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.