Thursday, March 15, 2018

A True Head Turner

The continuing lack of awareness that Turner Sports has created over the years bit them still again this past Sunday (3/11), this time resulting in low ratings for its first ever telecast of the NCAA Tournament Selection Show.

Some could make the point that Turner Sports was a victim of circumstance. Over the past couple of years CBS, which had aired the Selection Show for the previous 35 years, has come under fire for forcing viewers to wait for up to nearly two hours before revealing all of the pairings around the country. They could say that the lower ratings this year were due to fans simply not wanting to wait that long.

However, this is still another instance of Turner Sports expecting TV viewers to magically know when they have an important telecast for sports fans.

Granted, the ratings for the TNT telecasts of the NBA are relatively solid. This is the one series of telecasts for which Turner Sports is the most consistent. With its NBA package, the network begins with a couple of pre-season telecasts and gets rolling with an opening night doubleheader. Typically, TNT has a second doubleheader within the first four nights of the regular season.

Although they don't always stick to every Thursday night all season, eliminating some Thursdays and replacing them with other nights of the week, in this case the NBA has a clear presence on TNT from pre-season through the Conference finals. (TNT alternates showing either the East or West Conference championship series.)

When it comes to MLB, TBS dropped the ball (so to speak) a couple of years ago when it reduced its Sunday regular season telecasts from every Sunday to only for the second half of the season. In addition, the network has never had a consistent time for its Sunday games to begin. By the time they begin their Sunday telecasts (again this season), fans already have their Sunday viewing pattern of local or regional telecasts during the afternoon and/or Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.

Since TBS does so little, outside of Turner regular programming, to promote their MLB telecasts, their Sunday regular season telecast ratings rarely score well. Our theory is that because of this, the more casual fan doesn't know to check TBS for its post-season telecasts either.

Just as fans don't think TBS for baseball, they don't think Turner Sports for the NCAA Selection Show. Why would they? Keep in mind that Turner Sports did not have so much as a regular season package of college hoops to promote their involvement. The feeling here is that literally millions of fans tuned to CBS this past Sunday and thought they missed the Selection Show. When they didn't find it, chances are they tuned over to ESPN, which shows seemingly thousands of college hoops games all season long, including those involving schools very few even care about.

Due to the contract with the NCAA, the Selection Show returns to CBS next March, and you can bet so will stronger ratings. Since CBS has a regular season contract which builds familiarity, it won't be an issue. A little consistency goes a long way.

A study by Media Post shows that for 2017, the NCAA tournament generated the second most national TV advertising revenue of any sport, second only to the NFL post-season which includes the Super Bowl. What this means is that this Tournament is considered more effective for national advertisers than either the NBA or MLB post-season telecasts - of which Turner Sports is a part.

Over the past five years, college football post season bowl game ratings have climbed 8.8%. ESPN has the majority of these telecasts, coming after televising numerous games every week of the entire season along with webcasts of many other games at the exact same times.

A little awareness goes a long way.

In the case of the upcoming NFL Draft, the awareness is again getting out of hand at ESPN. It is understandable that the network wants to hype its coverage of the Draft next month. Doing all of the speculation and mock drafting is perfectly fine. However, the recent trend of making predictions part of "Breaking News" or even the "Bottom Line" has become even more annoying already this year.

Mel Kiper or another of their experts changing or making a mere prediction about draft scenarios is simply NOT news in any way, shape, or form. ESPN should realize that some fans will watch a game or event they are not interested in so they can follow the scores and updates at the bottom which they are concerned about.

Too much clutter which is not related to actual results and news will send them to other sources to get the information they are seeking. The factual information, not merely a prediction.

ESPN has extended its agreement to carry Sun Belt Conference football for another eight seasons. The network will carry all games controlled by the Conference (home games, etc.) either on its family of networks, streaming, or on its upcoming additional pay tier.

CHICAGO: WSCR 670 The Score announced immediate changes this week to both its afternoon drive and midday shows, bringing back two co-hosts. Dan McNeil, one of the original hosts on the station in 1992, returns to the station as co-host of its afternoon show, with Danny Parkins remaining.

Dan Bernstein moves out of afternoons and into middays where he is now teamed with Connor McKnight, who returns to the station in a much more prominent role than previously. McKnight returns to The Score from WLS 890 within weeks of WLS losing the White Sox broadcasts to WGN 720 as of this season, after hosting the pre and post game shows for the previous two seasons.

As a result of these changes, hosts Jason Goff and Matt Spiegel are out of their weekday gigs, but as of press time are still with the station.

HOUSTON:  While the Rockets are enjoying what could be their best regular season ever, the local carriers and fans are not willing to pay up to enjoy it with them. AT&T SportsNet Southwest, which airs the majority of the telecasts, is still not carried by Dish, Suddenlink, and other providers which refuse to offer the $5 per month channel.

The recent Rockets telecasts on ABC (KTRK 13) have scored high local ratings, including last month's prime time game against Golden State which scored a local 8.1 rating. Their recent Wednesday night game against the L.A. Clippers and aired locally from ESPN scored more than one ratings point higher than the AT&T SportsNet local telecast.

While the regional network's ratings for the Rockets were down roughly 20% from last season as of the All-Star break, the NBA's local cable telecast ratings around the league were up 9% for the season during the same period.

LOS ANGELES: As the Dodgers face a situation like Houston's in which major carriers still have not picked up the Dodgers channel (SportsNet L.A.), there is a bit of relief in store for the early season. Once again the Dodgers want to sell tickets, so they have announced that KTLA Channel 5 will air at least five early regular season games as a simulcast, including an entire three game series against the rival San Francisco Giants.

BIRMINGHAM: WJOX has dropped its "Opening Drive" show, which was hosted by Jay Barker (former Alabama QB), Al Del Greco (former Auburn and NFL kicker) and Tony Kurre.

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