Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why ESPN Radio Rams Its Way Into L A

Even if these moves become loss leaders, ESPN Radio is making moves to spice up local play-by-play for its own radio stations. In Los Angeles, KSPN 710 has officially become the flagship station for the Rams for the next five seasons.

KSPN has full control over the broadcasts ranging from handling all of the production to selling all of the advertising, and promises an eight hour package of programming surrounding and including each game. As you would expect, there will also be a ton of Rams related programming during the week, which is most likely the reason for KSPN to make this move.

Having significant access to the Rams and the other NFL teams, along with ESPN Radio's NFL related features and programming will become a strength of the station from August through January. The Sunday (or other game day/night) programming is not likely to draw much of an audience.

Many NFL fans in the L.A. area will continue to follow other teams and have little interest in the specifics of the Rams games (unless "their" team plays the Rams during a given week). Many Sunday road games from the Eastern or Central time zones will start at 10 AM local time, which means their morning pre-game programming will start by 8 AM. NFL fans interested enough in the games of the day ahead at 8 AM are more likely to be watching or listening to Fantasy Football information than bother with an extended Rams pre-game show. From an economic standpoint, the station can sell the time to national advertisers based on reaching into the nation's second largest market during an NFL broadcast.

KLAC 570, the market's other full-time sports station, is now 49% owned by the Dodgers, which would not put up with moving their team's games when there are conflicts. KFI 640 and other prominent AM stations would not want to pre-empt weekend and occasional programming and advertiser commitments, along with the additional weekday support programming.

To add to its game coverage, KSPN has signed KSWD 100.3 The Sound, a classic rock station, to air the game broadcasts and to feature the Rams within its morning show. The hunch here is that ESPN Radio sees more opportunities to generate revenue from these broadcasts despite what figures to be a small audience.

Look for them to add a network of stations in markets within the region, such as Palm Springs, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, and others. Doing this will enable them to sell regional ads to the national advertisers to air on multiple stations. The secondary market stations will gladly have what they can promote as "local" NFL football every week instead of or in addition to the NFL national radio broadcasts which air.

In Chicago, WMVP ESPN 1000 is now being crushed by WSCR 670 The Score while having lost the NBA Bulls broadcasts to WLS 890 starting this fall. As a result, WMVP had no major local play-by-play, other than some college basketball games. Their announcement this week was taking on Notre Dame football and basketball broadcasts starting this coming season, along with taking on the coaches shows and various Notre Dame related sports programming.

Although it won't be enough to overcome not having any local MLB, NBA, or NHL team games, it allows ESPN to sell advertising to the big boys, just like having the Rams does in Los Angeles.

While WMVP will, in effect, be an affiliate for the widespread Notre Dame Football Network, it is expected to produce its own separate basketball broadcasts starting in November.

Notre Dame games had been airing on WLS 890 for the past 10 seasons. However, with WLS adding both the White Sox and Bulls flagship station duties this year, it had little to no time for the Notre Dame broadcasts anyway.

ESPN has also made media news this week at the national level. As expected, ABC benefitted from the seven game NBA Finals, peaking with the highest rated Game 7 telecast since NBC had the games in 1998. The viewership was 17% higher than for the most recent Game 7 in 2013 between Miami and San Antonio.

The entire series averaged more than 20 million viewers, which made it the most watched NBA Finals ever shown on ABC, and that's with the first six games all decided by 10 or more points.

On the college side, ESPN has re-upped for Big Ten Football with a new six year deal during which it plays second fiddle to Fox Sports. For the first time, Fox Sports will have first choice on which games it will air on its family of networks, along with Fox showing the Big Ten Championship game every year (rather than alternate seasons).

In the next round of fighting between a provider and a network, now its Dish Network dropping NFL Network this month while both parties blame the other, of course.

Frankly, this one isn't as significant as some are making it out to be. Chances are that the "serious" NFL fan subscribing to satellite TV has DirecTV because of the Sunday Ticket package. Dish is better off passing on the savings to its subscribers and taking the approach that they offer plenty of sports aside from the NFL.

CHICAGO: Best wishes to longtime WSCR 670 co-host Terry Boers who is off the air for up to two months recovering from a surgical procedure. This has also led to increased speculation that Boers will be using the time to determine how he feels about retiring sooner rather than later.

PORTLAND: Whether the Blazers move into contention or not next season, there will be mostly different voices describing them to their fans. Although radio play-by-play voice Brian Wheeler returns, and deservedly so, for his 19th season, he will either have a new analyst working with him or be doing the games solo. After 11 seasons, Antonio Harvey was told he is not being asked back. Looks like Wheeler will fly solo early on, with the possibility of guest analysts for home games at best, on KPOJ 620.

At the same time, TV voice Mike Barrett and analyst Mike Rice have also been let go. In this case, replacements are expected to be h

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Upon Further Review CBS Overturns Its Officials Analyst

Wednesday brought us a couple of interesting media items with regard to the NBA Finals coming to an end very soon. First, we have the wonderful gesture by ESPN to enable TNT's Craig Sager to work his first NBA Finals game ever on Thursday (6/16) night.

ESPN is allowing Sager, who continues his battle against Leukemia, to share sideline reporting duties on the ABC telecast of Game 6, which would be the last game of the entire season if Golden State wins.

And that's the other interesting thing. Late Wednesday (6/15) morning, a couple of news organizations noticed that the NBA-TV schedule, which is available through the Association's official web site, NBA.com, did not show any coverage planned for a possible Game 7.

As of press time, more than eight hours after this was first publicized, the Sunday schedule, which includes scheduled replays of Game 1 through Game 6, still did not indicate any possible pre or post-game coverage for that evening. If Cleveland wins on Thursday, Game 7 would be played on Sunday night. Look for some media members to have some fun with the NBA site if the Warriors win it on Thursday night.

Over at CBS, the word is that its NFL coverage will make a change for its analyst of official's calls and will drop Mike Carey from its broadcast roster. Although Carey was an NFL ref for 24 seasons, his predictions of the upcoming decisions during replay reviews proved to be far less accurate than Mike Pereira has done over the past six seasons for Fox Sports during the games. 

Too soon to tell who CBS would bring in to handle the roll, but we expect a replacement to be named. It's doubtful that CBS would eliminate something they have been doing and let Fox be the only network to have analysis specific to the officials. Have to think that the official announcement from CBS would start with "Upon further review.......".

At NBC, having the cable networks in place was key this past Sunday (6/12). With the horrible tragedy having taken place in Orlando early Sunday morning, NBC News was able to stay on with continuing coverage all day on Sunday and move its scheduled auto racing coverage.

NBCSN carried the Canadian Grand Prix while the Firestone 500 Indy Car race was moved over to CNBC. It turned out that the coverage of these two races did not overlap as originally scheduled, since the Firestone 500 had a lengthy rain and weather delay and aired much later than intended on CNBC.

It was also a tough stretch for NBC after a ratings drop for the just concluded Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pittsburgh clinching the Cup on Monday (6/13) by defeating San Jose had national ratings about 25% less from the Game 6 clincher between Chicago and Tampa last year. The entire Cup finals series was down 23% in the ratings from last year. It didn't help that two of the finals games were shown only on NBCSN instead of NBC, where many casual fans would not know to find the games.

Not having teams from New York, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia in the later rounds also hurt the NBC group. The entire NHL post-season, with every game shown live on one of the NBC networks, was down about 14% in viewership from last season's playoffs.

LOUISVILLE: WKRD 790 is adding a Saturday morning soccer show, as "Soccer City" begins this Saturday (6/18) at 9 AM. The show, hosted by Steve Peake, is produced in conjunction with the city's USL team.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Baseball Boosts Local Radio Ratings Again

Once again, baseball rules the roost when it comes to radio listening. The just released Nielsen ratings for the period from April 21st through May 18th bear this out in many of the larger markets.

As expected, Boston area listeners put Red Sox flagship WEEI-FM at #4 overall in the market, increasing its already strong ratings by 1.2 ratings points over the past three months. They did not take away from rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub, which also showed an audience increase while finishing at #6 in the market. Boston continues to be the strongest sports radio market in the country.

Even with the poor start by the Yankees, WFAN 660 The Fan went up to #9 overall, showing a one-half point increase over the past three months. WEPN ESPN held steady but remains with just over one-third of the audience size which The Fan now holds.

WOR 710 has good news and bad news this time around. Having the Mets broadcasts has increased their night numbers significantly. In fact, their night audience has tripled in size over the past 12 months. However, none of the other times of the day have changed, which indicates that people are currently not interested in the other programming the station has to offer.

Having the Cubs broadcasts for the first time has already given WSCR 670 The Score a huge boost in the Chicago ratings. The station jumped up to #4 overall in the market, its highest ratings ever (in 24 years) and is now #1 at night. The Score was ranked as low as #17 in the market earlier this year, and was actually behind WMVP ESPN 1000 just three months ago. Since February, WMVP has lost more than 20% of its audience even with a strong afternoon drive showing.

San Francisco's KNBR 680 finishing #1 in the market is not a surprise at all, considering it is the flagship for both the Warriors and Giants. Their current 6.8 rating is that station's best ever, and that is without taking from KGMZ-FM The Game.

While The Game held steady from the previous ratings book, it now reaches 25% of the total audience of KNBR, and that's with being the A's flagship station.

In Detroit, even a poor start by the Tigers didn't stop listeners from making WXYT-FM The Ticket as solid #1 in that market. The station has gone up more than two full ratings points within the past three months.

Baltimore's WJZ-FM The Fan rose to #5 overall and is up almost two full ratings points since February as the Orioles flagship station. Over in D.C., WJFK-FM has increased its total audience by more than 33% over the past three months thanks to the hot start by the Nationals, for which it is the flagship station.

WIP-FM Philadelphia, which is now the exclusive radio home of the Phillies as of this season (no longer shared with 1210 AM) increased to #9 overall based on the team's surprisingly good start (which has since ended). Rival WPEN-FM, which came in at #15 overall in the market, is still ahead of WIP-FM during afternoon drive as The Fanatic's Mike Missanelli has an even stronger lead over WIP-FM's Josh Innes. This marks the 7th consecutive ratings period in which Missanelli and his various co-hosts have won the battle against Innes' show.

Seattle's KIRO 710 has benefitted from the Mariners' good start, pulling the station into the top ten in the market with an audience increase of more than 40% since February. In Dallas, the Rangers' hot start propelled KTCK-AM The Ticket (flagship station) into the #10 spot in the market, now leading KRLD-FM by a full ratings point. Yet, with The Ticket rising by .6 over the previous month, KRLD-FM increased by .3 during that same time and KESN-FM held steady.

The impact of the final season of Vin Scully and limited TV is even picking up KLAC 570 in the Los Angeles market. While still mired at a lowly #29 in the market, the station's audience size has more than doubled since February while KSPN 710, the Angels flagship station, is now behind KLAC and remained steady from the previous ratings period.

This Friday (6/10) is a sad day for sports fans everywhere as the funeral will be held for Muhammad Ali. ESPN is among the networks promising extended live coverage.

Although details are not complete (as of press time) we do know that the service will be streamed via Comcast SportsNet Chicago at CSNChicago.com.

Perhaps arrangements are still in the works, but we were unable to find confirmation of other CSN regional networks also airing or streaming the service, which, according to them, begins at approximately 2:00 PM ET on Friday.  (ESPN shows different times for its coverage as of press time.)

LOS ANGELES: Josh Lewin becomes the next play-by-play voice to be booked solid in the fall, along the lines of Kenny Albert and Kevin Harlan. Lewin has been named as the new radio voice of UCLA football and basketball starting this season, replacing Bill Roth who only held the job for one season.

Lewin continues calling the Mets games as well as San Diego (for now) Chargers football. Josh probably thinks that the Chargers will move to L.A. and that very soon both the Charges and UCLA will be local to make his football weekends less complicated.

WASHINGTON D.C.: WTEM 980 won't be the same starting July 1st as Tony Kornheiser is leaving his midday spot at the end of this month. Kornheiser has been with WTEM since its launch back in 1992.

RALEIGH/DURHAM: Sorry to learn that Woody Durham, the former voice of University of North Carolina football and basketball for 40 years, will no longer be on the air or doing any public speaking appearances. It's not because of retirement, however. It was revealed a few days back that Durham was diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder which impacts his speaking abilities.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On The 'Verne' Of College Football Season

Just as Keith Jackson was "the" voice of college football for all those years on ABC-TV, the same can still be said for Verne Lundquist on CBS. At least it can be said only for a few more months, because it is now official that the 2016 season will be Verne's final one calling college football.

Lundquist, whose credentials also included being the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys years ago, will call the prime SEC games for CBS this year, a role he has handled since the 2000 season.

Even with an announcement of this magnitude, CBS didn't waste a moment before revealing that Brad Nessler will replace Lundquist as its SEC football voice beginning with the 2017 season, also being paired with analyst Gary Danielson.

Nessler will be calling a couple of SEC games this year, along with the Sun Bowl and will also continue to call some of the college basketball telecasts. He is, of course, known for extensive play-by-play work from this 24 years with ESPN, which also included some NFL play-by-play.

The good news is that this is nothing more than a schedule reduction for Lundquist, who is expected to continue to call some basketball telecasts along with some of the PGA golf tournaments. 2016 is his 53rd year of calling sports on TV.

It could have been the nicer than usual Memorial Day weather throughout much of the Midwest, but for whatever reason, Monday's (5/30) Indy 500 telecast on ABC was over a full ratings point below the 2015 telecast.

This was certainly not the fault of the people of Indianapolis. As soon as the race was officially announced as the first ever "sellout" of tickets, it meant that the race was shown live in Indianapolis for the first time ever. It's hard to believe that ever since ABC began televising the race live (after years of airing it around the country on tape delay) that it was not shown in Indy previously.

Early results showed a Nielsen audience rating of 33.6 for Indy (which means that more than one-third of TV sets were tuned to the race, including those not even in use. This added somewhere around .2 to the national rating.

The comeback from the Golden State Warriors from a 3-1 series deficit to return to the NBA Finals was major for TNT. Games 6 and 7 of the Warriors' comeback against Oklahoma City showed huge ratings, as one might expect. TNT had already reported a 33% increase in viewership, through the first six games of the series, over its previous Western Conference Finals coverage in 2014.

Looks like ESPN Radio wants to beef up its college football coverage for this season. Or, it wants to see how many of its affiliates around the country want to. For this coming season, ESPN Radio will not limit the Paul Finebaum Show on weekday afternoons to only the markets which cover SEC football.

Finebaum will be available during the 3 - 7 PM ET time period to any ESPN station which wants to air the show, even instead of the regular network programming during that time period.

ATLANTA: This week brings an area sports radio "network" to Macon and Warner Robins as 93.1 in Macon and 99.5 in Warner Robins will simulcast local shows in addition to being "Middle Georgia ESPN".

The Bill Shanks Show will air from 3 to 6 PM on weekdays along with a 2-hour midday show, while the remainder, at least for now, will be ESPN Radio programming.

SCHENECTADY: WOFX Fox Sports 980 has added a local show for its 3 to 6 PM slot as a move to compete with the local programming on WTMM 104.5 The Team. The Tred Show began on Tuesday (5/31), as hosted by Tred Hulse, who is more known in the market for being a music host., and now competes against Levack and Wolf.

Fox Sports 980 had been airing Jay Mohr Sports during the afternoon. However, rather than dumping Mohr all together, the station now airs Mohr on delay from 6 to 9 PM, replacing Steve Gorman Sports". Sure, the audience wants a show on delay while the evening's games are taking place.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Opposing Team Exec Interrupts Telecast

This may be well be the first time that a team executive has interrupted another team's broadcast, but AZ Diamondbacks executive Tony LaRussa did just that on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. The Pirates and Diamondbacks were continuing their series which has included players being hit by pitches and taking some "very" inside as well.

On the Pirates telecast on ROOT Sports on Tuesday (5/24) night, they aired a series of "highlights" which showed the times that both teams appeared to be throwing pitches at each other. Play-by-play voice Greg Brown said on the air that LaRussa "has a history of retaliation", even though LaRussa is not the current manager of the Diamondbacks, but is in attendance for this road series.

Then, on Wednesday (5/25) night, LaRussa went as far as to enter the Pirates' TV booth to confront Brown about his comments, literally keeping Brown off the air during part of an inning.

On Thursday (5/26), Brown spent the majority of the 4th inning of the telecast (which, significantly, also aired nationally on MLB Network) talking about what happened. Brown explained how LaRussa kept him from his broadcast responsibilities while taking issue with his (Brown's) on air comments.

To his credit, Brown said that he did not intend to create anything controversial, and added that he "stands behind" his remarks.

While LaRussa has every right to defend direct criticism, even after all of these years he does not have the right to a direct confrontation in an attempt to provoke the other party. This is far from his first time doing this, or trying to do this, to a member of the media.

When he was managing the White Sox, TV analyst Jimmie Piersall, the former controversial partner with Harry Caray, was often critical of LaRussa's managing during his studio analysis during and after certain games. One night in late July 1982, LaRussa and (then) 3rd base coach Jim Leyland both went to the TV studio (in downtown Chicago - not at the ballpark) to confront Piersall following the broadcast about his remarks. Accounts of the incident varied as to whether or not there was any physical contact.

Years later, when LaRussa was managing the A's, there was a game in Chicago during which A's catcher Terry Steinbach was injured from being hit by a pitch followed by what appeared to be some retaliation pitches.

Following that game, Associated Press reporter Bob Glass was the victim of a verbal outburst by LaRussa after asking questions about the incident. This incident was recorded on audio tape.
This makes a total of three such instances of LaRussa provoking a member of the media doing his job - that we know of.

Whether you agree with him or not, good job by Greg Brown of standing his ground against LaRussa's own "pitch" of retaliation.

This coming Sunday's Indy 500 will make history. But not because of anything that may happen within the race itself. For the first time ever, the Speedway has announced a "sellout" of all tickets, with this being the 100th running of the race.

As a result, the race will be shown live in the Indianapolis market for the first time ever. It has been shown on delay previously.

The coincidence of the NHL not having any of its Canadian teams go as far as round two of the playoffs and the NBA Toronto Raptors advancing to round three has had quite the ratings impact. Never thought we would see the day when NBA television ratings are higher in Canada than Stanley Cup Playoff telecasts, but it happened twice last weekend when the Raptors were playing at the same time.

In fact, the Monday (5/24) telecast of the Raptors Game 4 vs. Cleveland set an all-time basketball viewership record for TSN's national (Canada) telecast.

HOUSTON: KILT 610 starts a new morning show on Tuesday (5/31). Actually, they are moving the successful midday show with Mike Meltser and Seth Payne into the morning spot.

John Lopez and Marc Vandermeer will move into the midday slot, and will be jointed by former Texas A&M and NFL receiver and return man Dante Hall.

BUFFALO: It's a good thing when a team official knows to publicly clarify a comment made which didn't come out as intended. Such was the case for Bills GM Doug Whaley. While appearing on WGR Radio on Tuesday morning, Whaley, when talking about concerns over serious injuries, made a comment to the effect of "humans are supposed to play".

Realizing later that the comment did not come out as he intended, he issued an apology. However, it wasn't by calling back to or going on WGR again to do so. Instead, the apology was issued by way of the Bills' team Twitter account.

From here, he should issue an apology to WGR and its audience by not directly apologizing to them. Social media has its place, but it should not be a place to hide behind.

CHICAGO: A bizarre set of circumstances made for a rough stretch on Monday (5/24) night for Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The regional sports network had the entire White Sox vs. Indians doubleheader on its main channel as well as the Cubs vs. Cardinals on its "Plus" channel.

For nearly an hour, only Comcast Cable subscribers were unable to receive the feed of either game. Ironically, it meant that DirecTV and other carrier subscribers were able to see the Comcast SportsNet feeds as usual, while Comcast's own subscribers could not.

ALLENTOWN: It's another of those "only in radio" stories for WSAN 1470. The station has dropped Fox Sports Radio as well as English language regular programming. At least most of it. As of this week, WSAN now airs ESPN Deportes, the Spanish sports network.

However, the station intends to continue airing Phillies baseball and Eagles football - in English.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dallas Viewers Not Reaching For The Stars

Local TV ratings are not often a source of market research, but in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, recent sports telecast ratings do not bode well for the NHL and the Dallas Stars these days. While the team draws well, it looks as though the majority of the fan base attends the games.

During the first round of the NBA and NHL playoffs last month, we noticed that the NBA Mavericks showed a much larger local viewing audience than the Stars, even though the Mavs were given little chance to advance, which they did not. Although the Stars did not advance, they were favored to defeat the St. Louis Blues in that opening round series.

Forward ahead to this week. On Monday (5/16), the local ratings for Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals between Golden State and Oklahoma City was 2.5 ratings points above the (local team) Rangers vs. Oakland A's baseball telecast, which is also a nice reflection of the market's interest in the NBA. At the same time, the NBCSN telecast of the NHL East Finals between Pittsburgh and Tampa drew only a .4.

Then on Wednesday (5/18), the Dallas / Ft. Worth ratings for Game 2 of the Golden State vs. Oklahoma City series drew a rating which was THREE and one-half rating points higher than the Rangers vs. Oakland game, and five full ratings points behind the NHL telecast.

On a national level, the Friday (5/13) telecast of Game 1 of the Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay series finished as NBCSN's most viewed Conference Final opening game in the network's history, and that's without any help from the large Dallas market.

Another week and another loss of talent from ESPN. Longtime college football analyst Chris Spielman has jumped over to Fox Sports, starting with the coming season. Spielman didn't stick around long enough to find out who he would have been paired with on the primary telecasts this coming season, since Sean McDonough will be moving up to Monday Night Football.

The strides made over the past couple of years by league originated channels MLB Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network are being noticed by the PGA. Sports Business Daily reports that PGA officials are exploring the possibility of forming their own network, which could result in using their opt-out of their CBS and NBC deals in 2018.

Although the PGA contract with The Golf Channel is locked until 2021, The Golf Channel does not air much of the late in the day third and final round coverage of the most important tournaments.

NEW YORK: While it's understandable that Howie Rose would want to decrease his play-by-play schedule after 30 years, it's a sad day for Islanders fans. Rose, who has called the Islanders games since 1995, announced that he is leaving their broadcast booth in order to ease back on what has been a constant year round schedule. Howie will continue to call the Mets games on WFAN 660, as he has done since the mid-80's.

MIAMI: Hard to believe it had been seven seasons since the Dolphins broadcasts aired on WQAM 560, but the Dolphins are returning to the station as part of a new long term deal which will also include the game broadcasts being simulcast on WKIS Kiss Country 99.9.

WQAM will air expanded pre and postgame shows, along with new head coach Adam Gase's Monday (or day after) press conferences and a "Dolphins Friday" extended interview show.

This ends what had been a six season run on WBGG 105.9.

FARGO: Jeff Culhane has been chosen as the new radio play-by-play voice of the North Dakota State University (defending national champion) football team starting with the upcoming season. In addition, Culhane was named as Sports Director for KQWB Bison 1660.

TULLAHOMA TN: WHMT 740 has just dropped its sports format and has joined its sister FM station in airing country music. The station, serving much of the area between Nashville and Chattanooga, plans to continue to air local high school football play-by-play.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Baseball Rules Radio Ratings

This year is no exception when it comes to the baseball impact on the radio ratings in many of the 'major league' markets, already showing in the latest Nielsen reports covering late March through April 20th.

Days after WEEI-FM extended its Red Sox contract, the station added another half point to its rating (over the previous month) and finished #5 overall in Boston. Just behind at #6 is rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub, which showed a slight audience increase itself.

San Francisco's KNBR 680, helped by being the Giants' flagship station, rose more than a full ratings point and finished #1 overall in the market. This while the A's flagship KGMZ The Game held steady and again did not make the market's top 20 ratings.

In Chicago, the first three weeks of being the Cubs radio flagship helped WSCR The Score 670 to jump .7 of a ratings point in one month and finish in the top ten overall (#10). This showing put some distance between The Score and WMVP ESPN 1000, which lost .6 of a ratings point over the same month.

WFAN The Fan 660, a sister station to WSCR Chicago, also went up to #10 overall in the NYC market as the Yankees flagship, despite the team's relatively poor start. The "baseball difference" in New York is even more evident when you realize that WOR-AM, a news/talk station which remains as the Mets flagship station, already showed a .4 ratings increase from the previous month, and is now nearly one full ratings point ahead of WESPN ESPN Radio.

An improving Tigers team helped WXYT-FM The Ticket rise back to #1 overall (from #7 earlier this year) in the Detroit market. This, in turn, hurt WMGC 105.1, the sports station which dipped again in the overall ratings despite an improved season from the Pistons (for which they are the flagship).

WMGC has already released Dave Shore from his Program Director duties as well as from his co-host role in afternoon drive. Co-host Lindsey Hunter (the former Piston) will remain on the show, with Rob Pascoe and Jake Chapman of the station sharing the co-host role until or unless a replacement is named.

Dallas' KTCK-AM The Ticket has put some breathing room into what has been a close race among the three sports stations, finishing #13 overall up to a 2.9 rating. KRLD-FM increased its audience by 10% over the previous month's ratings, and is now a full ratings point head of KESN-FM ESPN.

Even with the horrendous start by the Twins this season, alternative music station KTWN-FM actually gained .6 of a ratings point from March, finishing at #18 overall. That's slightly ahead of all sports KSTP-AM, although both trail KXFN-FM The Fan which came in an impressive #8 overall in the Minneapolis - St. Paul market.

As always with a new baseball season, WLW Cincinnati kicked butt with the Reds broadcasts back, while KMOX St. Louis went from 5th overall to #2 overall from March to April. Neither station is all sports.

Baltimore's WJZ-FM 105.7 The Fan, the Orioles flagship, rose 1.6 rating points in one month and shows its best numbers since June 2015. Seattle's KIRO ESPN 710 went up .6 from March as the Mariners station, Tampa's WDAE Sports Animal went up .8 with the new season of Rays broadcasts. Washington D.C.'s WJFK-FM 106.7 The Fan also went up .6 as the Nationals got off to one of the best season starts in franchise history.

Even Los Angeles radio listeners showed an interest in the baseball season. KLAC 570, the Dodgers flagship, literally doubled its ratings from the previous month. However, the station still has onlyh a 1.0 rating and is not near the market's top 25 stations. KSPN 710 and KLAA 830, which share the Angels broadcasts, remain below a 1 rating.

Elsewhere, ESPN continues to battle to protect its empire. ESPN and Verizon announced a settlement from a lawsuit filed to attempt to prevent Verizon from allowing its customers to choose whether or not to receive certain channels and groups. Verizon, had, understandably, created a price point for its customers which did not include the expensive monthly ESPN package.

For those who asked, Saturday May 21st is the day that will have Dick Enberg guest announcing on the Detroit Tigers telecast of its home game against Tampa. Enberg continues in his final season of play-by-play calling the Padres games for San Diego TV, but is fulfilling his dream of calling a game from Detroit. However, the Fox Sports Detroit telecast will not be carried on FS1 (which has another game scheduled for 4:10 ET that afternoon), nor on Fox Sports, which begins its prime time Saturday series with regional telecasts that evening.

DALLAS: The successful season for the Stars has not had the desired impact on the TV ratings during the team's playoff run. You may recall that we recently pointed out how the Mavericks (already eliminated) NBA playoff run was drawing higher ratings than the Stars telecasts, even though the Stars advanced. Now it seems that, though the first five games of the seven game series against the St. Louis Blues, had literally more than five times the ratings points for the telecasts in St. Louis than for the same games being shown in Dallas.

CHICAGO: The month of April, understandably, brought huge ratings success to Comcast SportsNet Chicago, making it the highest rated Chicago area station or network among male viewers (age 18 to 54), even including over-the-air broadcast TV. Having its highest rated Blackhawks telecast ever (Game 7 vs. St. Louis), combined with the excellent starts of both the White Sox and Cubs, went on to generate more than 5,500,000 households tuning in.

SAN FRANCISCO: CSN Bay Area also had reason to boast, as this past weekend's Giants telecasts, in which they swept Colorado in a series, had that regional network ranked as the #1 viewed show during the time period of each of the games.