Friday, May 12, 2017

Coverage Cutbacks Are "Off Base"

It's not just personnel changes that are resulting from the financial concerns at ESPN. Unfortunately, we are already seeing how their coverage is also being negatively impacted.

Baseball is the first of the major sports to feel the crunch. Letting several baseball analysts go was bad enough. Since that time, the staple Baseball Tonight show is now gone from the weeknight schedule during the show's 27th season. Granted, it had aired at inconsistent times and on ESPN or ESPN2, making it hard to find, but it was always there.

Now, the show only airs on Sunday nights as a lead in to Sunday Night Baseball telecasts, and already has become more of a pre-game show (along the lines of NFL Countdown) than the true highlights and updates show it had been.

The network and some fans will respond by saying that SportsCenter shows all of the highlights. It always has. However, many baseball (and fans of other sports) agree that the format of jumping around from one sport to another and adding more feature stories has made SportsCenter too tough to deal with in terms of wanting scores and highlights - it's original purpose.

We don't know yet whether or not ESPN will start similar reductions toward its NFL and NBA related programming.

However, the network fails to recognize that the fans (and even the non-fans) are still being charged the same high monthly fees to receive ESPN. This is not the way to serve a customer base. Not adding or improving is one thing, but cutting back on existing programming is another. More reasons for consumers to cut the cord.

Meanwhile, ESPN Cleveland has taken the network's money grab to another level. At least consumers have a choice with this one, but the trend is dangerous if people actually do sign up.
WKNR ESPN 850 has taken to offering podcast versions of station programming without commercials on a paid subscription basis at $85 per year or $8.50 per month starting this month.

If people actually do start paying out of pocket to hear "Steve from Akron" comment on how few games the Browns will win this coming season, and other such delights, this sends the wrong message to the industry.

By promoting these paid podcasts, the station is in effect telling its audience that advertisements are bad, along with taking away from the audience those very same advertisers are paying to reach. They seem to have forgotten that the hardcore fans who might actually pay for this content are the ones the advertisers want to reach the most!

Now we have a network wanting people to pay more to hear opinions without commercials instead of watching the reduced coverage on the TV network. There is one positive to this, at least to this point.
Our monthly phone bills aren't being raised to support the ESPN App we are forced to carry.

Speaking of the money grab, there is the NFL taking in $21 million for streaming rights to ONE regular season game. For whatever reason, Verizon thinks it is worth that much money to stream the Sept. 24th game in London between Baltimore and Jacksonville on its various platforms. One game. I have a hunch there will be more than a few commercials for one product during the streamed telecast.

They must have overlooked that the game will be over the air in both local markets and available as usual to those who have Sunday Ticket.

If only they had asked me. I would have pointed out how that $21 million could have sponsored Baseball Tonight on ESPN seven nights a week and maintained the coverage we have enjoyed all these years - at no extra cost to the consumer.

Over at CBS, the newest addition to the Sunday NFL Today show is Nate Burleson, who has been named to replace Bart Scott. Although there has been no announcement (as of press time), Scott could be moved to a lesser role on the CBS Sports Network Sunday NFL pre-game show.

In a surprisingly quiet development, Solomon Wilcots is out after 16 seasons as an NFL game analyst, with no explanation as of press time.

CHICAGO: It appears that WSCR 670 The Score's decision to add Ryne Sandberg to its roster for the Cubs post-season run last season proved a popular one. Sandberg has been brought back to be a part of the team's post-game coverage for all remaining home games this season, being teamed with host Mark Grote.

HOUSTON: Although many other MLB markets have streaming for cable/satellite subscribers for local telecasts, it's a slow road in Houston. Now, as of this week, Root Sports subscribers can stream their Astors telecasts, with a "coming soon" for AT&T subscribers. No word yet on any of the other cable services being able to offer this.

DALLAS: KRLD has decided to pick up The Joe Pags Show for nights, taking Joe Pagliarulo's show live from WOAI San Antonio. Pags now airs in the majority of Texas markets.

SAN DIEGO: San Diego State University has finally gotten a nice radio deal for both its football and basketball games starting in the fall. KSLD 1360 will air every game it can, while play-by-play conflicts will send some broadcasts over to classic rock KGB-FM. In addition, KTDD Fox Sports 1350 Riverside will also carry the broadcasts.

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