Thursday, June 22, 2017

Not Exactly "Open" For Business With Final Round Ratings

It's still hard to say if the noticeable decline in the ratings for last weekend's U.S. Open was because of the lack of the biggest names such as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods or because Fox had the telecasts. It could well be a combination of both factors.

The overall ratings for the Sunday final round on Fox were the 2nd lowest ever for the U.S. Open (any network) and clearly the lowest of the three years in which Fox has been the televising network. (The lowest final round was NBC's last one in 2014.) On the other hand, the case could be made that this was the first U.S. Open without both Woods and Mickelson since 1994.

Casual golf fans may still not be aware that Fox airs the Open, while Fox acts as though FS1 and FS2 are sufficient as promotional vehicles.


Over on the NFL side, Fox announced that former linebacker Ray Lewis has officially joined Fox Sports as an NFL analyst. Word is that Lewis will be used only in the studio, and likely spread across the various NFL related programming on all of its networks for the coming season.


Although it may not have been for the originally intended reasons, last week's Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, which followed the unfortunate shooting incident in Alexandria VA, drew an extremely large audience for the streamed telecast. A political publication (The Hill) was able to stream the game via Facebook Live, reporting that the live and on demand feed of the game attracted more than five million views along with more than 13,000 shares.


Meanwhile, still more advertising will be visible to viewers of certain NBA teams next season, whether watching on local or national telecasts. The two most recently announced deals will have the Orlando Magic wearing the Disney Logo for the next three seasons, while the Minnesota Timberwolves have just signed a three-year deal to promote a fitness device on their uniforms.

This means still more clutter for viewers to go along with the courtside tables and ads on the basket supports.


NEW YORK: We all have one more week to think about how exactly 30 years ago none of us were sure that a radio station could make it as an all sports station. A few were attempted, with XTRA 690 in San Diego having been among the first such station in a major league market.

July 1st marks the 30th anniversary of WFAN 660 turning all sports. Of course, if a New York radio station could do it, so could a station in another market. And the trend began.

WFAN wanted to celebrate the occasion. However, as it goes in the world of corporate radio these days, the station realized that the exact anniversary date of July 1st falls on a Saturday. Instead of keeping that date, the station has already (more than one week ahead of time) done their on-air celebration of 30 years.

On Thursday (6/22), WFAN had its Boomer & Carton morning show, the Joe Benigno & Evan Roberts midday show, and Mike Francesa's afternoon show all broadcast live from Grand Central Station in Manhattan. A nice gesture to observe a significant anniversary with the fans. But more than a full week ahead of time?

And to think that 30 years ago this week, a radio station's weekend programming and offerings were considered important to keep serving the listening audience.


HOUSTON: We now have the reason that KBME let Lance Zierlein go from its morning show earlier this month. It was to clear the way for moving Josh Innes from afternoons to mornings, where he will take over starting on July 17th. Innes will be the primary host, as remaining co-host Matt Thomas is being moved to the Noon to 3 PM spot.

Innes joined KBME The Fan 790 within the past year from Philadelphia with his "love him or hate him" style. Innes' ratings during the afternoon grew to the station's highest rated, prompting this move.


SACRAMENTO: Sports talk KHTK is changing its Program Director. Kevin Sherrets, who held the position since summer of 2015, is out since his contract was not renewed. No replacement named as of press time.


CHICAGO: The Cubs have shown signs of putting a string of victories together after a sluggish start in 2017, and the fans are taking notice. The two Comcast SportsNet Chicago telecasts of the Cubs against the Padres on Monday and Tuesday nights earlier this week, turned out to be the two highest rated Cubs telecasts on CSN thus far for the 2017 season.

The incredibly long (4 hour 50 minute) rain delay prior to the start of Thursday's (6/22) White Sox vs. Minnesota telecast on CSN wreaked havoc on the CSN Chicago schedule. The regional network had been scheduled to air the White Sox game at Noon CT and later have the Cubs at Miami at 6:00 CT.

However, the White Sox game did not begin until roughly 5:00, forcing CSN to begin its Cubs vs. Marlins telecast on CSN+ (which not all systems receive), with main CSN joining late in the game following the White Sox postgame show. The network had already scheduled replays of both games.


VERMONT: Those who recall the former voice of NASCAR, Ken Squier, will be amazed to know that he is still doing well at the age of 82. Squier, believed to be the inspiration behind putting a camera in a Daytona race car in the early 90's, has decided to sell his family's Vermont radio station WDEV Waterbury 550 and 96.3. The stations have been in his family since his late father Lloyd purchased the AM station back in 1931. Squier told the local newspaper that his hope is to sell the stations to a local group. Here's hoping he is not in a race to get rid of them, and will be able to find the local support.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How The Games Impact The Ratings

The fans were definitely interested in the NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland, evidenced by the highest rated Finals series since Michael Jordan's last time there back in 1998.

Coincidentally, the NHL season ended the night before (6/11) with Pittsburgh winning in Game 6, which was, understandably, the highest rated Stanley Cup Finals telecast. It still hurt the NHL that all of its biggest market teams were long gone. Even though this year's Finals were up roughly 19% over last year's (which Pittsburgh also won), the fact remains that on Sunday night Celebrity Family Feud on ABC had more total viewers, whereas the NBA finale easily won the night's total national viewing.


BOSTON: The sports radio competition remains tight through the just released May Nielsen ratings. WEEI-FM is the #7 most listened to station overall as the Red Sox flagship, while rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub came in just behind at #8. To show how close these stations are in audience, WBZ-FM Sports Hub finished #1 between 7 PM and Midnight, which most of the Red Sox games are being played, with WEEI-FM at #3 at night.


NEW YORK: Baseball makes the difference in the May ratings with WFAN holding steady vs. the April ratings book but finishing #1 at night as Yankees flagship. WOR-AM, the Mets flagship, has now risen .7 since the March ratings to what is its largest audience share since fall of 2010.


PHILADELPHIA: WIP-FM has jumped up .7 of a ratings point for the second consecutive ratings period which amounts to an overall audience increase of more than 25% during that time. Now the #6 most listened to station, this is WIP's best share since late 2013, when it was airing Eagles broadcasts. At the same time, WPEN-FM held steady and is #19 in the market.


DALLAS: KTCK The Ticket has increased its margin to more than 33% higher overall than KRLD-FM The Fan with a .4 increase for May. This is even though The Fan is the Rangers flagship station.


PITTSBURGH: The sports impact is felt in the May ratings book, as WXDX, the alternative music station which airs the Stanley Cup champion Penguins, finished #1 at night and rose one full ratings point from April. KDKA-FM The Fan, also the flagship station for the Pirates, showed a full ratings point increase over the month.


CLEVELAND: Similar to Pittsburgh, where Indians flagship WTAM is a dominant #1 at night, while WMMS (a rock station) went up to #4 at night with its Cavaliers broadcasts.


HOUSTON: It's likely that won't know the real story for some time, but Lance Zierlein is officially "leaving" the KBME morning show, which he has been co-hosting with Matt Thomas, "later this year". Zierlein has been doing outside work as an NFL draft analyst but not with any other radio or TV stations. We will have a better idea of whose decision this really was by which announcement comes first between a new gig for Zierlein or a new host or co-host for KBME's morning show.

Sports radio in Houston continues to lag behind most other top markets, as KBME came in at #23 overall, which is higher than the other two sports stations. Although Josh Innes' afternoon show remains the highest rated show on the station, it actually trails Rich Lord, Sean Pendergast, and Ted Johnson on KILT.

After months of having the AT&T Logo as a part of the Astros and Rockets Root Sports telecasts, the network will make it official and become AT&T SportsNet Houston next month. With the Denver and Pittsburgh systems having made this change, it will leave only the Seattle system using the Root Sports name.


LOS ANGELES: Sports radio stations continue to struggle even with baseball season in full swing, as both again came in at less than 1.0 rating. Even with the Dodgers broadcasts, KLAC 570 came in #17 at night. And KLAC edged out KSPN, which shares Angels broadcasts with even lower rated KLAA, for overall audience.


Meanwhile, NFL Network has announced that it will again air every exhibition game this August, including 16 live game telecasts:

NFL NETWORK'S 2017 LIVE PRESEASON SCHEDULE
(All Times Eastern)
Week 1
Wednesday, August 9
7:30 PM – Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers
Thursday, August 10
8:00 PM – Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears
Friday, August 11
7:00 PM – Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants
10:00 PM – San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (joined live in progress)
Saturday, August 12
9:00 PM – Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, August 13
1:30 PM – Detroit Lions vs. Indianapolis Colts
8:00 PM – Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Week 2
Friday, August 18
10:00 PM – Minnesota Vikings vs. Seattle Seahawks
Saturday, August 19
3:00 PM – Carolina Panthers vs. Tennessee Titans
7:00 PM – Indianapolis Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys
10:00 PM – Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, August 20
4:00 PM – Atlanta Falcons vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
8:00 PM – New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Week 3
Thursday, August 24
7:00 PM – Miami Dolphins vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Week 4
Thursday, August 31
7:00 PM – Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Jets 
10:00 PM – Seattle Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fewer People Watching More and More Sports

It looks as though we are getting more proof of the impact that live sports has on television viewing all year round. Moffett Nathanson Research has completed its examination of the 2016-17 TV season. Among the information it shows is that, among the 18 to 49 age group (male and female), that live sports programming had a 37% share of the daily Nielsen ratings audience. The share of the audience viewing live sports has now increased for the fifth consecutive year.

As impressive as it is for the most recent TV season, there is one more element which makes this even more noteworthy. For the first part of the most recent TV "season", live political programming surrounding the November election also accounted for a large percentage of the audience for obvious reasons.

This trend of sports viewing on the rise will most likely continue for the near future. Why?

More and more consumers are cutting the cord and getting rid of cable and satellite, fed up with rising costs and dwindling quality program options. A good percentage of those who continue to pay the high monthly fees do so because of the amount of pro and college games on cable. Thus, if it is the sports fans who continue to be the ones watching, it would figure that the percentage of sports telecasts viewed on a daily basis will rise.

However, we now have ESPN making significant cutbacks on their programming which is not live games, while other regional and national networks continue to bring radio programs over to TV. We also have ESPN ending its long running "Mike & Mike" morning show later this year which has done so well for their radio and TV sides over the years. Another example of not offering the same quality as before.

It remains to be seen (literally) whether or not some sports fans will grow wary of the high cost of sports programming, especially when the non-game hours are not the same quality.


Having the same teams back in the NBA Finals is turning out to be a big positive for ABC after all. Through the first three games (as of press time), the TV ratings are up more than 12% compared with last year's games. That's even more impressive when you realize that Game 2 was not close for most of the second half.


The word "sorry" applies to the story of Red Sox TV analyst Jerry Remy and his comment about Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka having a translator also come out to the mound for a conference during the game. Not because Remy had to apologize for his comments. Remy said he doesn't like that teams have permission from MLB to bring a translator to the mound during game action. This while we have new rules in place by MLB to supposedly speed up the game.

Remy did not say anything negative about Tanaka or his English speaking ability. He gave an opinion. Yet, because a few people posted negatively about it on social media, it turned into a news story resulting in an on-air apology. So now analysts are even more restricted about what they can say. It's bad enough that the networks have no problem putting seemingly hundreds of analysts on their studio segments for the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL coverage, and give four people 20 seconds instead of one analyst getting a full minute to truly analyze a play or a segment of the game.

Now, anytime someone makes a comment that a few people don't like, it becomes a big deal and requires an apology. On the same day, Phillies analyst Mike Schmidt made the comment on the air that Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera's language "barrier" would make it difficult for him to be a team leader. We know about this comment for the same reason. A few people took offense, when the analyst was simply giving an opinion and not making a personal attack or meaning to offend.


BALTIMORE: Best wishes to Fred Manfra, whose health issues caused him to do his final Orioles radio broadcast this past Sunday (6/4). Manfra faces knee surgery (both knees) in the near future after having had both hips replaced in addition to back surgery. He received a well deserved standing ovation from the Orioles fans. Manfra had been in the Orioles booth since 1993, which was back when the Cal Ripken consecutive game streak was back in the 1,800's.

What made him so special as an Orioles broadcaster is that he is from the area and worked there for so many years, which means he understood being an Orioles fan and what the broadcasts mean to them. Personally, I had many conversations about baseball with Manfra when I was a correspondent for Associated Press radio in the late 70's when Manfra handled their afternoon sportscasts. A class act who deserved a lot better from a health standpoint. He will be missed.


LOS ANGELES: It's still another step to remove any connection to San Diego by the Los Angeles Chargers. The team has forced a change of its radio play-by-play voice starting with the coming season, letting go of Josh Lewin. With KFI 640 taking over as the team's new flagship station, the Chargers will have Matt 'Money' Smith call their games. Smith is co-host of sister station KLAC 570's afternoon drive "Petros & Money Show". At least the team is keeping former Charger Nick Hardwick as the analyst.

Lewin, in addition to his N.Y. Mets play-by-play, will continue to have a Los Angeles presence, as he will remain as radio play-by-play voice for UCLA.


SAN FRANCISCO: KGMZ 95.7 The Game is keeping up the struggle to gain a bigger share of the sports radio audience by giving host Greg Papa an expanded deal for his Noon to 3 PM weekday show. Papa will also participate "on a frequent basis" on the station's morning show with Joe Fortenbaugh, Lorenzo Neal, and Dan Dibley. KGMZ lags well behind KNBR 680 in the overall ratings.

The former voice of the Warriors will also continue his current role of hosting the studio portion of Warriors coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area (formerly CSN Bay Area).


NEW YORK: The great start by the Yankees is paying off for YES Network. Through April and May the Yankees telecast ratings are up by more than 50% over last year's (for the same period), while YES prime time telecasts came in at #1 in the New York cable market, their best showing since the 2012 season.

At the same time, the YES Network simulcast of the Michael Kay radio show in the afternoons during April and May came in as their highest rated radio simulcast since Mike & Mad Dog back in 2004. The Kay Show ratings were more than double (for the YES Network portion) of what they were for April and May 2016.


LAS VEGAS: Although the Raiders are scheduled to stay in Oakland through the 2019 season before moving to Vegas, the team has changed radio stations effective with the coming season and staying in place after the move. KDWN 720 and WCYE 102.7 The Coyote will air the broadcasts. This will be the Raiders broadcasts as they currently air on KGMZ San Jose (San Francisco), with the aforementioned Greg Papa staying in his long time play-by-play role and 'coach" Tom Flores as the analyst. KVVU Channel 5 will air the team's available exhibition game telecasts.

By the way, there is an additional Raiders to connection to the Vegas station move. Those who remember David Humm, who was the Raiders backup QB during the Ken Stabler era, will be interested to know that his brother, Tom Humm, is in management for the radio group which now has the local broadcast rights.


DETROIT: WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket is making the effort to stay on top of the market. Starting on Monday (6/12) "The Jamey and Stoney Show" adds WWJ-TV's Heather Park to the show. Park is also known as a host at Comerica Park at Tigers games.

In addition, Kyle Bogenschutz has been added as a co-host of the evening show (on those rare nights without play-by-play) along with Bob Wojnowski. This forms the "Wojo & Bogey Show". Bogenschutz will also take over as host of "Pistons Weekly" which airs on Thursday nights. Bogey has been with the Ticket since 2014.


WASHINGTON D.C.: No surprise that CBS Sports Radio is pulling the plug on WJFK 1580. The station will become the flagship for a broadcast which caters to military veterans and will probably be available online in the near future.


PORTLAND: KXTG 750 / 102.9 The Game has brought in Dino Costa for its afternoon drive show as of this week. Costa has hosted on satellite radio and the Radio Colorado Network in the past.


PENSACOLA: WBSR dropped its ESPN affiliation and ended its sports programming completely after six years. Reports are, as happens in radio, that the staff was not told until the very last day, which was May 31st.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

MLB Telecasts In Virtual Reality Become A Reality

Hard as it may seem to believe, Fox Sports 1 is actually making progress with its MLB telecasts this season. Even putting Alex Rodriguez in the booth as a game analyst has made a difference in viewership, with the recent Yankees vs. Royals (May 18) prime time telecast (his debut in the booth) finishing as FS1's highest rated regular season telecast ever.

Factoring in the Saturday telecasts, FS1 has roughly 17% higher ratings compared with the first two months of the 2016 season, and more than 20% higher than the same point in 2014.

As much as some fans would like to think this is due to Fox finally having a consistent time for its Saturday games (mostly at 4:00 ET), it seems that A-Rod is part of the impact. Especially for Yankees fans. It seems that the prime-time telecast against the Royals on FS1 in the New York market had ratings more than 15% higher than the season average for the Yankees telecasts on YES Network.

And, as we continue to point out, it's not as though FS1 has any rhyme or reason to when it airs a prime-time MLB telecast. Now, if FS1 can come up with a more consistent time to air MLB Whiparound on weeknights, it would have a better chance to build a steady audience, especially with the demise of ESPN Baseball Tonight.


Although the Stanley Cup Finals may not be attractive outside of Pittsburgh and Nashville, NBC got some attention from its Game 1 telecast on Monday (5/29) when it allowed the f-word to air in prime time.

Penguins coach Peter Laviollette was shown giving his pre-game talk to the team, and somehow the word was not bleeped out. It even took until late in the first period for Doc Emrick to acknowledge what had happened and issue an on-air apology.


NBC did get the blessing of the NFL to put Mike Torico on play-by-play for its Thursday Night Football package starting this fall, rather than having Al Michaels doing both their Thursday and Sunday games.


Sorry to learn of the passing of Frank Deford at the age of 78. Deford represented old school sports journalism as well as anybody going back to the 1970's when Sports Illustrated was truly a factor in the sports media. Many fans became aware of his personality when he began appearing on CNN in the 80's, back when CNN covered sports on a regular basis. (Younger fans find it hard to believe that CNN used to do at least two half hour sports shows every day in competition with SportsCenter.)

His distinct sports commentaries also appeared on NPR since the early 80's on "Morning Edition", from which he retired earlier this year.

In addition, DeFord was an Editor for "The National", a daily national all sports newspaper which published for around two years from 1989 to 1991. The National was an awesome sports publication, serving hard core sports fans prior to the internet coming along. It so happens that its last edition was on June 13, 1991, the morning after Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA Championship.


Sports took a back seat for a few minutes on a riveting segment of Mike Francesa's show on Tuesday (5/30) on WFAN. Caller "Mike from Yonkers" got on the air to praise Francesa about helping save his (caller) life last summer. The caller had gone on the air then while suffering from serious injuries from an accident and had thoughts of suicide, crediting Francesa's show for helping to save his life.

To his credit, Francesa took the high road, saying "You don't owe me anything" and letting Mike from Yonkers know that "I'm glad you got through it".


MLB is about to begin participating in an experiment which will be watched closely in more ways than one. Those with the Intel True Virtual Reality app (from the Oculus Store) will be able to watch a live stream each week during June of entire games in virtual reality along with up to the moment player and team statistics and exclusive commentary.

The "Intel True VR Game of the Week" begins on Tuesday June 6th with the Cleveland vs. Colorado game, followed on June 13th by Kansas City at San Francisco. This app will also provide post-game highlights and on-demand replays. No info was available, as of press time, regarding any rights fees.


SEATTLE: KIRO 710 ESPN has confirmed that John Clayton will continue his 10 AM to Noon weekday show on the station despite having been released from his ESPN duties in late April as one of the mass firings. The difference maker is that KIRO is an ESPN affiliate and not a station owned by ESPN.


CHICAGO: Although reaction is somewhat mixed among the fan base, it is great news that Ken Harrelson is finally closer to going away from the White Sox TV booth. Harrelson announced on Wednesday (5/31) that he is cutting back next season to only 20 telecasts (less than one per week) and that 2018 will, finally, be his last one as a broadcaster.

It's not only the constant repeating of expressions which don't make sense or the unreasonable rooting for the home team. It's not only the constant criticism of the umpires and coming up with excuses every time something goes wrong for the White Sox.

Professional broadcasters know to never speculate on an injured player on the field, never to leave the booth during a game broadcast, and to report rather than simply react. Somehow, Harrelson managed to keep his job even after events such as having been called by then Commissioner Bud Selig about staunch criticism of umpires, telling a female reporter on the air, "Thanks honey!", and referring to the actions of this "Japanese pitcher" all in recent years.

And, of course, a professional broadcaster knows to let other members of the broadcast team have their chance to voice an opinion or start a conversation, as well as jump in to tell fans what is actually going on in the game they are trying to watch.

It was so fitting that in each of the last two seasons, Harrelson finished at #32 in a national poll of MLB television announcers. Quite the accomplishment since there are 30 teams.

Congratulations to Jason Benetti, who has been given a multi-year contract to lead the White Sox TV team. He doesn't have to be as good as he is at calling games to be such a welcome addition.