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.

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