station is now in its sixth season as the team's flagship.

Have a great holiday weekend!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Former Coach Caught In The Wake

Normally it doesn't matter to me about the person or source which breaks a sports (news) story. Getting the facts right is far more important. In the case of the Tommy Elrod firing, I'll make an exception and congratulate for being first to report this unfortunate event.

As a web site which covers that Conference, its staff did some digging and was the first to report that Wake Forest University had found that its football radio analyst (Elrod) had been fired by IMG Management due to being discovered leaking some of the team's confidential game strategies to an undetermined number of opponents since the start of the 2014 season.

Technically, Elrod did not work for Wake Forest, since IMG owns the broadcast rights and hires the personnel. However, Elrod got the job from his experience as a player, graduate assistant, and 11 seasons as an assistant coach with the school's football team. Elrod lost his assistant coach position prior to the 2014 season when Dave Clawson became Head Coach.

Reports are that Elrod provided confidential game information he received as a team broadcaster to "multiple opponents" over the past three seasons, according to the report.

The web site should be commended for researching and reporting on this story. This is difficult on the reporting media. As much as this needed to be reported in detail, there is now concern among game broadcasters about what the future holds. Pro and college team broadcasters, as well as national network play-by-play announcers and analysts usually attend practices and have ample opportunities to talk with coaches and players leading into the games about strategies so they can be better prepared to communicate what is happening to the fans.

With coaching and team management positions being highly competitive, it would not be surprising to see media access become more strict or limited from now on.

There are many incidents of media members who either broadcast for or regularly cover a team (or school sports) who are aware of internal things taking place which are not to be reported to the public. This incident, which hopefully is isolated, is going to put a lot of doubt into a lot of coaches, players, and management about confidentiality.

It is also another story (since this is a sports media blog only) to think that it appears that certain opposing coaches and perhaps players may have actually used the information that Elrod wrongly revealed to their advantage. Even if they did not, which we'd all like to think is the vast majority, the question must be raised as to why no one reported Elrod's actions earlier than after his third full season of doing this horrible thing.

Congratulations to those about to be inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, which just announced its inductees for its 10th year. Verne Lundquist clearly leads the pack, fitting as he retires from his (seemingly) hundreds of seasons of calling college football, as well as hundreds NFL and NBA games from local radio (Dallas Cowboys) to network TV.

Other inductees include long time baseball analyst Tim McCarver and CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus.

Fox Sports' FS1 may have a long way to go in the ratings game, but it is catching up to ESPN in terms of the number of on air people it shares with them. Now Fox has added NFL analyst Chris Carter to the fold. For now, Carter will appear on various studio shows until or unless he is assigned to one. The rest of the list of "common" personalities includes Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, and Jason Whitlock.

As the NFL season hits playoff crunch and the prime-time matchups start to get better, the audience is returning. On Sunday (12/11), the Dallas vs. N.Y. Giants finished as the highest prime time rating for a Week 14 telecast since 1997. Then on Monday (12/12), the New England win over Baltimore tied for the highest Monday Night Football audience of this season.

On the college side, it could be because the game was moved back at least a week later than its usual time and came up on a much weaker Saturday lineup, but last Saturday's Army vs. Navy football game actually drew a decent audience. CBS reportedly had nearly eight million viewers during the game, making it the most watched of these matchups since the 1992 game.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

King Finally Treated As Royalty

How nice to finally have the colorful Bill King be the broadcaster to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame next July 29th in Cooperstown.

Although King was officially selected for his 24 years of excellence on the Oakland A's radio broadcasts, his Bay Area career made him a total broadcasting Hall of Famer as well. He is probably better known and remembered for his 26 seasons of calling the Oakland (and Los Angeles) Raiders broadcasts including much of the John Madden coaching era. He also called Warriors basketball games on radio for 21 seasons, and earlier served as Sports Director for KFRC Radio.

If only this overdue honor had happened sooner, since King passed away on Oct. 18, 2005. I'm sure his acceptance speech would have been as colorful and entertaining as all of his play-by-play broadcasts. His baseball broadcasting brought much needed enthusiasm to the A's radio broadcasts, as he shared much of his time with the always calm and boring Lon Simmons.

King was the clear choice over other nominees such as Dewayne Staats and Mike Krukow. Other nominees such as the Cubs' Pat Hughes and the Mets' Gary Cohen will likely have their day in coming years.

If it wasn't for Jerry Jones, the TV networks with NFL rights would be the happiest about the amazing season the Dallas Cowboys are having, both in the standings and in the audience ratings.

Their game against Minnesota last week wound up as the most watched Thursday Night Football game in its less than three season history on major networks. To the surprise of no one at all, NBC has flexed their Dec. 18th game against Tampa Bay to Sunday Night Football from its original early game schedule on Fox. This bumps the Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati match, which CBS put into an early game spot that day.

One flex change for this Sunday (12/11) has CBS taking over the Chicago at Detroit telecast in the 1 PM ET spot from Fox.

On the college football side, the Big Ten Conference has become a hot commodity these past two weekends. Coming off the understandably high rated Ohio State vs. Michigan game on ABC on Nov. 26th, Fox scored well with its Penn State vs. Wisconsin prime time telecast on Dec. 3rd.

Even though its telecast was technically down in audience from the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game telecast, Fox outdrew ABC and the ACC Championship Game (Clemson vs. Virginia) by more than 70%.

ABC's Saturday night college football prime-time telecasts finished roughly 10% higher in total viewership over the 2015 season, making it the first time since 2011 that the prime-time games finished with better ratings than CBS had for its late afternoon SEC game of the week telecasts.

As expected, the ESPN/ABC lead crew of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will call the biggest assignments. These include the Jan. 9th national championship game, the Jan. 2nd Rose Bowl game, and the semi-final game with Clemson vs. Ohio State. The other semi-final between Alabama and Washington will be called by Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge. Tessitore took over, in effect, from Brad Nessler when Brad signed with CBS.

NASHVILLE: Clay Travis, host of the syndicated "Outkick The Coverage" weekday morning show from 6 to 9 AM ET, has gained two hours locally but lost in the ratings and the broadcast signal locally. Travis airs his show from Nashville (where it is 5 to 8 AM CT).

Only his first hour (5 to 6 AM) had been carried in Nashville, but on WGFX 104.5 The Zone, the sports station with decent ratings. Now, his entire three hours airs live locally, but on little known WLAC 1510, which is not a sports station (as evident by Glen Beck following at 8 AM).

EVANSVILLE: After two and one-half years, WJLT 105.3 has dumped ESPN Radio as of this past Monday (12/5) to go to a music format. The station is airing holiday music all month before going to an 80's to today format late this month.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Programming From Within For Boston

Looks like even the most successful stations don't like paying relocation costs. When it comes to sports radio, what happens in Boston, where the two stations continue to each consistently rank in the top seven in overall audience, is important.

WEEI-FM, the flagship station for the Red Sox, has been without an official Program Director for almost six months, despite its ratings battle with rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub. After all this time, what happens?

They hire from within. Congratulations are in order for Joe Zarbano, who moves up from Assistant Program Director to the coveted P.D. position, which also puts him in charge of the Red Sox Radio Network. Zarbano has already been with the station since 2007, working his way up the ladder during that time, and is an ideal candidate for the position.

It has to be asked what took so long. If they couldn't find a more ideal candidate from outside of the organization in, say, 60 days, who was going to come along in the next four months? As it goes in radio and TV these days, it is probably about money. Again, there are zero costs for relocation. Let's figure that the pay for "interim" Program Director for six months is less than the pay for the official
Program Director is going to be, resulting in the saving of thousands of dollars.

Again, Zarbano is a good candidate for this important position. It took too long to get to this point. The hiring from within didn't stop there. Ben Kichen moves up from "Senior Producer" to "Assistant Program Director" to take over most of Zarbano's previous duties.

Fans with a paid subscription to CBS All Access service get an added bonus starting immediately. After some behind the scenes negotiating with the NFL, CBS is now able to stream its NFL game coverage to subscribers. This plan begins with this Sunday's telecasts and will include regular season and post-season games televised by CBS. Users will also be able to stream content from NFL Game Pass, which is the League's digital video subscription service. This is part of a multi-year deal, although terms were not disclosed.

Thanksgiving Day gave CBS and Fox a lot to be thankful for, as the holiday NFL games were huge. The Dallas vs. Washington game wound up as the most-watched regular season telecast of all-time on Fox with more than 35 million viewers. This was also the most watched NFL regular season game on ANY network since 1995, which happened to be for the Thanksgiving matchup between Dallas and Kansas City.

Earlier that day, even the Minnesota at Detroit game, with two teams struggling to stay in the NFC North race, wound up as CBS' most watched NFL game for the entire season, with more than 27,000,000 viewers. The Thanksgiving Thursday Night Football game (Pittsburgh vs. Indy) on NBC, however, had nearly 21 million viewers, which was down roughly 7,000,000 viewers from last year's turkey night game between Green Bay and Chicago.

The prime-time decline stayed for Sunday's (11/27) Kansas City vs. Denver game, even though it went into overtime. While it did still win prime time for NBC, its overnight national ratings were down more than 35% from the similar night 2015 game, also with Denver, but against New England.

We'll never know how much of a difference it might have made, but NBC had flexed to have the K.C. vs. Denver telecast instead of New England vs. N.Y. Jets.

One thing for sure is that this years Cowboys team spells huge ratings. Of the NFL's five highest rated regular season telecasts as of Nov. 30th, FOUR of them have been Cowboys games. The only one which is not is the Thanksgiving Detroit vs. Minnesota game, which scored high ratings leading into the Cowboys vs. Redskins game.

Fox and CBS will be flexing for Sunday Dec. 11th. Fox has moved the New Orleans at Tampa Bay game from 1:00 to 4:25 ET to have three late games to show, while this moves Chicago at Detroit over to CBS during the 1 PM ET window. Of course, NBC won't even think of changing its scheduled game that night, which is Dallas vs. N.Y. Giants.

CHICAGO: The emotional run for WSCR The Score 670 afternoon host Terry Boers continued this week. Boers, who has missed months of 2016 due to major medical issues, returned on Monday after missing nearly a full month. On Tuesday (11/29), he then announced that, as many suspected, he will retire from the station (and his long and successful career) on Jan. 5th, 2017.

Boers has a very good reason for picking that date to retire. Jan. 2, 2017, marks the 25-year anniversary of the debut of WSCR The Score (on a different Chicago frequency), and Boers was a part of the station from the start.

His replacement will likely come from within (which sounds familiar), with speculation pointing toward current night host Laurence Holmes, whose show is so often pre-empted or shortened by play-by-play broadcasts.

PHILADELPHIA: Although the number of years and terms have yet to be released, it is official that WIP-FM 94 will continue as the flagship station for the Phillies on a multi-year extension. Scott Franzke, Larry Andersen, and Jim Jackson will continue as the broadcast team.