Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Big Markets But Smaller Audience For Series

No surprise here that the early ratings info from this year's World Series are not all that strong. MLB can blame it on a variety of factors, but there really is only one explanation. Somehow MLB continues to keep the Wild Card games, Division Series, and the Championship Series in each league mostly off of over the air channels.

It's getting worse. This post-season we had a total of ONE telecast over the air on Fox.
Sure, the NBA and NHL have their post-season games only on cable. But there is one important difference. Their fans know where to find those games.

With the NBA, ESPN/ABC combine to carry telecasts every week, with ESPN producing several doubleheaders on weeknights and ABC airing Saturday games in prime time during the second half of the regular season.

TNT produces doubleheaders at least once per week throughout the season. Those same two networks share the post-season telecasts, and fans are used to finding the games on one or the other.

For the NHL, NBC and NBCSN show a good amount of regular season telecasts each week during the season. Again, the fans know where to find the games and are familiar with the contending teams.

Not the case with MLB. Over the past couple of years, TBS reduced its regular season presence in half, now showing Sunday games starting after the All-Star break and doing so without the benefit of a consistent starting time.

Fox Sports shows MLB in prime time for a few Saturdays before the All-Star break, and then waits to resume until September, when their telecasts go up against numerous college football games. Fox Sports 1 shows at least one live game each Saturday, but still doesn't generate a large enough audience from its other programming to bring an audience.

While ESPN has a steady flow of games on Sunday nights, along with most Mondays and Wednesdays, the network chose to cut back on its MLB coverage this season, drastically reducing Baseball Tonight from every night to no more than once per week during most of the season.

Along comes the post-season, with its varied starting times and networks the fans are not used to covering almost all of the games. By the time we get to the World Series, many casual fans are not familiar with the teams and what has been taking place. It's nuts that Fox Sports expects an enthusiastic audience when elimination games between the Astros and Yankees were limited to Fox Sports 1. They won't even allow games to air on the local Fox stations in the participating markets.

Out of sight, out of mind. MLB has a World Series with two teams which won 100 games in the same season, representing two of the larger markets. Hopefully they'll make the fans winners when it comes to the next round of negotiations.

The baseball announcer named to the Baseball Hall of Fame next year will very likely be a long-time and well known national voice of baseball. Five of the seven finalists, named this week, for The Ford Frick Award which goes to one broadcaster each season, are known for their work around the country.

Bob Costas, now calling games for MLB Network, and Joe Buck of Fox Sports lead the list of nominations. Also on the list is NBC's Al Michaels. Some of the younger fans probably don't realize that Michaels rose to national fame as a baseball broadcaster in the 70's. After leaving the Cincinnati Reds radio booth, he joined ABC and called many of their Monday Night Baseball telecasts as well as post-season games.

Of course, Michaels is more widely known for his excellent work in prime time for the NFL, as well as for his 1980 Olympics hockey call for ABC.

The other two nominees who called games at the national level are Joe Morgan and Pee Wee Reese. In addition, Buddy Blattner, who called Royals games for many of the early years in franchise history after coming over from the Chicago White Sox, and Dizzy Dean, the former pitcher who was known for his broadcast personality from his years on the Cardinals broadcasts, are on the list.

The vote winner will be announced on Dec. 13th. Look for either Costas or Buck to get the nod.

Speaking of calling games for many years, a salute is in order for Joel Utley, who broadcasts Kentucky Wesleyan basketball. Not enough people are aware that Utley is returning in a couple of weeks to begin his 57th season of calling their games. His first broadcast was on Dec. 2, 1961, and he has called an estimated 1,600 games since then. Incredibly, Wesleyan has had winning seasons (including a string of six consecutive Division II national championships) during 50 of those 56 years.

Also making this a huge accomplishment is the fact that a small school doesn't have a big budget, and Utley has worked the vast majority of the games alone.

A pair of unrelated questionable moments from ESPN within the past couple of days.

On Monday (10/23) ESPN2 aired one episode of "Barstool Van Talk" and then canceled it before so much as a second episode could air on Tuesday. The belief is that this was due to social media exchanges between ESPN staffers and the staff of the blog associated with this show.

The feeling here is that this was a calculated move by ESPN to attempt to destroy the image of this show. The casual fan will take on the point of view that the show "didn't make it" and isn't worthwhile and keep watching the line of similar concept shows already on ESPN and ESPN2.

As a result, ESPN has been able to destroy potential competition, while Barstool will have a tough time gaining this level of popularity in the future.

On Tuesday, ESPN Stats & Info put out on its Twitter feed (hours prior to Game 1 of the World Series) that "Dodgers 7-1 this post season. 1998 Yankees only team in wild card era to win World Series with 2 losses or fewer."

The fact that there was no guarantee that the Dodgers would win the upcoming World Series, or if they did that it would happen with only one loss was not the problem with this post.

They forgot to do their fact checking, since the White Sox went 11-1 in the 2005 post-season on their way to the World Series win that season. Furthermore, their first win of that post season, the ALDS opener against Boston, was televised on ESPN.

Indeed, an interesting start to this week over at ESPN.

NEW YORK: Former WNBC-TV and NBC Network sportscaster Len Berman is temporarily the solo morning host on news/talk WOR 710 as of this past Friday (10/20). This was the result of WOR releasing morning co-host Todd Schnitt last week. Look for a new co-host to be added by Thanksgiving, and for Berman to remain on the morning show.

ATLANTA: Bob Whitfield, who played for 15 seasons in the NFL, is no longer a co-host of the "Regular Guys" sports talk show on WFOM 1230 The Fan 2. The interesting part is that Whitfield is very much still with the group of stations. Management says that Whitfield will become a bigger part of a different show, possibly on sister station WCNN 680/93.7. In addition, word is that the other sister station, WIFN 1340/106.3 could also add some local sports programming within the next six months.

COLUMBIA MO: University of Missouri basketball broadcasts, which begin in a couple weeks, will have a new analyst as a result of a University decision. Long time analyst Gary Link has been removed from the broadcast team and had his role in the school's Athletics Department reduced simultaneously. Reportedly, Link had become critical of others in the Athletic Department.

Obviously, no reason was officially given for this change. And no replacement analyst named as of press time.

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