Sunday, July 30, 2017

Local Baseball TV Ratings Struggle

The hot streaks of a couple of baseball teams and how their fans react will provide us with an indication as to which direction baseball ratings on TV are heading.

As the rules supposedly put in to speed up baseball games have backfired, increasing the average game time by more than eight minutes this season, Sports Business Journal reports that 18 MLB teams showed TV ratings declines through the first half of the 2017 regular season. (This is out of 29 U.S. based teams, not counting the Toronto Blue Jays.) Last season, 15 of the teams showed ratings increases from the year before.

As it so happens, two of the teams which showed the biggest ratings decline for the first half were the Royals (down roughly 37%)  and Cubs (down roughly 17%). Those teams have come out of the All-Star break as two of the three hottest teams since. To that point, Comcast SportsNet Chicago reported its highest rated Cubs telecasts of the season during this hot stretch.

Even with the Red Sox in first place (at the All-Star break, when the research was completed), their NESN ratings were down roughly 19% from last season.

We also had lower ratings for the actual All-Star Game while even the Home Run Derby showed an increase. Although the Yankees telecast ratings showed the biggest increase and the Indians ratings are up roughly 29% following their World Series appearance, it will be interesting to see if the combined ratings rise during the second half.

Although ESPN Sunday Night Baseball ratings are up for this season, we still have TBS having just started its Sunday afternoon telecasts but at inconsistent times and Fox Sports not regularly showing Saturday games while hiding them on FS1 instead.

ESPN and ABC have firmed up their studio roles for the upcoming college football season. ABC has named Kevin Negandhi to its host role replacing interim host Stan Verrett (who was a last minute fill in last season following the passing of John Saunders). Booger McFarland and Mack Brown will be the studio analysts.

ESPN brings back Adnan Virk as host for its Thursday, Friday, and Saturday telecasts along with Joey Galloway as one of its analysts. The other analyst will be Jesse Palmer, who comes to the studio role after working SEC Network games for the past three seasons as well as some Thursday games for ESPN.  ESPN2 will have Chris Cotter as its primary host, with Chip Kelly and Jon Vilma as analysts.

The Ivy League has managed to increase its football presence on the NBC "family" of networks for this season, with five telecasts on NBCSN and, mysteriously, its traditional Harvard vs. Yale telecast on Nov. 18 bumped to CNBC. The Comcast SportsNet group will also air at least three games, while NESN is scheduled to air four league telecasts. The November 10th game between Dartmouth and Brown, to be played at Fenway Park in Boston, will be among the NBCSN telecasts.

CHICAGO: White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson brought us still another embarrassing incident this past week. During the July 25th telecast of the White Sox vs. Cubs games, he went on a rant on the air because of Cubs pitcher John Lackey hitting four White Sox batters during the game. After the broadcast (although not on the air), Harrelson told reporters and was quoted in news stories that he feels that Lackey is "full of sh@#" for claiming it was an accident.

Although this quote was off the air, there have been a share of broadcasters who have been fired for inappropriate comments in interviews or on social media. In recent years, Harrelson was called by then Commissioner Bud Selig about another of his rants against specific umpires, and somehow got away with saying "Thanks honey" to female reporter Sarah Kustok a few years back live on the air when she finished a report.

Somehow, he keeps his job every time, although, thankfully, he cuts back to 20 telecasts next season before we are rid of him as a broadcaster.

DENVER: KDSP 760 goes all in on the upcoming Broncos season, going 24 hours with Broncos coverage and rebranding as "Orange & Blue 760". While there have not been any specifics on revenue being involved, indications are that the Broncos are involved with providing some of the content and assisting with coverage of the team.

If the Broncos get off to a great start and have a solid season, as is expected, this idea could work. If the Broncos are losing, it will be interesting to see what happens in the ratings. If the team has reasonable control over the content, fans will catch on and not want to bother if there is little to no criticism.

HOUSTON: It appears that Charlie Pallilo will return to sports talk mid-August. The Houston Chronicle reported that Pallilo will join the lower rated KGOW to host middays, along with appearing on KFNC-FM. Pallilo was a victim of circumstance last fall, losing his KBME afternoon show when that station brought in Josh Innes from Philadelphia. Innes has since been moved up to mornings.

KANSAS CITY: The Kansas Jayhawks will finally have priority for their football and basketball broadcasts starting this season, moving over to WHB 810. The school gets away from conflicts caused when previously on KCSP 610, which continues to air the Royals games that have, understandably, had top priority. WHB will also air some baseball, soccer, and women's basketball games along with all coaches shows.  However, the station has, as a result of this, dropped Kansas State University broadcasts after 18 years.

MIAMI: WQAM 560 has named Chris Wittyngham as pre-game host for its Dolphins game day programming, being paired with former Dolphin Channing Crowder. Wittyngham also calls soccer games for BeIN Sports.

TUCSON: KZTR 1450 has switched from a talk format to Fox Sports Radio, which results in Dan Patrick's radio show coming over from KCUB 1290. No word on any immediate local programming on KZTR or a midday replacement for Patrick on KTZN.

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