Monday, April 24, 2017

No Jumping Through Hoops To Get These Ratings

The NBA playoffs are the hot item for sports viewing these days, and that figures to continue for a while. This past weekend (April 22/23) saw a 13% increase in total viewership over the seven telecasts compared with the 2nd weekend of opening round telecasts last season. On Friday night (April 21), ESPN's doubleheader games finished as the top two most watched cable programs (of any type) for the night.

Although NHL Stanley Cup Playoff viewership had started to rise after the opening weekend, NBC and its group figure to take a hit with the elimination of Chicago, Minnesota, and Boston after the opening rounds. It's certainly not NBC's fault, especially with its even more improved coverage, that it has "only" St. Louis, Nashville, and Edmonton as three of its four Western Conference markets starting this week.

In addition, have the much anticipated East matchup between Pittsburgh and Washington may be good for those ratings, it hurts in the long run that one of those two teams will be gone before the semi-finals begin.

The NFL gets some of the spotlight later this week as ESPN provides live coverage of the entire NFL Draft again this year. It will have a different feel without Chris Berman, like him or not, since this will be the first time he will not be hosting at least the opening round of an NFL Draft live telecast.

Fox Sports Radio is hitting its draft coverage hard, especially looking to helps its Philadelphia affiliate WPEN-FM. The network plans to be on live from a Philadelphia restaurant on Thursday at 7 PM ET, with WPEN-FM morning host Anthony Gargano hosting an earlier "pre draft" show live starting at 6 PM ET which will also air across the network.

Here's hoping that the sports media will wait until picks are made and report the facts instead of seemingly endless projections and "expert" picks which have no bearing on actual news.

The NFL schedule, released late last week, will not allow NBC a flex scheduling option for Week 16, which surrounds Christmas weekend. In a seemingly rare move to actually please the paying fans, the NFL has determined that the Saturday Dec. 23rd Minnesota vs. Green Bay and the Christmas night Eagles vs. Raiders games will remain in prime time on NBC no matter what. By doing this, it eliminates the possibility of fans having to change holiday weekend plans because of changed starting times.

On Week 17, which surrounds New Year's weekend, an oddity has all four California NFL teams (at least for the coming season) playing within California on December 31st. The Raiders are scheduled to host the L.A. Chargers in Oakland, while the L.A. Rams will be hosting the San Francisco 49ers at the same time with 4:25 PM ET kickoffs.

Speaking of California teams, a curious move by KSWB Channel 5 in San Diego for the coming exhibition season. The station, which had aired all available Chargers exhibition games in the past, has dropped the team since its move to Los Angeles.

Instead, KSWB will air three of the L.A. Rams exhibition games. Ironically, the one August game it cannot air is a national telecast on CBS on August 26th, in which the L.A. Rams will take on, you guessed it, the L.A. Chargers.

While this is going on, there has yet to be an announcement about which Los Angeles radio station will become the flagship station for the Chargers. Even the team's official web site still has "Coming Soon" for its radio broadcasts, as of press time.

In recent seasons, San Diego Chargers games were carried in L.A. on KLAC 570 when available (when no conflicts with Dodgers broadcasts). Of course, now that the Chargers are a local team, they need a station which will air every game along with full pre-game and post-game programming.

KLAC is not a logical candidate, given that the station is 49% owned by the Dodgers, which have games throughout September and possibly post-season games during October.

COLUMBUS: Former NFL standout A.J. Hawk joins WBNC 97.1 The Fan for a daily Noon to 1 PM talk show with co-host Anthony Rothman. It will begin on May 8th and be titled "Off Season with A.J. Hawk". The station has already announced that Hawk will remain part of the midday "Carpenter & Rothman Show" during the season on "Football Fridays".

DETROIT: Health issues have caused WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket morning show co-host Terry Foster to announce his retirement, effective immediately. Foster suffered a stroke almost one year ago and missed most of the second half of 2016.

As you would expect, Mike Valenti will remain with the morning show. Since this announcement caught everyone by surprise, it's too soon to think about who the replacement will be.

CHICAGO: Even though the Bulls have attracted attention with winning their first two playoff games against Boston and helped the ratings, their regular season proved a local TV ratings disaster. The ratings for CSN Chicago, which aired most of their games, were the lowest for any season since 2007-08, down roughly 33% from the previous season, and down around 58% from two seasons ago. Their highest rated single game telecasts were all during November and December.

DENVER: Ed McCaffrey and KOA 850 have completely parted company. The former Broncos receiver will no longer co-host his sports talk show, as well as coming out of the Broncos radio booth. He had been an analyst along with play-by-play voice Dave Logan since the 2012 season.

RICHMOND: The sale of ESPN 950 WXGI will result in even more coverage with what will soon be a three station simulcast. WXGI will continue to air sports, along with adding 102.7 FM. In addition, next market south WTPS 1240 Petersburg will also carry the station. All three will air live play-by-play of both the Washington Nationals and Redskins, along with University of Richmond football and basketball.

TULSA: KJRH Channel 2 Sports Director Al Jerkens has announced that he will retire when his current contract expires this coming August 3rd at the age of 65. Jerkens has been a fixture throughout his 43 year TV career. He will be missed.

HOWELL MI: Sorry to learn of the passing of former WHMI Sports Director Dave Johnson. He lost his battle to pancreatic cancer last week at the age of 48. Our thoughts are with his family.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sports Radio Stations Hold The Line In March Ratings

The radio ratings are being released this week around the country for the month of March, with the majority of the large markets not showing much of a change for the sports stations.

We always monitor Boston due to its two rival sports stations always being so strong. However, March was not kind as both stations combined to lose more than 10% of their total audience compared with the February results.

WBZ-FM Sports Hub lost .7 of a ratings point, although finishing #6 overall remains one of the stronger sports station showings around the country. WEEI-FM dropped .6 of a ratings point, coming in one-half point behind and in the #8 overall position. The April book should prove more interesting, since this month brings the start of the Celtics and Bruins in the playoffs along with the Red Sox season and the team expected to be a strong contender.

In Philadelphia, WIP-FM 94.1 finished #8 overall in the market, scoring its best ratings thus far in 2017.

On the other hand, San Francisco's KNBR 680, which has been as high as #1 in the market within the past 18 months, dropped again during March and is now at #10 overall. Their April ratings will be crucial if KNBR is going to rebound, as the Warriors begin their playoff run and the Giants begin their regular season.

Speaking of ratings, the TV people are pleased with the viewership for the start of the NBA Playoffs. ABC scored very well with its Golden State vs. Portland opening game telecast, while TNT also started strong on Sunday (4/16) night. The prime-time opening game doubleheader with the Chicago upset over Boston followed by the OK City vs. Houston opener was the cable TV overall winner for the night. These games also finished with roughly 39% higher ratings than the first TNT doubleheader last year.

A quick note to headline writers from sports fans. A mock draft is not and should never be "breaking news". We understand that ESPN, which televises the NFL Draft next week, and other sports heavy news organizations want to promote their "draft experts". But who they think will be picked in the first round is NOT news or factual.

It's not only some of the pro sports teams taking over and providing their own "controlled" content for fans these days. It somehow slipped under the radar that Kevin Durant has gone as far as to start his own YouTube channel to serve the fans.

Durant has already done a live stream from his home which included the view from his balcony and his dog. This channel already has more than 40,000 subscribers.

LAS VEGAS: The new NHL Golden Knights will also have games broadcast in Spanish when the team debuts next season. KENO 1460 ESPN DEPORTES will carry them.

PHOENIX: The NBA now has one less "Albert" calling its games due to the announced retirement of Steve Albert. Steve had done the Suns on TV for the past five seasons and has decided to call it a career after 45 years.

TAMPA: WXTB 98 Rock has a new multi-year contract in place to continue as flagship station for the Buccaneers broadcasts. In addition, the radio broadcasts will also be streamed via the team's web site starting with the upcoming season.

HARTFORD: WTIC 1080 has now bailed on sports talk only shows, dropping the team of Joe D'Ambrosio and Andy Gresch from the 3 to 6 PM spot. This appears to have been strictly a ratings based decision, since D'Ambrosio will continue calling University of Connecticut play-by-play as usual. Gresh is reportedly heading over to WPRO Providence to host nights. WTIC begins a general talk show with Todd Feinburg on Monday (4/24).

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Let's See How Many Watch Stanley Cup Playoffs

As the NHL Playoffs begin, with the sixth season in a row of every post-season game being nationally televised, we have significant comings and goings in the announce booth.

It is great news that Dave Strader will be back in the TV booth this week to call the first two games of the Washington vs. Toronto series for the NBC Network group. Strader, in his 32nd season of calling NHL games at the local (Dallas Stars) and national level, has missed most of this regular season undergoing cancer treatments.

At the same time, it is an official farewell to another NHL broadcasting legend with Bob Miller's last play-by-play telecast for the L.A. Kings this past weekend, wrapping up his amazing 44-years in that role. On Sunday (4/9), Miller was short and to the point on his final sign-off after the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Kings in overtime.

It was actually analyst Jim Fox, who has been with the Kings for the past 27 seasons, who spent more time and was clearly more emotional than Miller on the air when it came time to finish their telecast. Miller was very brief in his post-game on-air comments and remained very composed given all of his years in the booth.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are critical for NBC and perhaps for the NHL when it comes to future rights. There is no overlooking the fact that the regular season NHL ratings for NBC came in as the lowest since the early 90's, while NBCSN's ratings were the lowest since the 2011-12 season. Their hope has to be that the N.Y. Rangers, Boston, and Chicago teams all advance further into the post-season and bring their strong local market ratings with them.

Speaking of teams which draw ratings, the NFL is wasting no time in getting the Dallas Cowboys on national TV ASAP. The Hall of Fame Game, which begins the exhibition game season, will air on NBC on August 3rd with Dallas vs. Arizona.

Here are the other national TV exhibition games, with all times Eastern:

Hall of Fame Game (Canton, Ohio)
Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals (NBC, 8 p.m.), Thursday, Aug. 3
Preseason Week 2 (August 17-21)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars (ESPN, 8 p.m.), Thursday, Aug. 17
New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (ESPN, 8 p.m.) Monday, Aug. 21
Preseason Week 3 (August 24-27)
Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks (CBS, 8 p.m.) Friday, Aug. 25
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams (CBS, 8 p.m.) Saturday, Aug. 26
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans (FOX, 1 p.m.) Sunday, Aug. 27
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins (FOX, 4:30 p.m.) Sunday, Aug. 27
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (NBC, 8 p.m.) Sunday, Aug. 27

Over at MLB, the effort continues to bring streaming telecasts of live games to other countries overseas. New multi-year deals have just been signed to provide live regular and post-season telecasts in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and India. DAZN is the OTT service provider for all except India, which will receive 20 games per week (with one game per three hour window) by way of VEQTA.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Looks as though the first round of the NBA Playoffs will be the last time that Phil Chenier will be the analyst on CSN's Wizards telecasts after 33 seasons in the role. It appears that Chenier wants to cut back on travel, as the early word is that he will serve as studio analyst during Wizards telecasts starting for next season.

PHILADELPHIA: 97.5 The Fanatic appears to have some behind the scenes happenings which are significantly impacting the station's morning show this week. Anthony Gargano has been off the air all week, coming just after reports that co-host Maureen Williams and producer Jamie Lynch were already dismissed by the station. No word, yet, regarding Gargano, who was said to be upset about the dismissal of Williams.

Eytan Shander, Geoff Mosher, and Joe Tordy have been filling in all week. Would have to think that Angelo Cataldi over at WIP 94.1 will do his best to deliver monster shows early next week to keep people from checking over at 97.5 to see whether or not Gargano actually returns. Since The Fanatic was part of a big sale of stations last year, it is possible this is the first of the cost cutting moves coming from new ownership.

CLEVELAND: Sorry to learn of the passing of long time local sports radio host Kendall Lewis. He was known as the "Big Sports Kahuna" during his seven year run at WKNR 850.

Meanwhile, the excitement about the Indians is already evident this early in the 2017 season. The team's first week of regular season telecasts on Sports Time Ohio produced ratings which were up roughly 90% over last year and nearly four ratings points higher than the average ratings for all of the 2016 season.

DALLAS: Rangers fans already need a scorecard to keep track of TV announcers, and now there is more. Tom Grieve has added 35 games, likely road telecasts, as studio analyst in addition to his games as the booth analyst during Rangers telecasts. Grieve will be in the booth this weekend for the home games vs. Oakland, while C.J. Nitkowski rejoins play-by-play voice Dave Raymond again on Monday when the Rangers start their road trip in Anaheim.

LEXINGTON: It will be the end of an era for local sports fans this coming September when WKYT-TV sportscaster Rob Bromley begins his retirement. Bromley just announced that after 40 years with the station that he will call it a career.

Bromley is one of the nicest guys you would ever meet, in any profession, and has been on the scene a long time. In fact, those of you that recall the 1978 U. of Kentucky NCAA Championship team coached by Joe B. Hall and featuring Jack Givens and Rick Robey might recall that Bromley was already on the scene covering that team. At the time, he was backup sportscaster to Denny Trease, before Trease went on to Kansas City to do Royals TV.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Announcers Coming And Going

Now that the MLB season is underway and the NCAA Tournament is over, it's on to some announcing comings and goings around the country.

FS1 quietly begins its coverage of MLB with a seemingly secret prime time national game on Wednesday (4/5) when it airs the N.Y. Yankees at Tampa game. The telecast will mark the debut of the Network's newest game analyst when A.J. Pierzynski joins Kenny Albert in the booth. This figures to be a good hire for Fox Sports. The problem is if it wasn't for the announcement of hiring Pierzynski as analyst, even the most hardy of baseball fans would not have known that FS1 is doing a prime time game this week.

ESPN leads the way this week with announcements about announcers. The Network has determined its course regarding its in season NFL studio programming, determining that it will take three people to replace Chris Berman.

Monday Night Football will now have Suzy Kolber as solo host of "Monday Night Countdown" along with half-time and post-game. Kolber had been co-host, along with Berman, for each of the past two seasons.

Sunday NFL Countdown, the extended Sunday pre-game show, will now be hosted by Sam Ponder, who comes over from extensive college football coverage for ESPN. Berman had hosted the show since the 1986 season.

And, since Chris Berman is no longer hosting the NFL Draft (coming April 27 - 29), the new host has been announced as Trey Wingo, who will host all three days of live coverage. Wingo will also continue as host of "NFL Live" which airs throughout the entire year.

On the NBA side, ESPN has made it official that Michelle Beadle will be the studio host for the ESPN/ABC coverage for the post-season. Good to know that the Network finally sees the need for a legitimate broadcaster to host the studio segments instead of former players trying to host a train wreck, like what happened a couple of seasons ago.

At CBS, Tony Gonzalez will no longer serve as an NFL studio analyst after three seasons in that role.

No replacement as of press time, with rumors flying that the supposedly just retired QB Tony Romo will considered as a replacement.

CBS Sports Network will simulcast the CBS Sports Radio afternoon show "Tiki & Tierney"from 3 PM to 6 PM ET. The show, co-hosted by Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney, moves from its previous 9 AM to Noon ET time slot, with Damon Amendolara moving from nights to the 9 AM to Noon slot on the radio side. Bill Reiter comes in to host the 6 PM to 10 PM ET spot starting on April 17th.

SAN FRANCISCO / OAKLAND: CSN Bay Area, now known as NBC Sports Bay Area, has added a new studio analyst for both its Giants and A's telecasts effective immediately.
Former Giants standout Matt Williams begins his pre-game and post-game role on Monday (April 10) for the Giants home opener. With huge interest in the Giants again this year, the Network is expanding both studio shows to up to one hour for most of the telecasts.

The A's telecasts will have Jose Canseco added to the mix as a studio analyst for both the pre-game and post-game shows.

LOS ANGELES: Opening Day of baseball season was significant because of it being the first regular season game without Vin Scully as the lead broadcaster in the Los Angeles history of the franchise.

Of course, roughly 70% of the market still cannot get the Dodgers telecasts. Adding to the struggles of the fans is the fact that the ESPN national telecast of the Dodgers opener vs. the Padres was also blacked out in the L.A. area.

CHICAGO: CSN Chicago has added Scott Podsednik to its White Sox studio coverage effective opening day, where he will also have long-time analyst Bill Melton also in studio for most of the telecasts. Hard to believe that they need two analysts for what figure to be low rated telecasts again this season.

On their radio side, a bizarre move by White Sox flagship station WLS this past Saturday (4/1), which was not an April Fool's joke. The White Sox played their final pre-season game at 1:00 that afternoon, which WLS did not broadcast. The game was televised on CSN Chicago. Yet, WLS aired its "White Sox Weekly" two hour program from Noon until 2 PM.

As a result, the final hour of their show for White Sox fans aired up against a live game on TV at the same time.

St. LOUIS: KFNS 590 has brought in longtime local sportscaster John Hadley, who had been off the air since January 2016, to be its Sports Director. Hadley, as of now, will not have a regular air shift, instead filling in as needed.

SAN DIEGO: An evening host change takes place at XEPRS Mighty 1090. Chris Cantore started on Monday (4/3) as 6 PM to 9 PM host, replacing Kevin Acee. The station was rated only 23rd overall in the market in the most recent ratings, despite a 50,000 watt signal booming in from across the Mexican border.

Ft. MYERS: WWCN 99.3 ESPN has added Craig Shemon as host of its local afternoon drive show. Shemon is expected to continue with play-by-play assignments for Fox Sports and Big Ten Network.

BEND OR: The local simulcast of Fox Sports Radio is over, as now only 94.9 carries it, as sister station 940 AM has gone off the air. 94.9 will continue to also carry Oregon State University football and basketball, as well as 49ers football.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

February Not Kind To Sports Radio Ratings

Once again the month of February was not a good one for most of the sports radio station ratings around the country. Only the participating markets are interested enough in the constant Super Bowl talk during the first week. And it's the middle of the regular season for the NBA and NHL, and before tournament time for college hoops.

Both Boston sports powerhouses showed up in the top 6 in the market even though both stations dropped for the month. WBZ-FM Sports Hub, although the flagship station for the Patriots, dropped .4 and came in #5 in overall audience. WEEI-FM dropped .6 of a rating point and finished at #6. WBZ-FM's Felger & Mass finished #2 (in the market) in the afternoon drive battle.

WFAN-FM New York dropped to #14 in the market, losing .8 from January, while WEPN-FM held steady to again finish several notches below. The Fan is adding to its baseball coverage, signing the newly retired Mark Teixeira to join Michael Kay for a segment each Thursday afternoon, in what could really be an audition for Teixeira to possibly join ESPN at some point.

At WEPN-FM, Ryan Hurley has been moved up to Program Director following the promotion of Justin Craig from that position on up to ESPN Radio (national).

Chicago's two sports stations both dropped as well, with WSCR 670 The Score falling another half-point to only 22nd in the market. WMVP ESPN 1000 only dropped .2, but is now out of the top 25 overall even though it beat WSCR in a couple of key demographics.

In Dallas, it depends on the time of day. KTCK AM/FM The Ticket finished 8th in the market between 6 AM and 7 PM but vanishes the rest of the time. The station dropped to 27th at night and 20th on the weekends. KRLD-FM, now without Cowboys football until August, dropped a full ratings point, losing more than 35% of its total audience from the previous month.

In Atlanta, with the Falcons season ending with the Super Bowl, and little hope for the Hawks or the Braves, WZGC-FM The Game lost 1.3 rating points and slipped to #14 overall. WCNN, with roughly 40% of the audience size of The Game (even after The Game's big drop), lost .2 for the month.

Minneapolis area listeners like KFXN-FM The Fan during the afternoon with the station coming in #2 in the market during that time. However, the station dropped .6 overall for the month.

Tampa's WDAE-AM has now dropped .5 in both of the two most recent ratings periods.

Three other large markets are suffering when it comes to sports radio ratings.

After showing some promise for the previous few months, Houston's sports stations are all back to having overall ratings under 1.0. KILT dropped .6 to only a .8 overall. KMBE-AM and KFNC-FM both trail at .5 each.

Similar story in Los Angeles, where once again the two major sports talkers are also under a 1.0. And, unfortunately, it's the same story in Miami, where WQAM-AM, WAXY-AM, and WINZ-AM are also under a 1.0 rating, with two of those three dropping slightly from January.

While we await more announcements from ESPN regarding hosts and analysts for its NFL studio programming, we do know that former head coach Rex Ryan is joining the staff. Unconfirmed reports (as of press time) have Ryan joining the NFL Countdown show. This is part of a major change, as neither Chris Berman or Tom Jackson will be a part of Countdown moving forward.

Fox Sports Radio adds Doug Gottlieb for its 3 PM to 6 PM ET show starting between mid-April (when his CBS Sports Radio contract runs out) and mid-May.

CHICAGO: WMVP ESPN 1000 is swapping its highly rated early afternoon show "Kap & Company" to late mornings and expanding it to three hours. David Kaplan's show will air from 9 AM to Noon, while "Carmen & Jurko" will switch to Noon to 2 PM. The station has also added the network's MLB analyst Rick Sutcliffe for a weekly segment during its afternoon drive show hosted by Marc Silverman and Tom Waddle.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago has named former Cub outfielder David Dejesus as its new pre and post-game studio analyst for its Cubs telecasts. Dejesus replaces Todd Hollandsworth in that roll, with Hollandsworth having moved to the Miami Marlins TV booth.

WTRO 1200 has picked up ESPN Deportes, dropping its Spanish talk format.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sports Media Update

With most of the NCAA Tournament still to be played, it's encouraging to know that CBS is listening to fan input.

This past Sunday's (3/12) Selection Show was a clear example, with the entire bracket having been revealed within the first 37 minutes. No more waiting close to an hour as we have been stuck with over the past couple of years, especially when the show had been extended to two long hours.

During the Final Four weekend at the beginning of April, it may appear as though CBS was listening when it airs the games (instead of TBS last year). Not the case, as the current contract has CBS and TBS rotating the Final Four weekend telecasts, and this year it is naturally CBS' turn.

Is there a sudden increased interest in NFL free agent signing speculation? Hard to tell, but last week's (3/9) ESPN NFL Insiders Free Agency Special followed by NFL Live drew an audience which was up more than 200% over similar programming a year ago. Or, is it because last year's similar shows aired on ESPN2 instead?

Might be worth keeping an eye on how studio shows do in the ratings on both networks.

A couple of stories that make us sad this week.

Sorry to learn of the passing of long time NBA analyst John Andariese at the age of 78. Andariese was on national games for many years in addition to having worked Knicks games with Marv Albert for years on MSG Network. He started with the team back in the 1972-73 season. "Johnny Hoops", as he was known, will be missed.

We also learned earlier this week that long time UNC voice Woody Durham has been diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia which negatively impacts his speaking ability. The 75 year-old Durham spent 40 years as the voice of UNC.

PALM BEACH: WMEN 640 has added still more Fox Sports Radio programming, now dropping Joe Raineri and Steve Zemach from its lineup.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A More Selective Telecast - We Hope

Let's hope that having CBS reduce the NCAA Tournament Selection program on Sunday back to 90 minutes results in a more streamlined presentation. This is an improvement over the 2-hours devoted to this last year, but 90 minutes is still way too long.

Hopefully this will cut down on all of the speculation about which teams will go where. The telecast does not need to feel like a one hour half-time. Frankly, one hour should be the maximum length for this telecast.

Spend the first ten minutes setting up the announcement, followed by 10 minute segments on each of the four regionals. Start each segment out by showing the pairings, and then the remaining eight minutes of each letting dozens of analysts flood us with comments. Then, take a couple minutes to pick the best matchups, and wrap it up.

Westwood One Radio Network has found enough advertiser and station interest to air the Final Four (April 1 and 3) in Spanish for the first time, having already lined up more than 40 Spanish language stations around the country (as of press time) to air those broadcasts.

Last week's Duke vs. North Carolina telecast on ESPN wound up being the most watched regular season college hoops telecast on any network (not just ESPN) over the past two seasons.

Another big loss on the baseball side. Bill Webb, who directed 17 World Series (2nd only to Harry Coyle who directed 36), lost his battle to cancer this past week at the age of 70. Webb spent the later part of his career directing the Mets telecasts for SNY, only to work a few games over the previous two seasons due to the health challenges he suffered from. He will be missed in a huge way.

Major social media sites continue to penetrate the live sports opportunity. Facebook did a live stream of the Red Sox opening game (even if only against Northeastern) for the first two innings last week.

The game did not otherwise air on any TV or radio station or network. Reports are that Facebook is still seeking to stream a few MLB regular season games.

Twitter already has the rights to stream approximately one "out of market" game per week this season, although, as of press time, no games/dates have been announced.

Fox Sports has added Alex Rodriguez to a full-time analyst role for this season after his well received work during the 2016 postseason. In addition to Saturday telecasts on Fox and FS1, Rodriguez will also be a part of the MLB Whiparound show which airs at inconsistent times during the week.

While we normally don't bother with podcasts, this one is a nice service for sports fans interested in the business side of things. PodcastOne has added "Forbes Sports Money" to its roster, bringing fans an audio version of the TV show which airs on YES Network. This makes the show, generally not specific to New York even though it has only aired on YES Network, available to fans around the country. This is an excellent addition, and a nice way to bring existing (and excellent) content to a wider audience.

LOS ANGELES: KTLA-TV Channel 5 has announced the ten early season Dodgers telecasts it will show, with the last one of the group being on May 7th. The highest rated one figures to be on May 3rd. That Wednesday night game is the only telecast currently scheduled of a Dodgers vs. Giants game, and will begin at the special time of 6 PM to include the Ring of Honor Ceremony for Vin Scully.

The KTLA telecasts include three games in four days (April 16 vs. AZ and the 18th and 19th against Colorado), with half of the telecasts as day games and half as night games.
Nothing yet about any KTLA telecasts after that. It probably will depend on the impact of single game ticket sales within 24 hours of each telecast.

DENVER: It's still KOA 850 all the way as the station has extended its contract to air the Rockies games through the 2021 season. The renewal also includes retaining the radio broadcast team of Jack Corrigan and Jerry Schemmel.

KKFN The Fan 104.3 begins the "Stokley & Zach Show" from 3 to 6 PM weekdays starting on Friday March 31st. Brandon Stokely, the former Broncos (and several other teams) receiver, will have newly added Zach Bye as his co-host.

Bye comes to Denver to begin this show by way of WTMM 104.5 Albany, from which he leaves the "Big Board Sports Show" with Rodger Wyland after next week.

DETROIT:  Local fans will get to enjoy Eli Zaret once again, even if for a few minutes a day. The 40 year sportscasting veteran is now doing "After Further Review" on WJR 760 around 4:35 PM each weekday during the Guy Gordon Show. He is best remembered as lead sports anchor on WDIV-TV in the 80's.

HOUSTON: As the ratings for the Root Sports Southwest Rockets telecasts continue to rise (including a season high rating on Monday 3/6 for the Rockets vs. Spurs game), the network's coverage range is now expanding. The telecasts can now be seen in more parts of Texas than before, except for the rights areas protected by the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.

INDIANAPOLIS: This appears to me a lot more supply than demand, but WFNI The Fan is going to a three station combo, adding 107.5 to the mix. This is in addition to the 1070 / 93.5 combo. However, the 107.5 signal will merely carry NBC Sports Radio the majority of the time.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Miller Retirement Fit For A King

The retirement announcement from Bob Miller brings such mixed emotions. Miller has called the Los Angeles Kings games since 1973 when they were clearly second class citizens in the L.A. Forum as Jack Kent Cooke's "other" team.

His play-by-play became more prominent with the arrival of Wayne Gretzky to the Kings in the late 80's while Miller moved over from radio to the TV booth.

Although health issues, including a quadruple bypass, contributed to the timing of his retirement, at the age of 78 Miller is certainly entitled to sit back and relax after more than 3,300 broadcasts. The Kings were the only pro team he broadcast, having been hired from the University of Wisconsin hockey and football play-by-play job in 1973. He is a "King" in more ways than one.

In addition, Miller's retirement closes the door on one of the most incredible runs of play-by-play voices for one city, which it's safe to say will never be topped. Personally, I was fortunate to be living in Los Angeles in the late 80's and have the most incredible lineup ever.

Let's go back to the 1986-87 season in Los Angeles. For local baseball, we had Vin Scully calling the Dodgers, with Dick Enberg having returned to call each Angels home game on radio that his busy NBC Network schedule would allow. During the NFL season, with the Raiders being in L.A., we had the legendary Bill King on the call. That was the hey day for Chick Hearn, doing his radio/TV simulcast of the Lakers games. And, of course, we had Bob Miller and Nick Nickson on the call for the Kings games.

I knew at the time how awesome that was. Of course, I had no idea that we all would still be fortunate enough to have Scully through 2016 and now Miller into 2017. We wish Mr. Miller the best of health, and the chance to enjoy every minute.

Sports fans that are frustrated with the increased costs of cable/satellite may want to watch for YouTube's proposed live TV package announcement. The site is reportedly preparing a $35 per month package including the major networks, including NFL games on computers and devices which are not phones. ESPN, FS1, NBCSN, and Big Ten Network are among those networks scheduled to be included.

Since NBC and NBCSN are included, we wonder if the CSN Networks will be included or not. However, this package, as of now, does not include the "league channels", as in NFL Network, NBA-TV, MLB Network, and NHL Network.

As important as those "league channels" are to a lot of us, they may not be worth the additional $50+ per month to many sports fans.

NBC has announced its Notre Dame Football schedule for 2017, starting on Labor Day weekend with the Saturday Sept. 2nd opener vs. Temple at 3:30 PM ET. As expected, the matchup vs. USC on Oct. 21st will be shown in prime time. However, in a curious move, NBC is moving the September 30th matchup vs. Miami of Ohio to NBCSN and to a 5 PM ET start.

A nice move by NBCSN this past Tuesday (2/28) by changing its primary national NHL game earlier that day to the Washington at NY Rangers game. This was due to the Capitals trading for Kevin Shattenkirk and that being his first game with his new team. NBCSN had been scheduled to air the Philadelphia vs. Colorado game, which it did only for Denver and a few other selected markets.

This came after last Saturday's "Stadium Series" telecast of Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh became the most watched NHL prime-time regular season game in three years. NBC came in first in the local ratings that night for both local markets.

BOSTON: CSN New England plans to expand its local studio programming starting next month. Starting on April 3rd (MLB full opening day, and NCAA Championship game night), the Network premiers "Early Edition" from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, and "Boston Sports Tonight" from 9:00 PM (or following live game telecasts) until Midnight.

Early Edition will have Gary Tanguay, Trenni Kusnierek, and Michael Felger as hosts, while Tom Curran and Tom Giles will also be joined by WEEI-FM's Michael Holley and Kayce Smith.

The shows, however, promise "social media interaction" along with highlights and reaction. Here's hoping that this new programming is better (which isn't difficult) than the CSN Chicago offering called "In The Loop". These networks don't seem to understand that fans want information. If they want to know what the fans think, they'll ask their friends.

SAN DIEGO: Looks like the San Diego media is taking a cue from St. Louis and considering interest in the Chargers to be dead now that the team is officially leaving. The Union Tribune has already released Michael Gehlken after five years of being the beat writer covering the team, which indicates that the dominant local newspapers has no plans for covering the team.

CHICAGO: WMAQ-TV Channel 5 has promoted Siafa Lewis to lead sports anchor after nearly three years with the station.

Over at WLS-TV Channel 7, long time sports anchor Mark Giangreco is serving the suspension he was given because of a political comment made on social media (not on the air). This suspension was so "necessary" that the station waited until after the ratings sweeps period for it to begin. After all, they have their priorities.

WSCR 670 The Score has renewed the contract of evening host Laurence Holmes for one more year with an option for a second year. Yet, the station continues to keep Holmes, who also anchors for 120 Sports, in the evening slot, where he is often pre-empted for Chicago Cubs broadcasts, NFL, and college basketball play-by-play.

WGN 720 has added former Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel as an analyst and to co-host the station's weekend only sports talk shows. The station is also the flagship station for the Blackhawks.

PORTLAND: KXTG 750 and 102.9 have made their 3:00 to 7:00 PM partnership of Justin Myers and Chop Homsley official. Myers replaces Fletcher Johnson, and returns to the market from KIRO Seattle where he hosted middays and was part of the Mariners pre-game and post-game shows.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sports Media Notes

The radio ratings are coming out this week for January 2017, but with very little significant movement for the sports stations around the country. Of course, the cities with Super Bowl teams benefitted big time, as could be expected.

Both of Boston's sports stations went up in overall audience, with WBZ-FM Sports Hub at #5 overall and WEEI-FM right behind at #6., as the Patriots were headed to the championship.

Even in Atlanta, not exactly a major hub for sports radio over the years, has WZGC-FM The Game increase to #9 overall in the market, rising from 3.6 to a 4.4 for January according to the Nielsen ratings. Even WCNN went up by .3 to a 1.9 rating during the same period.

Sorry to learn of the passing of former Southern California broadcaster Mike Walden due to complications for a recent stoke. Walden is known for having called both USC and UCLA games during his time in the Los Angeles area. He also called some Big Ten games in the mid-60's for WBBM-AM in Chicago.

We also lost Rod Simons, the Minneapolis area sportscaster who is best known for his anchor role with KSTP-TV from 2003 into 2008. Simons died at the age of 56 while in Ft. Myers to cover the Twins in spring training.

NEW YORK: Also sorry to report that Bill Webb, the long time TV director, has confirmed that he will not be returning as lead director for the Mets telecasts on SNY this season. Webb, who has been with SNY and also Fox Sports for years (having worked 17 World Series), continues to battle cancer. He had missed stretches of games over the previous two seasons.

WASHINGTON DC: Redskins games will air, starting next season, once again on WMAL-AM 630 and on WMAL-FM 105.9, returning to the station which has aired the team going back to the 1940's.

However, this is not a shift in the broadcasts, as the games will continue to air on WTEM ESPN 980 as they have been. Outlying stations WWXT 92.7 Prince Frederick and WWXX 94.3 Buckland VA will also continue on the team's network.

PHILADELPHIA: CSN Philadelphia welcomes John Kruk back to the Phillies TV team when they present the first exhibition game telecast this coming Saturday (2/25) against the Yankees. Kruk has a reported 5-year deal and is expected to work between 80 and 90 telecasts this season, including some with Mike Schmidt also in the booth. Ben Davis will work the telecasts which Kruk does not.

KANSAS CITY: KCSP 610 Sports has added Brad Fanning as co-host of its afternoon drive show, "The Drive". Fanning, who earlier reported on sports for KCTV-TV, replaces Danny Parkins, who left for a midday co-host spot on Chicago's WSCR The Score.

LOS ANGELES: Without Vin Scully, the urgency to get Dodgers games seen by the majority of the market has lessened already. Charter Communications has already publicly stated that it "does not anticipate" reaching agreements with other local cable/satellite providers to carry Dodgers baseball, leaving them as the only major provider to do so. This will be, believe it or not, the fourth season without roughly 70% of the local market being able to watch the Dodgers telecasts, whether they want to or not.

CHICAGO: Even though the Bulls could still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference despite being under .500, the fans aren't bothering. Through the first half of this season, the 30 telecasts on CSN Chicago are down roughly 28% in the ratings, compared with last season. And the ratings for last season were down quite a bit as well. The team could be looking at its poorest ratings since the 2007-08 season.

NORFOLK: WVSP ESPN 94.1 has selected Jeff Pantridge to host its afternoon show, with Matt Steinberg and A.J. Risser staying on board as well. Pantridge replaces Nick Cattles, who was hired away by Boston's Sports Hub WBZ-FM a few weeks back.

LEXINGTON: WWTF 1580 has officially disappeared as a sports station after three years of trying, when the station didn't even show up in the latest ratings. WLXG ESPN 1300, which only got a 1.0 rating most recently, continues on.

COLORADO SPRINGS: Along the same lines, KJME-AM has quietly dropped NBC Sports Radio, replacing it with an all Beatles music format. Guess we'll have to Let It Be.

Ft. WAYNE: Fans of the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League will be amazed to know that some of its games will be televised locally. WANE-TV digital channel 15.2 will air select games, with former Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls TV voice Bill Hazen on the call. He will be joined by Jaren Jackson, who played for eight NBA teams during his career. Some of the team's games will continue to air on WKJG 1380.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Big Merger A Big Deal For Radio Rights

What could potentially be the biggest sports media story of the year has just begun with the proposed merger of CBS Radio into Entercom. Although the process figures to take months (or longer if there are legal challenges), the impact could be huge.

Since Boston is the sports radio leader around the country (with both WBZ-FM and WEEI-FM having consistently strong ratings), this is the best example. The Sports Hub (WBZ-FM) is currently a CBS Radio station, while Entercom has WEEI-FM. A merger would result in the same company, even if temporary, owning both stations.

From a business point of view, it would give the new ownership the possibility of combining the two into one "super power" sports station and selling off the other frequency. But there is more.

This merger would result in the same ownership having the radio rights to all of the city's big four teams (Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins) as well as Boston College sports. Conflicts would not be a problem since Entercom would own several major stations in the market, even if it sells off or changes the format of one of the two current sports stations.

Around the country, the merger would result in Entercom holding the radio rights to more than 40 pro sports teams, including the vast majority of the biggest markets.

What could this mean? Keep in mind that Entercom is a traded company with shareholders that consider this an investment. The broadcast rights to more than 40 pro teams (not even counting college football and basketball rights) result in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent.

Or, if Entercom decides to work on its bottom line, it could be hundreds of millions of dollars "saved" for its shareholders. Suppose they let all of their sports contracts go. With even fewer big corporations owning most of the radio stations, the bidding for some of these pro team contracts is not likely to attract the revenue for teams it has been over the past few years.

This deal, if it goes through, could be, as they say, a game changer.

Among all of the statistics about ratings for the Super Bowl, most of which are very impressive in terms of viewership, there is one which is a huge surprise.

Which local market had the biggest audience for the telecast? The answer is NOT Boston or Atlanta, but is another NFL city.

Believe it or not, the local market leader with a 57.9 rating was Pittsburgh. Maybe it's because of their dislike for the Patriots (which knocked the Steelers out to get to the Super Bowl).

Atlanta actually had a higher local rating than Boston and Providence. This is actually understandable due to the likelihood that many viewers gave up on the Pats during the 3rd quarter (and missed some or all of the incredible comeback!). For those still curious, the other NFL markets with the highest local ratings were Buffalo, Milwaukee (Packers home market), Indianapolis, and Minneapolis.

Sports Business Journal produced an update of local market ratings for the 21 U.S. teams in the NHL through the first half of the current season. However, more teams actually showed audience decreases than increases.

From the plus side are the Buffalo Sabres, which had the highest average ratings, staying ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in that department. The Minnesota Wild, battling for most points in the NHL at the moment, showed a 23% increase this season on Fox Sports North to put the team among the top five most watched.

On the minus side are the Colorado Avalanche, down more than 50% so far this season. And, on the interesting side are the Chicago Blackhawks, which remain in the top 5 for local audience ratings for this season. What makes that interesting is their lofty local status coming despite what is actually a 20% decrease compared with last season's ratings.

It's the markets with more than one NHL team that produced a curious trend so far. In the New York City area, the Rangers have respectable ratings. At the same time, the Islanders and the Devils are both in the bottom 6 of the 21 teams. And in the Los Angeles area, while the Kings ratings are respectable, the Ducks telecasts are down 46% this season compared with last season. The Ducks are most definitely in the playoff chase.

We had a sad coincidence in sports media over the past few days. Chicago based sportscaster Mike Adamle, who has been off the air on "medical leave" for almost a year, took to the airwaves on WMAQ-TV earlier this week to reveal that a serious brain disorder will prevent him from returning to any of his on-air roles.

This came just days after WAXY 790 The Ticket (Miami) co-host Amber Wilson announced on the air that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Wilson will remain on the air, also telling her audience that she will share her cancer treatment experience on social media.

ESPN had added another new MLB analyst to start with the coming season. Just days after signing David Ross, the network adds Mark Teixeira to the mix. Both are newly retired and should offer some good insight about current players.

PHILADELPHIA: With its steady diet of play-by-play at night, the 6 to 10 PM shift on WIP-FM doesn't get much play, but the station has made it official that Jon Marks will host when game broadcasts permit. Marks is best known for his co-host stint during afternoons with Mike Missanelli on WPEN The Fanatic 97.5. Marks' contract expired last October with The Fanatic.

His role will expand soon, as he will be a part of Phillies pre-game coverage and also contribute on other weekday shows. He replaces Brian Haddad, who will remain with WIP-FM as Creative Services Director.

DETROIT: The Tigers TV booth will be less crowded again this season, as Mario Impemba will work with one of two analysts on the Fox Sports telecasts. Rod Allen will increase his role for this season, now working approximately 100 telecasts. The remaining 60 (approx.) will be handled by Kirk Gibson. Allen had been the only analyst for years before others, including Jack Morris, were brought in for certain games.

St. LOUIS: WXOS 101 ESPN has added Chris Rongey as an additional co-host for its afternoon show, joining Randy Karraker and Brad Thompson. He was hired after what proved to be a successful one week on-air "audition" a few months back.

Rongey needs to switch sides of a rivalry in a big hurry, as he comes by way of Chicago's WSCR The Score after more than 14 years. Coming to St. Louis to be closer to his family, he will be on the other side of the Cardinals-Cubs and Blackhawks-Blues rivalries.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We Won't Be "Looking Live" At Brent

Wow. Next Tuesday night (1/31) will be the last time that "You are looking live!......." at a telecast with Brent Musburger. Brent announced on Wednesday (1/25) that the college basketball telecast of Georgia at Kentucky from Lexington will be his final game on ESPN, and that he is moving to Las Vegas and going into a family business.

Sports fans under 40 only know Brent from his often offbeat style of TV play-by-play. But that's nowhere near what he should be remembered for. Brent was a true pioneer of NFL studio coverage going back to the early 70's.

Once upon a time, the CBS and NBC Network pre-game and post-game shows were brief previews from the studio and post-game closely edited highlights of a couple of key games. That all changed when Musburger went from Chicago's WBBM-TV (CBS) lead sports anchor to hosting "The NFL Today" on CBS.

He introduced "You are looking live at Lambeau Field in Green Bay where........" and the pre-game show having cut-ins to every CBS telecast that afternoon. The game announcers would discuss each game, show us the weather and field conditions, and set the stage from the various stadiums. We even had Jimmy The Greek to handicap the games with his picks. Yes, more than 40 years ago and NFL pre-game show showed point spreads. Irv Cross provided studio analysis on each game, and we were stuck with Phyllis George while the crew had to act as though she knew what she was talking about.

But it was Brent that outshined everyone. His uncanny ability to jump from game to game as highlights warranted, west coast games ended on the post-game show, and news was happening is still unmatched. He kept the show moving, current, interesting, and compelling.

Not to slight his play-by-play ability (although some do), it's really too bad that he preferred that role. Even with today's technology and the additional time (the pre-game show was only 30 minutes and the post game went until the end of the current half hour only), Brent did more with less than the current hosts bring us today.

He has been a part of the national TV sports scene for around 45 years. His contributions to the broadcast standards of those telecasts will, hopefully, be around for many more years. Thanks, Brent.

Not only is ESPN losing Brent, but the network has also decided to put an end to The Sports Reporters, a series it started back in 1988. The best way to say it is that it is a victim of social media. Years ago, there was not an influx of opinions about everything that did or might happen in the sports world.

This was a national show with prominent sports reporters providing some solid input into the sports issues of the day. Some were fun, while other issues discussions were quite serious and intense. Mike Lupica from New York and Bob Ryan from Boston were among those who appeared regularly for many years and kept the show interesting.

As of press time, word is that the show will remain in place on Sunday mornings for at least three more months.

The Sports Reporters was actually taken from the Chicago based show "The Sportswriters on TV", which aired on (then) SportsChannel Chicago starting in the mid-80's. That was a TV adaptation of the WGN Radio show, "The Sportswriters", which began the concept of reporters discussing sports each week a few years earlier.

Now, of course, we have versions of this sort of show seemingly endlessly on ESPN, Fox Sports, and many of the regional sports networks.

WASHINGTON D.C.: WTEM ESPN 980 has not renewed Andy Pollin's contract as afternoon co-host. Pollin is already off the air, even though his contract is scheduled to run through February, leaving Steve Czaban to host solo, at least for now. No word (as of press time) as to whether or not another co-host will be added. Pollin was a fixture with WTEM since 1992. It was Pollin who helped bring Czaban into sports talk back in 1994.

The NHL Capitals appear to have realized that they need more coverage for the team's local radio broadcasts than only WFED 1500 (when not in conflict with Wizards broadcasts) and online. The games will now air on 104.7 FM as well. It's about time.

PHILADELPHIA: WIP-FM begins its "Phillies Hot Stove" show next Wednesday (2/1) at 6:00 PM, which will air each Wednesday during February. Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen (the broadcast team) will be the hosts.

MIAMI: The Marlins will remain with WINZ 940 as an extension has been announced. WINZ will air 15 spring training games and will add additional Marlins related programming to be announced. Dave Van Horne, who will be calling major league games for his 49th season, returns in his 14th season of calling Marlins games.

PORTLAND: Mark Mason, who has served as the Blazers' P A announcer for the past 21 years, returns to local radio, although not in a sports capacity. Mason started this week on KEX News Radio 1190 as midday "news talk" host.

INDIANAPOLIS: WISH-TV has added Charlie Clifford as its new weekend sports anchor. Clifford comes from WKBT-VM La Crosse where he held a similar role since 2014.

DALLAS: Even with strong national ratings for the NFL's championship games this past Sunday (1/22), not having the Cowboys playing made a difference. The ratings for both games for the Dallas market were comparably low numbers vs. other markets. Yet, the Atlanta win over Green Bay actually scored better than the New England Pittsburgh game in prime time.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Baseball Season Floating Upstream

Streaming help is on the way for more baseball fans for the upcoming season. MLB has finally worked out a deal with Comcast SportsNet to allow streaming of local team telecasts it holds the rights to via the NBC Sports app. As of press time, the announcements were made in both Chicago and Philadelphia, with more regions (such as San Francisco Bay Area) expected over the next few days.

Of course, this allows streaming locally for those who already receive CSN via an active subscription with a local cable or satellite provider. CSN Chicago has already been streaming its Bulls (NBA) and Blackhawks (NHL) telecasts via this app. This deal includes both the Cubs and White Sox telecasts they carry.

In Philadelphia, the local streams replace a PlayStation package previously in place which enabled PlayStation streaming for a whopping (reported) $44.95 per month.

These moves are long overdue. Fans pay a lot of money for their TV service, especially sports fans, and are entitled to receive these games via whatever means they have.

This deal reportedly is for regular season games. We do not know yet whether or not spring training games will be included for this season.

TNT is looking to hype its upcoming stretch of five consecutive Monday night doubleheaders which begin on Feb. 27th. These will be in addition to the usual Thursday night package.

Whatever the reason, TNT is calling these telecasts "Players Only" and plans to have former players handle the play-by-play, analysis, and even the studio segments.

They obviously didn't consider the train wreck of the ESPN studio presentation last season of not having a true broadcast host, which they ESPN corrected for this season.
Brent Barry and Greg Anthony will each be thrust into play-by-play roles on these Monday night games. Barry will work with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill as game analysts, while Anthony will work with Kevin McHale and Rip Hamilton on his crew.

With the fast pace of an NBA game, having three men on the crew already limits the amount of time the analysts have to talk. Not having an experienced and professional play-by-play broadcaster will likely add to the confusion. Viewers may or may not hear a discussion about the play in progress, but it will be without the broadcast leadership needed to keep it all together.

There won't even be any relief for the Monday night studio segments. Instead of Ernie Johnson and what seems to be a cast of thousands talking over each other and cracking jokes (on Thursdays), TNT plans to have the studio group consist of Chris Webber, Isiah Thomas, and Baron Davis.

I have an idea. Let all of these former players become network executives for their next few meetings, and put them in charge of scheduling the professional broadcasters to do these games.

Over at ESPN, the network has announced its first "flex" of a scheduled NBA telecast, and it will come during January. To their credit (by flexing in mid-season), the network has quietly dropped the scheduled Chicago vs. Miami telecast scheduled for Friday Jan. 27th. In its place will be the surging Houston Rockets taking on Philadelphia. Nice to see the network taking notice that the 76ers are showing signs of life this season.

As we get ready to find out which teams will be in the Super Bowl, it appears that big audiences await the Conference Championship games coming up on Sunday (1/22).

The Pittsburgh win over K.C. this past Sunday night was the most watched prime time game (not a Super Bowl) in playoff history. The earlier Green Bay win over Dallas on Fox finished as the most watched NFC Divisional Playoff telecast, not only for Fox, but for any network.

Normally, we don't spend any time or concern about the commercials for the Super Bowl before or after the game. However, this year there is one exception. An auto manufacturer (Hyundai) will make media news with a 90 second spot to run immediately after the game ends. What makes this media news is that the commercial will be produced "during the game" and will include "off the field moments" surrounding the game. In this age where social media and instant updates are becoming a part of the sports media culture, this could be (emphasis on "could") be one spot actually worth caring about.

The TV work of Alex Rodriguez during the MLB post-season with Fox Sports had led to another TV gig, although this with CNBC. Rodriguez will host a TV show in the spring called "Back In The Game" on CNBC which pairs former athletes in need of money with financial experts there to help them.

One has to think that the potential for all around fan backlash may be at a pinnacle. Between the fans who dislike Rodriguez for his actions which led to a one year suspension, and the fans who have zero sympathy for sports figures who have and lose millions of dollars, it will be interesting to see if this show delivers any ratings.

INDIANAPOLIS: How about this? Starting on Feb. 6th, there will be an actual local and live sports radio show in the market. WNDE-AM will debut "Flagrant Foul" from 6 to 9 AM, hosted by (sister station) WFBQ personalities Dave Gunn and Don Stuck. The city's other sports talkers, WXNT and WFNI The Fan continue to air network shows in morning drive.

Ft. MYERS: WFCN 99.3 ESPN Program Director Chris Beasley is now co-hosting the midday show along with Gentry Thomas. Thomas' co-host, David Moulton, who had been with the station for 17 years, was dismissed last week.

No "official" reason for this dismissal, which was first announced by Moulton via social media. Interesting that it came just days after a Ft. Myers News Press story quoting Moulton about the station not renewing the contract of co-host Mark Miller last June. The two had been paired for roughly 10 years on the station. To recap, the Program Director took over for the "dismissed" co-host days after unfavorable quotes in the local newspaper. But no "official" reason given.