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.

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