Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sports Media Notes

The radio ratings are coming out this week for January 2017, but with very little significant movement for the sports stations around the country. Of course, the cities with Super Bowl teams benefitted big time, as could be expected.

Both of Boston's sports stations went up in overall audience, with WBZ-FM Sports Hub at #5 overall and WEEI-FM right behind at #6., as the Patriots were headed to the championship.

Even in Atlanta, not exactly a major hub for sports radio over the years, has WZGC-FM The Game increase to #9 overall in the market, rising from 3.6 to a 4.4 for January according to the Nielsen ratings. Even WCNN went up by .3 to a 1.9 rating during the same period.

Sorry to learn of the passing of former Southern California broadcaster Mike Walden due to complications for a recent stoke. Walden is known for having called both USC and UCLA games during his time in the Los Angeles area. He also called some Big Ten games in the mid-60's for WBBM-AM in Chicago.

We also lost Rod Simons, the Minneapolis area sportscaster who is best known for his anchor role with KSTP-TV from 2003 into 2008. Simons died at the age of 56 while in Ft. Myers to cover the Twins in spring training.

NEW YORK: Also sorry to report that Bill Webb, the long time TV director, has confirmed that he will not be returning as lead director for the Mets telecasts on SNY this season. Webb, who has been with SNY and also Fox Sports for years (having worked 17 World Series), continues to battle cancer. He had missed stretches of games over the previous two seasons.

WASHINGTON DC: Redskins games will air, starting next season, once again on WMAL-AM 630 and on WMAL-FM 105.9, returning to the station which has aired the team going back to the 1940's.

However, this is not a shift in the broadcasts, as the games will continue to air on WTEM ESPN 980 as they have been. Outlying stations WWXT 92.7 Prince Frederick and WWXX 94.3 Buckland VA will also continue on the team's network.

PHILADELPHIA: CSN Philadelphia welcomes John Kruk back to the Phillies TV team when they present the first exhibition game telecast this coming Saturday (2/25) against the Yankees. Kruk has a reported 5-year deal and is expected to work between 80 and 90 telecasts this season, including some with Mike Schmidt also in the booth. Ben Davis will work the telecasts which Kruk does not.

KANSAS CITY: KCSP 610 Sports has added Brad Fanning as co-host of its afternoon drive show, "The Drive". Fanning, who earlier reported on sports for KCTV-TV, replaces Danny Parkins, who left for a midday co-host spot on Chicago's WSCR The Score.

LOS ANGELES: Without Vin Scully, the urgency to get Dodgers games seen by the majority of the market has lessened already. Charter Communications has already publicly stated that it "does not anticipate" reaching agreements with other local cable/satellite providers to carry Dodgers baseball, leaving them as the only major provider to do so. This will be, believe it or not, the fourth season without roughly 70% of the local market being able to watch the Dodgers telecasts, whether they want to or not.

CHICAGO: Even though the Bulls could still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference despite being under .500, the fans aren't bothering. Through the first half of this season, the 30 telecasts on CSN Chicago are down roughly 28% in the ratings, compared with last season. And the ratings for last season were down quite a bit as well. The team could be looking at its poorest ratings since the 2007-08 season.

NORFOLK: WVSP ESPN 94.1 has selected Jeff Pantridge to host its afternoon show, with Matt Steinberg and A.J. Risser staying on board as well. Pantridge replaces Nick Cattles, who was hired away by Boston's Sports Hub WBZ-FM a few weeks back.

LEXINGTON: WWTF 1580 has officially disappeared as a sports station after three years of trying, when the station didn't even show up in the latest ratings. WLXG ESPN 1300, which only got a 1.0 rating most recently, continues on.

COLORADO SPRINGS: Along the same lines, KJME-AM has quietly dropped NBC Sports Radio, replacing it with an all Beatles music format. Guess we'll have to Let It Be.

Ft. WAYNE: Fans of the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League will be amazed to know that some of its games will be televised locally. WANE-TV digital channel 15.2 will air select games, with former Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls TV voice Bill Hazen on the call. He will be joined by Jaren Jackson, who played for eight NBA teams during his career. Some of the team's games will continue to air on WKJG 1380.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Big Merger A Big Deal For Radio Rights

What could potentially be the biggest sports media story of the year has just begun with the proposed merger of CBS Radio into Entercom. Although the process figures to take months (or longer if there are legal challenges), the impact could be huge.

Since Boston is the sports radio leader around the country (with both WBZ-FM and WEEI-FM having consistently strong ratings), this is the best example. The Sports Hub (WBZ-FM) is currently a CBS Radio station, while Entercom has WEEI-FM. A merger would result in the same company, even if temporary, owning both stations.

From a business point of view, it would give the new ownership the possibility of combining the two into one "super power" sports station and selling off the other frequency. But there is more.

This merger would result in the same ownership having the radio rights to all of the city's big four teams (Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins) as well as Boston College sports. Conflicts would not be a problem since Entercom would own several major stations in the market, even if it sells off or changes the format of one of the two current sports stations.

Around the country, the merger would result in Entercom holding the radio rights to more than 40 pro sports teams, including the vast majority of the biggest markets.

What could this mean? Keep in mind that Entercom is a traded company with shareholders that consider this an investment. The broadcast rights to more than 40 pro teams (not even counting college football and basketball rights) result in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent.

Or, if Entercom decides to work on its bottom line, it could be hundreds of millions of dollars "saved" for its shareholders. Suppose they let all of their sports contracts go. With even fewer big corporations owning most of the radio stations, the bidding for some of these pro team contracts is not likely to attract the revenue for teams it has been over the past few years.

This deal, if it goes through, could be, as they say, a game changer.

Among all of the statistics about ratings for the Super Bowl, most of which are very impressive in terms of viewership, there is one which is a huge surprise.

Which local market had the biggest audience for the telecast? The answer is NOT Boston or Atlanta, but is another NFL city.

Believe it or not, the local market leader with a 57.9 rating was Pittsburgh. Maybe it's because of their dislike for the Patriots (which knocked the Steelers out to get to the Super Bowl).

Atlanta actually had a higher local rating than Boston and Providence. This is actually understandable due to the likelihood that many viewers gave up on the Pats during the 3rd quarter (and missed some or all of the incredible comeback!). For those still curious, the other NFL markets with the highest local ratings were Buffalo, Milwaukee (Packers home market), Indianapolis, and Minneapolis.

Sports Business Journal produced an update of local market ratings for the 21 U.S. teams in the NHL through the first half of the current season. However, more teams actually showed audience decreases than increases.

From the plus side are the Buffalo Sabres, which had the highest average ratings, staying ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in that department. The Minnesota Wild, battling for most points in the NHL at the moment, showed a 23% increase this season on Fox Sports North to put the team among the top five most watched.

On the minus side are the Colorado Avalanche, down more than 50% so far this season. And, on the interesting side are the Chicago Blackhawks, which remain in the top 5 for local audience ratings for this season. What makes that interesting is their lofty local status coming despite what is actually a 20% decrease compared with last season's ratings.

It's the markets with more than one NHL team that produced a curious trend so far. In the New York City area, the Rangers have respectable ratings. At the same time, the Islanders and the Devils are both in the bottom 6 of the 21 teams. And in the Los Angeles area, while the Kings ratings are respectable, the Ducks telecasts are down 46% this season compared with last season. The Ducks are most definitely in the playoff chase.

We had a sad coincidence in sports media over the past few days. Chicago based sportscaster Mike Adamle, who has been off the air on "medical leave" for almost a year, took to the airwaves on WMAQ-TV earlier this week to reveal that a serious brain disorder will prevent him from returning to any of his on-air roles.

This came just days after WAXY 790 The Ticket (Miami) co-host Amber Wilson announced on the air that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Wilson will remain on the air, also telling her audience that she will share her cancer treatment experience on social media.

ESPN had added another new MLB analyst to start with the coming season. Just days after signing David Ross, the network adds Mark Teixeira to the mix. Both are newly retired and should offer some good insight about current players.

PHILADELPHIA: With its steady diet of play-by-play at night, the 6 to 10 PM shift on WIP-FM doesn't get much play, but the station has made it official that Jon Marks will host when game broadcasts permit. Marks is best known for his co-host stint during afternoons with Mike Missanelli on WPEN The Fanatic 97.5. Marks' contract expired last October with The Fanatic.

His role will expand soon, as he will be a part of Phillies pre-game coverage and also contribute on other weekday shows. He replaces Brian Haddad, who will remain with WIP-FM as Creative Services Director.

DETROIT: The Tigers TV booth will be less crowded again this season, as Mario Impemba will work with one of two analysts on the Fox Sports telecasts. Rod Allen will increase his role for this season, now working approximately 100 telecasts. The remaining 60 (approx.) will be handled by Kirk Gibson. Allen had been the only analyst for years before others, including Jack Morris, were brought in for certain games.

St. LOUIS: WXOS 101 ESPN has added Chris Rongey as an additional co-host for its afternoon show, joining Randy Karraker and Brad Thompson. He was hired after what proved to be a successful one week on-air "audition" a few months back.

Rongey needs to switch sides of a rivalry in a big hurry, as he comes by way of Chicago's WSCR The Score after more than 14 years. Coming to St. Louis to be closer to his family, he will be on the other side of the Cardinals-Cubs and Blackhawks-Blues rivalries.