Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reds Reporter "Catches On" With His Story

Kudos to C. Trent Rosecrans, the beat writer covering the Reds for the Cincinnati Enquirer. It was his report, and an accurate one at that, about Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco not being available to the Reds during their Sunday game against the Cardinals, which opened up a media controversy.

As you probably know, Reds Manager Bryan Price had a tantrum about Rosecrans' story by way of a more than five minute tirade laced with profanity. Rosecrans, and rightfully so, pointed out in his follow up column for the newspaper that not even Price questioned the accuracy of his story. That is the most important element of all of this.

Price, for some bizarre reason, feels that the media "covering" the Reds should not be doing anything which could impact the Reds in any way. Those fans who don't seem to mind when pro sports teams produce their "own" content for TV and radio shows should take notice of how many pro teams would prefer to handle "news" about their teams. The fans are paying enough money in ticket prices and for telecasts of the games to know the truth, and nothing but the truth.

I could see Price throwing a tantrum if the story was not accurate, but most definitely not for reporting the news. For all of the rumors and speculation which too many of today's media members confuse with "news", the last thing sports fans need is for a reporter to be chastised for simply reporting a news story accurately. The Reds were swept by the Cardinals in the weekend series. At least Price didn't get mad at every publication, TV and radio station, and web site which reported about all of the losses he managed.

Although Rosecrans was simply "doing his job" by being the first to report this information, it is what followed which should earn him kudos. His follow up column tells of how he turned down numerous interview requests, including CNN and ESPN, with the reason being a very simple "not wanting to be part of the story". This is how it should be, but not every "reporter" these days would have taken that perfect approach and gone for the air time and the glory.

ESPN, CNN, and other media were so very wrong in approaching Rosecrans for an interview. This is part of the problem with many of today's journalists. They wait until a "story" comes to them and then aim for the easy and sensational reaction. Instead of looking to make Rosecrans part of the "story", their producers and reporters should have been following up on the injury to Devin Mesoraco of the Reds. ESPN pays millions of dollars to televise and cover MLB, but a local reporter scooped them on a story.

Fans have the advantage of various forms of technology to receive their sports information. The "reporting" media needs to go back to actually reporting on stories and not be focused on someone who actually reported on one.

Speaking of the Reds, their all-time great Pete Rose has been hired by Fox Sports to be a studio analyst for Fox and Fox Sports 1 baseball telecasts, as well as appear on some of the rarely watched FS1 baseball coverage. It will be interesting to see if this association has any impact on Commissioner Manfred's possible decision to reinstate Rose to MLB in some form within the near future. Like him or not, Rose is extremely knowledgeable about today's players as well as the history of the game, and figures to add some pertinent commentary. Not sure even his presence will be enough to draw an audience to FS1.

As we continue with the first round of the NBA Playoffs, chances are the televising networks are rooting hard for LeBron James and the Cavaliers to keep advancing. The Cavs were involved in five of the six highest rated regular season telecasts on ESPN during the regular season. The first game between Cleveland and Boston on Sunday (4/19) on ABC was the third highest overnight rating ever for a Round 1 Game 1 matchup.

In the Cleveland area, the Cavs finished with the second highest local telecast ratings for the regular season (behind perennial winner San Antonio) with an impressive 137% ratings increase over the previous regular season (without LeBron).

While ESPN and NFL Network are putting the final touches on their in depth NFL Draft coverage for next week, Fox Sports is also planning its "NFL Draftcast" from Chicago. The network plans to simulcast its coverage online and on Fox Sports Radio Network, in what seems like another well kept secret.

NEW YORK: Rangers fever is strong even during the first round. MSG Network's Rangers vs. Penguins Game 2 telecast (on 4/16) finished as the highest rated first round telecast of the 25 years for which Nielsen ratings has been tracking this.

KANSAS CITY: The hot start by the Royals, combined with the intense series vs. Oakland this past weekend has been welcome news for Fox Sports Kansas City. FSKC's Sunday (4/19) telecast of that series' final game is now the highest rated telecast of any event in network history. The previous high was the 2008 Kansas vs. Missouri football game.

CLEVELAND: Word is that Chris Rose will become the new voice of Browns pre-season football on WEWS-TV Channel 5 in August. He would be working with Solomon Wilcots as his analyst.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Varied Verdict Coverage

To put it mildly, it was interesting to see how some of the key sports media outlets handled the announcement of the verdict in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial on Wednesday (4/15).

We start with ESPN, which led the way and went live with coverage, and did a thorough job. However, the ESPN.com part of things did not go so well. Their "flash" release of the verdict had a headline of "Aaron Hernandez Found Guilty......". Yet, the very first paragraph of content under that headline, for the first few minutes it was online, said "found not guilty in the murder of......".

You read that right. Their headline and first sentence of the story contradicted each other as the story was breaking. This from a news organization which has been quick to suspend employees over social media (and not on the air) comments in the past.

On the air, ESPN, along with CNN, stayed with the story following the guilty verdict for live reaction, with ESPN continuing its coverage (along with other sports news) during the hours which followed.

A different story, however, over at NFL Network, where they joined the coverage just prior to the verdict announcement, and then seemingly hurried back to regular programming, which was their scheduled pre-recorded fare. This raises an interesting question as to how an official league network should handle what is really a negative situation.

If NFL Network had stayed with the coverage and attempted to minimize the public relations impact on the League, there would have been criticism, just as there is for running away from extended live coverage as if they are not facing it head on.

From my point of view, the NFL Network blew it. Providing their own reaction coverage could have been a form of damage control. This is not to say that a guilty verdict on murder charges is minimal, but avoiding it was not the right call.

NFL Network had time to prepare for the verdict announcement and should have been ready to react. They could have had at least one Patriots official ready to comment about how upsetting this is, while reminding fans and viewers that Hernandez had no longer been a part of the team. They could have taken some reaction from fans of the Patriots and around the league. If the reaction was supportive of the team and the league, it would have reflected. If it was negative reaction, it would show the fans that NFL Network is not above criticism, while letting league officials know that they would need to do some crisis management as soon as possible.

Instead, fans who heard the news and wanted to see some reaction and turned to NFL Network had no choice but to tune over to ESPN, CNN, or in some instances to one of the regional sports networks where they could see immediate reaction and analysis of the verdict. Keep in mind that in two weeks the NFL Network will be directly competing with ESPN for viewers during the NFL Draft. Although fans would not put a murder verdict in the same category as draft news, the point is that other networks outshined in coverage of a league related story.

Of course, the verdict was bigger news in New England because of Hernandez having played for the Patriots. While both sports radio stations were among those on top of the developments, it was a split decision for the regional TV sports networks. Comcast SportsNet New England interrupted their programming to provide live coverage and reaction. However, NESN did not, continuing to air paid infomercials during the time its biggest competitor was airing the live reaction.

The radio station ratings for the March ratings period are coming out this week, with the general trend of major market sports stations being that they are at lower listener levels for March than they were for January. As always, the Boston sports station race bears a closer look. From January through the March ratings period, WBZ-FM Sports Hub has dropped in overall audience from a 5.5 to a 4.7.

As happens in most other markets, an audience dip of the leading sports station is not as a result of the "lower" rated station taking away listeners. Rival WEEI-FM, during the very same time frame, dropped from a 5.0 to their current 4.1.

These drops are not a disaster for either station, as those totals continue to put both sports stations in the nine highest rated stations in the Boston area, still by far the strongest showing for a combination of two sports radio stations.

It remains to be seen whether the next ratings period will show an impact from WEEI morning co-host John Dennis being off the air for what could be six weeks. Dennis has voluntarily checked himself into a local rehab facility. The "Dennis & Callahan Show" continues with co-host Gerry Callahan and Kirk Minihane during his absence.

On one hand, the NBA may not care when games air via their big spending TV partners, but on the other hand they should. Granted, the final round of the Masters was this past Sunday (4/12) and ESPN aired early round coverage, but that should not be a reason to concede viewers to CBS.
ESPN/ABC should be promoting its upcoming extensive NBA playoff coverage which begins this coming weekend with more than the usual number of appealing first round series. Yet, neither ESPN or ABC aired any NBA games during the usual Sunday afternoon window. That window included the 1 PM ET "first game" possibility, which would likely have ended during the first hour of CBS-TV's final round of the Masters coverage. There were four afternoon games on the NBA schedule on Sunday, and three of those had playoff implications.

This means that fans checking ESPN and ABC on the weekend days before the playoffs had no games to watch, and the NBA had significantly less promotional time for what is to come.

Although this blunder was via social media and not national TV (or lack thereof), an "ooops" moment on Twitter on Tuesday (4/14) was certainly embarrassing for the 26 minutes it was posted.

TurnerSportsPR put out on Twitter, "NBA on TNT Action Continues TONIGHT with Doubleheader Featuring Bulls vs. Heat & Trail Blazers vs. Warriors". However, that doubleheader was what TNT showed the previous week!

It wasn't until 22 minutes later (making it nice that Twitter feeds have a time stamp), then posted "Tonight’s #NBA lineup: 7pm/E @NBATV GameTime 8p @NBAonTNT @WashWizards vs. @pacers, 10:30p @LAClippers vs. @suns". There was no apology, nor was there any mention of this being a correction or of any earlier error. Yikes.

On the other side, NBC is taking a more aggressive approach to promoting its NHL Stanley Cup Playoff coverage. In addition to adding USA Network to the fold for a group of first and second round games, NBC has decided to televise the NHL Draft Lottery for the first time, and it will air in prime time. NBC has a first round game to air in prime time this Saturday (4/18) at 8 PM ET, which will be Game 2 of the N.Y. Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins series. The Draft Lottery will air just prior to the opening face off.

According to Sports Business Journal, NBCSN scored its third best audience since acquiring the NHL telecast rights prior to the 2005-06 season, although viewership was actually down slightly from the previous season. The "Wednesday Night Rivalry" series did gain steam this season with increased viewership over the previous year, and finishing up with seven of the most watched NBCSN telecasts for its entire season of games. The report shows that Buffalo, Boston, and Pittsburgh were the top local markets for viewers. Looks like the majority of the snow-ins in the Buffalo area this past winter got interested in the NHL.

ESPN has announced that 78 year old Lou Holtz really has retired from his college football analyst role. The former Notre Dame coach held that role since the 2004 season.

PHILADELPHIA: After being so strongly rumored the actual announcement seemed liked no big deal, but it is official that Anthony Gargano will join WPEN 97.5 to co-host a new local morning show to start within a month. Gargano, formerly at soon-to-be rival WIP 94.1, will co-host with Jon Marks, who would reportedly move up from his current early afternoon slot. The ESPN station has been airing Mike & Mike in the morning since 2009.

CHICAGO: New Cubs manager Joe Maddon has been signed by WSCR 670 The Score for a regular Tuesday midday segment on The Spiegel and Goff Show. The move comes as sister station WBBM 780 has begun as the Cubs flagship station. Ironically, WSCR is currently the flagship station for the White Sox broadcasts, although in its final year of the current contract which has yet to be extended.

The Cubs newest TV station, WLS-TV Channel 7, experienced a horrendous start to the start of a very special season for them. For the first time in station history, they are televising 25 Cubs games this season. Last Wednesday (4/8) during the station's first ever local baseball telecast, the station aired a series of graphics featuring every National League team. However, it appears nobody thought to proof read them first. Viewers saw the "San Francisco Mariners" on the screen. Incredibly, that wasn't the entire blunder. San Francisco was misspelled, as were Milwaukee and Cincinnati. It is probably a good thing they didn't feature the American League that day.

Then, on Friday (4/10), the station was airing its usual 6:00 PM newscast, when long time sportscaster Mark Giangreco's segment came on just minutes after the White Sox home opener vs. Minnesota had just ended. Giangreco called for the White Sox highlights but no video came up. A few seconds later, highlights from the earlier Cubs game at Colorado came up, and he narrated them with no problem.

When the video ended, he said something like "But we are sorry, we do not have the White Sox highlights", and then went on with the other sports news. Say what?

I understand that technical problems can happen at any time. However, there is no excuse for not having any copy ready to, at the very least, give details about the game. Viewers got nothing. Not even information about the losing pitcher, who hit home runs, or anything else except for the score of the game. Not even an Opening Day feature. And then a shortened sportscast as if nothing went wrong?

It's only a week into the new season, but WLS-TV has a lot of work to do in order to salvage their baseball season.

NEW YORK: MSG Networks have found an easy way to keep the local teams in check for the first round of the NHL playoffs, since they show both the Rangers and Islanders games. MSG Network will show all of the Rangers games it can while the Islanders telecasts, even when on separate nights from the Rangers' series, will air on MSG+.  Any games airing nationally on NBC-TV will not be televised by MSG for either team.

HOUSTON: KILT 610 has added Sara Eckert to its reporting and update anchor staff. Eckert is known locally for her previous work with CSN Houston.

COLORADO SPRINGS: KREL 1580 has dropped its sports format, but not for the usual reasons. The station has changed to become the first radio station with a format of talking about and covering the marijuana industry, which is legal in Colorado. Seriously.

SPOKANE: KZFS 1280 and 99.3 has dropped its sports format. These stations have replaced it with Christian programming.

SCRANTON/WILKS-BARRE: WHBS 102.3 The Sports Hub is no longer, having changed over to a rock music format and its call letters to WMQX.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tournament 'Dukes' It Out For Strong Ratings

It turned out to be "ratings madness" for the NCAA tournament this year even though Kentucky fell short in its attempt to carry out an undefeated season. CBS, TBS and family drew huge audiences, gaining the tournament's highest average ratings in 22 years. The Monday night (4/6) championship game between Duke and Wisconsin drew the highest overnight rating for a championship game since (ironically) the Kentucky vs. Arizona battle in 1997. The Final Four telecast on Saturday (4/4) was up more than 38% over last year's Saturday games, and was the highest since 1996.

In addition to the TV side, word is that just the Monday night championship game generated approximately 3.4 million live video streams, which is also a record. Even with all of this, we'll never know what would have happened on Monday had the University of Kentucky been going for the unbeaten season.

The past couple of days also brought the start of the 2015 MLB season. From having watched at least one inning of several of the local and network telecasts of opening games, it seems as if the head honchos have put an unofficial gag order on the "speeding up the game" discussion.

Early in spring training, many of the local team telecasts made mention of the clock to time the between innings and pitching change breaks, along with batters needing to stay within range of the batter's box. Yet, now that the regular season is upon us, you would think there was no such rule. I didn't hear or see one mention of this, and that includes Sunday night's (4/5) ESPN opener.

For the St. Louis at Chicago Cubs telecast, ESPN generated its highest opening night ratings in five years, up nearly 40% from last season. In St. Louis, the single market overnight rating of 17.7 is reportedly the highest regular season MLB game in history on any ESPN network. The Chicago market ratings were strong, but likely hindered a bit by the more meaningful Blackhawks vs. St. Louis NHL game on NBCSN. (Coincidentally, national viewers were able to choose among two separate St. Louis at Chicago telecasts mostly head-to-head.)

Frankly, ESPN got lucky that enough people knew to check ESPN2. It could be due to contractual obligations, but ESPN stuck with the Women's NCAA tournament telecasts while Sunday Night Baseball was moved to ESPN2. An hour earlier, the start of Baseball Tonight on ESPN2 (the lead in) was delayed eight minutes due to some soccer telecast which ran over. Since when do soccer and women's basketball take such priority over MLB?
Speaking of ESPN, pleased to see that the network finally released Bobby Knight from his analyst role following its NIT coverage. Ever since the incident a couple years back where he used profanity on live TV and never apologized, it was incredible that the network stuck with him. After all, if one of his players had violated policy, you know Knight would have made sure the player was disciplined and that everybody knew all about how Knight took such action. Let's hope we have finally heard the last of him anywhere.

This week's BUSTED note has to go to Yankees radio voice John Sterling. During the season opening broadcast between the Yankees and Blue Jays on Monday (4/6), Sterling finished a play and quickly recapped and sent the broadcast to the end of inning commercial. One problem. That was only the second out. BUSTED

On a sad note, both MLB and NFL fans lost a legendary broadcaster with the passing of Lon Simmons over the weekend at the age of 91. Simmons had been a fixture in the Bay Area, mostly known for his work on the Giants radio broadcasts from 1958 (when they moved to San Francisco) to 1979 (missing 1974 and '75) and again from 1996 to 2002. From 1981 to 1995 he was across the Bay as one of the A's radio voices. Lon was on the air during the 1989 World Series broadcast when the big earthquake hit. And, early in his career he also called 49ers radio play-by-play. Even though his play-by-play in later years was as boring as Pat Summerall, Simmons brought a lot of humor and experience to the broadcasts even then. He will be missed.

ST. LOUIS: KXFM 1380 has added to its "mostly sports" radio lineup, including returning Howard Balzer to the local airwaves starting on April 20th. Balzer will co-host middays with Charlie Edwards. This week the station began airing J.C. Corcoran during morning drive although that show will not be limited to sports. The station will air a ton of syndicated sports shows including NBC Sports Radio.

ALBUQUERQUE: KXKS 1190 and 107.5 have gone to an all-sports radio simulcast. However, the vast majority of its content will be from Fox Sports Radio.

MELBOURNE FL: WLZR-AM and WSJZ-FM have dropped their FM simulcast of "The Fan". WLZR remains as "Sports 1560 The Fan" and continues with ESPN Radio. WSJZ-FM has, as of last week, switched to a combination of rock music and talk.

CHRISTOPHER IL: WXLT 103.5 ESPN has named Derek Fogel as Program Director as well as morning sports anchor on sister station News Radio 1340 WJPF which serve a small part of Southern Illinois. Fogel's father, Dave Fogel, is morning man on music station WJMK Chicago.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Are The Washington Capitals Really In Tune?

Like it or not, the Washington Capitals' approach to the team's new online channel is unique. This week is the official start of Caps Radio 24/7. It will not be similar to what, for example, the Pittsburgh Penguins' channel offers, which is a steady diet of game replays, interviews, and highlights.

Instead, Caps Radio 24/7 will feature a ton of music programming. John Walton, the team's play-by-play voice will host the channel and provide twice per hour hockey updates. In between, listeners will hear the musical selections played at Caps home games, as well as playlists chosen by players and team personnel.

On a more positive note, the channel plans expanded pre and post-game coverage surrounding its upcoming playoff broadcasts. As of now, the station does not have an over-the-air option (such as the Penguins' channel being on an HD channel of a Pittsburgh FM station), but is available nationally via TuneIn and through the WashingtonCaps.com web site.

What makes this unique is the percentage of music played compared with actual team and game content. Not all of the fans enjoy the music being played, while not all of those who enjoy the music will want to hear everything about the team.

Look for extremely high ratings for the Final Four due mainly to the run by the University of Kentucky. Even the fans of the teams which have been eliminated and sports fans in general will be interested in the potential longest full season run by a team looking to remain undefeated. Hopefully even Charles Barkley will know who is playing in these games when he thrusts his studio analysis all over us on Saturday and Monday.

Monday (4/6) will be a huge sports day, with the NCAA Championship and MLB openers sharing the spotlight. ESPN decided that fans want both New York teams' openers on national TV on Monday. Prior to its Wednesday (4/8) prime-time game, ESPN will debut a Baseball Tonight edition at 5:30 PM to preview lineups and fantasy information leading into its Monday and Wednesday night telecasts.

MLB Network takes over with a group of games from Tuesday through Sunday of the first week, while many cable systems will offer a free preview of the MLB package for the first few days of the season. In addition, MLB Network has announced a pair of weekday afternoon doubleheaders during April, which will be Monday April 13 and Thursday April 23rd.

MLB Network has added Pedro Martinez as a studio analyst after his previous two seasons on TBS' post-season coverage. The Hall of Fame pitcher will continue his work with TBS, which doesn't show up on the baseball map until the second half of the regular season.

Hardcore basketball fans will like that ESPN will be airing some of the post-season games of the NBA Development League starting in a few weeks, and already plans to do the same in 2016.

CHICAGO: If only it were an April Fool's joke, but once again the Chicago Sun-Times web site put up any story it could get its hands on as if there was a need to further embarrass itself. On Wednesday (4/1) at 11:19 AM CT, the site had a headline (that is headline!) stating "Bears Grab Outside Linebacker In New NFL Mock Draft".

This "story" indicated that a Sports Illustrated writer had the team choosing a specific outside linebacker with their upcoming first round pick, and that an ESPN writer has the team choosing a specific wide receiver. Two things come to mind. First, this "story" has zero mention of any players that the paid Sun-Times football reporters and columnists are thinking of. Next, this is still another major embarrassment that this story was among the "headlines" of the day.

Speaking of embarrassing, WSCR 670 The Score's Dan Bernstein and Matt Spiegel were forced to issue on-air apologies after a Twitter exchange last week. Bernstein called himself "an idiot" on the air following references to CSN Chicago sportscaster Aiyana Cristal and her physical appearance. Despite some protests, the station did not make any on-air suspensions.

NEW YORK: Madison Square Garden Co. has announced a separation of its sports business (ownership of the Knicks, Rangers Liberty, and venues) from its entertainment business (Madison Square Garden, Radio City, Beacon Theater, etc.) to be effective prior to the end of 2015.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Two weeks later than planned, the WTEM ESPN 980 "Man Cave" morning show did appear and make its debut on Monday (3/30). The resignation of Chuck Sapienza as Program Director in early March is believed to be the real reason for the delay, which led many (including The Broadcast Booth) to believe the show had been canceled before it even started. Jason Reid and Chris Paul (not the NBA star) are the hosts, as originally planned.

PHOENIX: Nick Boynton, the former 11-year veteran of the NHL, has been placed on a leave of absence from the AZ Coyotes broadcast team following his arrest late last week in a Buffalo area casino. Boynton was on what authorities termed "a drunken rampage".

HOUSTON: Now that the Astros are back to resembling a major league team, their games will be available in more places effective immediately. Area U-Verse and DirecTV subscribers will be able to receive the Astros telecasts via Root Sports, which will be the first time since the 2012 season.

PHILADELPHIA: The Eagles broadcasts will remain on WIP in a new multi-year extension announced this week. Merrill Reese, now the longest tenured radio play-by-play voice in the NFL, will continue, with WIP's Howard Eskin on commentary. The new deal also calls for an HD channel to be added which will be exclusively Eagles content.

On the baseball side, CSN Philadelphia announced that Hall of Famer Mick Schmidt will join the Phillies broadcast team for weekend home games throughout the 2015 season.

Finally, a sad note, especially for long time NBA fans. The one and only Hot Rod Hundley passed away last week at the age of 80. Hot Rod, known mainly for his 35 season run as the voice of the New Orleans/Utah Jazz, also served as an analyst back in the 80's when CBS had the national package. He is remembered as a broadcaster much more than his eight seasons as a player with the Lakers. Just as he moved with the Jazz from New Orleans to Utah to continue as the team's broadcaster, his playing days with the Lakers began when the team was in Minneapolis and ended after they moved to Los Angeles.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Barkley Up The Wrong Tree

Charles Barkley was at his funniest when he didn't mean to be. See below.

The old Alice Cooper song about "I don't have a job because I don't have a car, and I don't have a car because I don't have a job" comes to mind when reading the New York Post story today (3/24) regarding Time Warner Cable and the L.A. Dodgers contract it is stuck with.

This story by the Post bears out what I have been saying for months, that the Dodgers contract stands in the way of both the majority of Dodgers fans in Southern California from seeing the telecasts and for Time Warner to be able to be acquired (or merged, if you must) by Comcast.

Although this could all be posturing by TWC to get Comcast to assume the huge debt as part of the purchase price, the financial stress placed upon Time Warner continues to keep the Dodgers from the majority of its fan base. With opening day now less than two weeks away, there is little to no hope things will change for at least the first half of the season.

Worse yet for the fans, there is very little sense of urgency all around. TWC continues to plead hardship, as if they had no idea that other carriers would not severely overpay in order to help them out. The Dodgers and MLB have their money for this contract, and the Dodgers can claim that they wouldn't have this contending team without the funds to help to pay for their players. The other So. California cable/satellite providers are in no hurry to pay through the nose for the Dodgers games when they can pass along cost increases to their customer base at a higher profit level anyway.

At the same time, the NFL actually made it easier for fans to be able to watch the local teams play since the League's previous TV blackout policy for home games which did not sell out (prior to 72 hours before kickoff) has officially been lifted. Even though there were no blackouts last year, the work of the FCC and now the approval of the League owners eliminates any uncertainty regarding which markets will see the "local" team's games moving forward.

It shows how far the incredible TV money has impacted the NFL. If you go back to the early 1970's and before, local team markets were blacked out of home games, including playoffs, whether completely sold out or not.

However, the (2015) Week 7 matchup between Jacksonville and Buffalo, to be played in London, will be a TV first. While, to the NFL's credit, the game will be shown over-the-air in both markets, the telecast will not be shown live by either Fox or CBS nationally, nor will it be available via the Sunday Ticket package.

The 9:30 AM ET game will be available only by online streaming, with details to be announced at a later time. I'm very curious about two aspects of this. First, we do not know yet whether or not the game will be "free" and available to every viewer who might want it. If there is no cost, it will be interesting to see how many viewers will choose to watch online and via which devices they choose.

What makes this so interesting is that, frankly, as of now a Buffalo vs. Jacksonville matchup would not attract the biggest of audiences if it were a nationally televised game. The ability for fans to watch four live NFL games in one day is no longer unique, since it happened last season and since there are two other London games which will air nationally at 9:30 AM ET during the coming season.
There will be plenty more about this before the October game takes place, but it will also be interesting to see how a streaming live telecast will do against the various pre-game shows which air on the networks during the same time.

On the NHL side, while NBC gears up to again cover every Stanley Cup Playoff game live, there will be one more network joining in the fray come April. The USA Network will be used to handle some telecasts, although NBC has not yet unveiled whether or not USA will get primary telecasts or those of lesser interest. It is expected that NBCSN will feature the most attractive matchups each night (except for days/nights that NBC itself has the games). In recent seasons, CNBC and NHL Network have been used for "overflow" games, especially during the first round.

USA Network was once the primary national cable outlet for the NHL in the early and mid-80's when that network was sports heavy, also airing MLB and NBA games.

Our story last week about WBBM-TV Chicago sportscaster Ryan Baker blowing it regarding a local team's game, combined with a wonderful reader suggestion, have inspired us to add a "BUSTED" portion to the Broadcast Booth. We start out with not one, but two major entries this week.

Of course, we must start with the one and only Charles Barkley. As I pointed out last week before this happened, the insanity of using an NBA crew on NCAA telecasts when so many other college hoops experts are available came to light. At halftime of the important Kansas vs. Wichita State game (3/22), Barkley stated that Cliff Alexander of Kansas was "playing pretty good". Alexander has not played in a game since February 23rd. BUSTED

Then, on Tuesday (3/24) on WFAN 66 New York's morning show, Boomer and Carton were discussing the Mets, when Carton referred to former Mets great and Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver as, and we quote, "Terrific Tom". Boomer Esiason (who, of course, comes from the NFL) had to step in and correct Carton on the air that Seaver is known as "Tom Terrific". BUSTED

ESPN may have gone a bit overboard with its own cross promotion. During the Tuesday (3/24) MLB spring training telecast of the Phillies vs. the Braves, the broadcast team had Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden on as a guest. Instead of getting baseball analysis for most of one inning, fans got to hear which baseball teams and players Gruden likes, but with little to no reasoning behind it.

CHICAGO: Dave Juday, formerly a sports anchor for WMVP ESPN 1000, has been hired to handle sports updates on weekends and occasional fill-in on WBBM 780, which is all news but also now airs Cubs baseball. Coincidentally, WMVP has brought in Ben Finfer, most recently with WGN 720 and WGWG 87.7 (sister stations), to co-host its midday show with Carmen DeFalco this week.

Interest in the Blackhawks as they push toward the coming Stanley Cup playoffs continues to be high. The latest evidence came last week (3/17) when a Blackhawks vs. Islanders telecast on CSN Chicago finished #1 in adults 18-34 in the market. Not just among sports events or cable channels. In the Chicago market.

CINCINNATI: A little cooperation goes a long way. WLW 700 was faced with a conflict this past Saturday (3/21) when the unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats' tournament game was scheduled to air within the time window assigned to a Reds spring training broadcast. The station, which gives the Reds priority over Bengals football regardless of the standings, agreed to move the Reds broadcast over to WSAI so that the Kentucky broadcast could air on WLW.

SAN DIEGO: Being a lot less controversial is paying dividends for Dan Sileo since his arrival early last year on 1090 AM after multiple firings in Southern Florida. Sileo has been assigned to also handle the pre-game shows for the station's Padres broadcasts, effective immediately.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sports Talk Show Canceled Before It Starts?

Suppose they scheduled a talk show and no one came? That's not quite an old saying, but it is something that happened, or didn't happen, on Washington D.C.'s WTEM 980 this week.

Today (3/16) was supposed to have been the debut for "Man Cave" in morning drive with Jason Reid and Chris Paul (the local radio veteran, not the NBA star player). There appears to have been either a power struggle or management reversal, depending upon who people want to believe. However, the DCRTV (Washington media watch site) reported that Chuck Sapienza was fired from his Program Director position of the station, perhaps because he went to bat, so to speak, for the previously announced morning show change.

Mike & Mike continues to air in the mornings on WTEM, which loses badly in the ratings to WJFK 106.7's local "Sports Junkies" show in morning drive.

How I wish I could credit the radio executive, who requested that his name not be used, for saying "It figures this happens in a city with so many politicians!" But a lot of radio talent would say "Being fired before you start on a radio station could happen anywhere!".

No surprise here, but as MLB opening day draws closer, still no hope for Dodgers fans in Southern California to be able to receive the local Dodgers telecasts. Now that the FCC has again delayed the Comcast and Time Warner Cable "merger", it gives those involved even more time to deflect the blame on negotiations.

Here is the link of the official story:


The NFL continues to aggressively pursue the international market and worldwide income. Within the past week, the League granted media rights to MP & Silva, under a five year agreement, to handle 42 countries/territories throughout Europe in what was reported to be a $50 million deal.
Included are all games, from pre-season through post-season, along with NFL Red Zone and even the NFL Draft telecast, and includes full media rights beyond television. Incredibly, this deal does not include the UK or Germany.

It does include: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the Vatican City.
MP & Silva now handles certain international distribution rights for MLB, the NBA, the MLS, and ATP Tennis, as well.

NEW YORK: A series of announcer conflicts caused YES Network to move reporter Sarah Kustok in to the analyst role for this past Saturday's (3/14) Nets vs. Sixers telecast. With so many college tournaments and national NBA telecasts taking place, none of the regular YES Network analysts were available, as Mike Fratello, Jim Spanarkel, and Donny Marshall all had other commitments.
This assignment enabled Kustok to be the third female to serve as an analyst during an NBA telecast (Doris Burke and Cheryl Miller). Kustok continues to rank 4th in field goal percentage in DePaul University history from her playing days and also served as an Assistant Coach of the DePaul women's team for one season (2005-06). She also worked as an analyst on the recent Big East Tournament women's basketball telecasts.

LOS ANGELES: Sorry to learn of the passing of long-time sports reporter and host Joe McDonnell over the weekend at the age of 58. McDonnell had been a part of several radio stations going back nearly 40 years, including KFI, KMPC, KABC, KLAC, KFWB, and KNX. Joe was never one to keep an opinion to himself, yet earned the respect of team officials, especially the Lakers, because of his professional demeanor at all times. It was my pleasure to have known Joe for a while back in the 80's, before he overcame a lot of health issues which had many believing he would not have lived into the 90's as he did. I also remember talking about other topics, such as music, with him. He will be missed.

Speaking of the past in L.A. media, Todd Donoho is back on morning radio, joining Mark Thompson's new morning show on 100.3 The Sound (a rock station) to handle the sports. Fans around the country who recall the FNN Financial News Network in the late 80's may remember Todd as on of its primary nightly anchors.

St. LOUIS:  Maybe the coin toss for a format came up tails, but whatever the reason, KXFN 1380 suddenly returned to all sports radio this week (3/14). Kevin Slaten, off the air since November from sister station KFNS 590, was brought in to host the 3 to 6 PM time slot, with management hoping to have a full local weekday lineup in place by April. The station suddenly switched, airing Yahoo Sports Radio, over this past weekend, and plans to have Slaten on the air within this week.

CHICAGO: One more unfortunate example of why local TV sportscasters should, at the very least, know what is going on with the local teams they supposedly cover. I'm sure some readers will tell me "It's only spring training, give him a break", but it is still a matter of being paid to be factual.

This past Thursday (3/12) WBBM-TV Channel 2's Ryan Baker was racing through his afternoon news sportscast and giving the spring training report. He showed a highlight from the just concluded Cubs game from Arizona. Then he said "And the White Sox play the Giants later" and went on with his report.

Had Baker been paying attention to the local teams he reports on, he should have known that the White Sox had already played (completed) a split squad game against the Texas Rangers which had ended over a half-hour before this sportscasts. In addition, the game against the Giants was already underway, so it was not "later".

So much for ever watching him if a big sports story ever breaks. Sometimes you need to pay attention, at the very least to the local teams.

MOBILE: WNSP 105.5 is finally taking being the only full-time sports station in the market seriously, announcing last week that the station will soon feature at least eight hours of local programming each weekday.

The morning show will now be called "Opening Kickoff" from 6 to 9 AM, with Mark Heim moving from afternoons back to the morning slot and being teamed with Lee Shirvanian. The "Sports Drive" will air each afternoon, featuring Randy Kennedy (who remains in that time slot) and being joined by Patrick Woo.

Finally, may your bracket be the winner!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Before The 'Madness' Starts

There is now more to the discussion or fight over live streaming (depending on which term you prefer) of baseball on both a national and regional level this week. Now MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) has put it back on Fox Sports and Comcast Sports Networks, claiming those entities are standing in the way of "in market" streaming.

Again, this is only regarding the local team (or territory of a local team) stream for those who purchase the MLB-TV or At-Bat packages for their computers and mobile devices in order to be able to watch "out of market" telecasts live. Paid subscriptions for both are expected to rise this season after 3.5 million subscribers (combined) for the two services last season.

While there has been, as expected, zero movement in Southern California regarding Dodgers telecasts being seen on any other carriers, the battle over some of the games appears to be continuing in the Atlanta area. Dish Network's Atlanta region is, once again, planning to black out about 50 of the 2015 Braves telecasts from Fox Sports South, while subscribers to other cable/satellite systems will be able to see all of the (approximately) 150 telecasts. (The number of FSS telecasts can vary based on network flexing later in the season.)

This would be the third season of this happening, having begun when Fox Sports acquired the rights to 50 more telecasts from Peachtree TV and followed by raising its fees from the providers. Dish Network continues to refuse the increase, which somehow results in weeknight telecasts airing while most weekend games will not. Unlike the L.A. situation, at least Braves fans stuck in the Dish Network fiasco have the ability to change carriers and receive all of the games.

However, it is tough to blame Dish Network for this stance, even though other cable/satellite providers did not take it. If Fox Sports couldn't afford the additional rights to add the 50 more games without raising its rates, they should not have bid on them, or should have taken the "loss" on their own.

Meanwhile, next week brings us the NCAA tournament weekday action, with TNT and CBS again handling the coverage. The two networks will again each use their announcing teams from the regular season (or NBA in the case of TNT). The "lead" teams will be the CBS team of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, and Grant Hill, along with the TNT lead team of Marv Albert, Chris Webber, and Len Elmore.

However, the studio alignment borders on insane. CBS covers college hoops during the regular season while CBS Sports Network adds some games of less importance. TNT does not show any NCAA regular season or tournament games, instead showcasing the NBA.

Yet, because of the dollars involved and the partnership between the two networks, the TNT studio crew with Ernie Johnson and a cast of thousands will handle the studio reporting during the second week of the tournament. It is bad enough that the networks insist on flooding the studio with too many analysts and not enough time for each to shine, but made even worse when analysts who have not focused on these teams all season are in this position for later rounds.

If the two networks really must divide the studio time, it would make more sense to have the TNT crew do the pre-game show and simply set up the day's matchups and play the highlights, and let the CBS crew, which handles the NCAA, comment when the games are on the line.

The Tuesday March 17 play-in game will be called by Brian Anderson and Steve Smith, while Ian Eagle and Doug Gottlieb will call the Weds. (3/18) telecast, each to be seen on TRU TV, even though there are no conflicting games.

Speaking of Wednesday March 18, ESPN is in attack mode, having announced a change in its NBA telecast schedule. In what could well be a matchup of the best records in each Conference, the Atlanta at Golden State game will now air at 10:30 PM ET.

ESPN also added the Memphis vs. Indiana game on April 15th as a late game following its Charlotte vs. Toronto matchup that evening.

It is always nice to see established professionals take the time to help with students of the industry. A thumbs up to ESPN's Michael Wilbon and USA Today's Christine Brennan who each have been added to the faculty at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. Each will teach on a part-time basis as their schedules allow, along with assisting on student projects and events.

April will be the final month for Tim Brando's radio show, per Tim's announcement made via his own Facebook page earlier this week. Brando sites his expanded role with Fox Sports, including college football and basketball play-by-play and being added to the golf coverage team as the primary reason. Brando's show has been airing on weekdays for nearly 14 years.

NEW YORK: Hats off to Neil Best of Newsday for this most interesting observation about WFAN Radio last week. The Mets, who had WFAN 660 as their flagship station for more than 25 years (prior to the 2014 season), now air on WOR 710, seem to be missing in action from the WFAN airwaves. Personally, I have not listened to WFAN with enough regularity to have noticed this as well.

Best points out that members of the Mets appear from time to time on WESN ESPN, which is a distant second to The Fan in the local sports radio race. However, ESPN Deportes (sister station) airs the Mets broadcasts in Spanish. Of course, the Mets are a big part of the WOR 710 airwaves, including the nightly "Sports Zone with Pete McCarthy" (on nights when the Mets do not air), as well as on the 'general interest' morning show with Len Berman and Todd Schnitt.

WFAN is, of course, entering its second season as flagship station for the Yankees broadcasts.

On the TV side, hats off to YES Network for a wonderful new idea introduced into Yankees spring training telecasts this month. With a fast runner on first base, YES has gone to a split screen, but not equal size. The majority of the screen shows the center field camera view of the pitcher and batter, while a lower corner focuses in on the runner in a frame about 1/4 of the size.

This concept is far superior to going to a wider shot to include the batter and the runner within the same screen. Here's hoping this gets adopted into the regular season coverage.

LOS ANGELES: KSPN ESPN 710 is experimenting with a local early morning show as of last week. Travis Rodgers and Kelvin Washington now host from 5 to 7 AM before the station goes back to network programming with Colin Cowherd starting live at 7 AM PT. This idea would seem insane on the east coast, but keep in mind that the stock market opens at 6 AM PT, meaning that there is an audience of "professionals" available during those early hours.

What may be insane, however, is that the station is also continuing the Rodgers and Washington show online only from 7 to 9 AM PT. ESPN is determined to maintain Mike & Mike in the marketplace, and has moved a slightly delayed broadcast, from 5 to 9 AM PT, over to KLAA Radio. The two stations have a long standing working relationship, also sharing the Angels radio broadcasts.

SAN FRANCISCO: The S.F. Examiner has hired a new Sports Director, which is an unusual title for print media. Even more shocking is that their choice is the much-maligned Jay Mariotti, whose controversial run on ESPN and with the Chicago Sun-Times years ago ended following legal problems he faced.

CHICAGO: WSCR The Score 670 has hired Jordan Bernfield as its new update anchor. The former WGN-AM and WGWG-FM sportscaster replaces Wayne Randazzo who recently left to join the Mets Radio Network on WOR New York.

DENVER: This past Monday (3/9) had KKFN 104.3 The Fan celebrate its 20 year anniversary with a day long special which included live shots with several of the station's previous hosts. Among the on-air visitors were Dan Issel, Irv Brown, Woody Paige, and Charles Johnson. Other special guests for the day included Rockies play-by-play voice Jerry Schemmel.

KKFN is also holding a party for fans of the station on March 26 at a local sports bar.

NASHVILLE: 94.9 The Game is losing morning co-shot Joe Dubin later this month in order to join WSMV-TV Channel 4. Dubin, who was a sportscaster for nearly 15 years on WKRN-TV Channel 2, is added to the WSMV staff as Rudy Kalis moves to the station's morning news show. No word yet on who will join Greg Pogue on The Game's morning show.

LOUISVILLE: WHAS 840 will remain the flagship station for University of Kentucky football and basketball for at least the next 15 years in a deal announced earlier this week. In addition, UK events such as baseball and women's basketball will now air on WKJK 1080.

This deal also includes Lexington's WBUL 98.1 in addition to WLAP 630, and Cincinnati's WCKY 1530 to air the football and basketball games.

PORT CHARLOTTE FL: WKII 1070 dropped its music format last week and switched to sports, although NBC Sports Radio is now the majority of its schedule. The station airs Rays baseball, as Port Charlotte is the Rays' spring training home, as well as Buccaneers football and Florida State sports.

LUBBOCK TX: The Fan 1340 will again air the majority of Houston Astros games this season for the second consecutive year. The station plans to air "at least" 110 regular season games as well as about 10 pre-season broadcasts this month.

MUNCIE IN: Sorry to learn of the passing of Ron Lemasters, who passed away several days ago at age 76 after suffering a stroke. Lemasters was a fixture in the sports department of the Muncie Star, where he worked his way up to Sports Editor, from 1961 until his retirement in 1999. Even this news came with a distinct element. It turned out that Mr. Lemasters literally passed away in the very same building in which he was born. He will be missed.