Wednesday, October 19, 2016

No Capital Gains For D.C. Hockey Fans

The Washington Capitals have their share of coverage struggles as we begin the NHL regular season, despite their strong record last season and expectations of contending again this season.

For that matter, the NBA Wizards are suffering almost as much with the NBA season opening next week.

D.C. area radio stations don't appear to be willing to spend the big dollars for the radio rights to either team. The Capitals no longer air on 106.7 The Fan.

As a result, the only station airing both teams is WFED 1500, and that isn't all. When both teams play at the same time, which tends to happen at least once per week on average, the Wizards will have priority, and no other local station will pick up the Capitals broadcasts.

You got that right. One of the strongest teams in the NHL will not even have all of their games broadcast on local radio. Instead, the Caps are asking their fans, on those nights, to use a mobile app and listen on their phones, or to listen via the Caps web site. That will be the only way to hear those games at all.

Having spent many of my recent professional life in marketing, this makes little to no sense. As much as I can understand radio stations not wanting to spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to secure radio rights, moves such as this one are what send consumers away from listening to the radio at all.

Many pro teams negotiate their own deal with radio stations around the country in place of receiving rights fees. Some teams will purchase the air time and then sell the commercial time themselves to advertisers, which also receive stadium advertising and other promotional value along with their commercial time.

By not having all of their games on local radio, the team will lose in the in car audience on some of the nights, including following home games. (Unless somebody actually listens on their cell phone in car, with cell phone use while driving being illegal or restricted in some municipalities.)

Some casual fans, understandably accustomed to hearing the broadcasts on radio for all of the years of being a fan will give up listening or even trying to find the team's games. And radio stations will lose out by not having the chance to attract fans to their station's other programming.

Incredibly, the Caps' season opener, which was against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, did not air on local radio because WFED was airing the Nationals playoff game vs. the Dodgers. (Not saying that the playoff game was not more important - but not having an overflow station to air an interesting hockey game is inexcusable.)

At least the Wizards, which also have a live app to hear the broadcasts within 150 miles of D.C., will have all of their games on the radio, even though it will be on 1550 AM. Play-by-play voice Dave Johnson begins his 20th season on the call, with analyst Glenn Consor beginning his 10th season.

Our fear is that in the long run this situation will hurt radio stations, which now offer even less at a time when there is more competition than ever for the listening audience, as well as the teams, which will not be "in front" of as many casual fans on a regular basis. We shall see if there is a long term impact on attendance.

As for the NBA regular season starting next week, it could be quite the coincidence for TNT. They will have the season opening game from Cleveland on Tuesday (10/25), and have already announced plans to do their pre-game and half time segments from outside of the venue in Cleveland. Little did they know that they could be on the same block as the opening game of the World Series if the Indians win the ALCS. (The Indians were up 3 games to 1 over Toronto at press time.)

On the baseball side, it continues to be astounding how Fox Sports 1 is bragging about their record ratings for the NLCS telecasts. It should be making them realize how if they had the games over the air on Fox Sports, as they did for years in the past, they would have even more sensational ratings.

MLB will suffer in the long run from shutting out fans who cannot afford or no longer with to be gouged for cable/satellite costs. And that does not take into account the casual fan who does have cable/satellite but has no idea of where to find these telecasts.

Of course, we can't help but mention Ernie Johnson referring to sideline reporter Sam Ryan as "Sam Roberts" on the air at the conclusion of ALCS game last week on TBS. Ooops.

NBCSN got off to a great start with its NHL coverage. The season opening night doubleheader last week (10/12) with attractive matchups St. Louis vs. Chicago and L.A. vs. San Jose gave NBCSN its best NHL regular-season doubleheader audience in its history.

On the NFL side, we are getting evidence that the networks can no longer put "any" NFL matchup on and expect the biggest possible audience. Monday Night Football (10/17) with the Jets and Cardinals, was a record MNF rating for a Week 6 telecast.

Yet, the Sunday doubleheader game on Fox between Dallas and Green Bay finished as the most watched NFL game of the entire season to date. It's the same weekend, folks.

Fox Sports should be pleased that through the first five weeks of the regular season (with Week 6 figures not available at press time) that its Fox NFL Kickoff pre-game show has shown a 21% audience increase over last season.

And how insane is this for the Rams fans in Los Angeles. While the team's game from London this Sunday (10/23) against the N.Y. Giants will air nationally on CBS, kickoff will be at 6:30 AM PT. Wonder how many will be listening to the local radio pre-game show starting at 4:30 AM local time.

To the surprise of many, the Rams do have fans watching their games. The team's first six games have averaged 878,000 viewers, with Fox and CBS combining for a 7% increase in viewers (for the Los Angeles market) on those six game days/nights.

CBS and CBS Sports Network have announced many of their 270 college hoops telecasts for the upcoming season. The first CBS telecast won't be until Saturday Dec. 3, but it will be between UCLA and Kentucky. CBS Sports Network will air roughly 231 games.

While the Pac-12 Network is still struggling for distribution (such as no deal with DirecTV), Dish TV has moved the channel off its sports only tier and to a more available tier in time for the coming basketball season.

As the NBA continues to reach to international markets, the Association has announced making a League Pass available via computers and mobile devices for this season - in China. In US dollars, the plan in China costs $164 for the season, with individual games available for what would be $2.20 each in USD.

CHICAGO: Good news for WSCR 670 The Score (besides the excellent ratings thanks to being the Cubs flagship station). Afternoon host Terry Boers will return to his afternoon show on Monday (10/24) after a medical leave started back in June. The 72 year-old Boers has been with WSCR since its inception in 1992.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fox Sports Riding The Cowboys

Many of the NFL nationally televised matchups thus far this season have not been the most appealing, which is the likely reason for the ratings decline one quarter of the way through the regular season. Research shows that NFL viewership among the 18 to 49 age group is down roughly 11% compared with last season.

As has been the case for four of the five weekends, the Dallas Cowboys will again be the featured national game on Sunday (10/16), taking on Green Bay in the Fox doubleheader game. This figures to be a winner for the network. In addition to both teams attracting national interest, viewership figures to be high in Cowboys rival cities such as New York, Washington, and Philadelphia, which will air the game. In fact, the telecast follows the Redskins vs. Eagles game on Fox.

As of press time (on Wednesday), there is the possibility that the Packers vs. Cowboys game could be a lead in to the MLB NLCS game in prime time, which could feature the Washington Nationals playing in Chicago against the Cubs. (Even if only shown on FS1, Joe Buck will call the baseball instead of the NFL game, which will be Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman.)

This past Sunday (10/9), the Washington D.C. market ratings showed that the Cowboys vs. Ravens telecast on Fox drew nearly five times the total audience as the rescheduled NLDS playoff game between the Nationals and Dodgers.

However, Fox sports will suffer a bit this coming Sunday, as coincidence has both the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears home games being televised locally on CBS.

Speaking of suffering TV fans, Fox Sports is a leader in that category for MLB fans. As of press time, we don't know how many of the NLCS telecasts will be on Fox Sports or hidden away on FS1.

It was with some amusement on Wednesday (10/12) when the overnight ratings for the thrilling NLDS game between the Cubs and Giants showed this epic game as the most watched telecast ever on Fox Sports 1. Both the Chicago and San Francisco markets produced ratings at or above 19.0. The Monday night Game 3, which lasted until 1:45 AM CT, showed that more than 450,000 homes were still tuned in within the Chicago market when the game ended. And this was on a Monday night!

While Fox Sports is boasting about these ratings, they should be furious (like many fans who didn't know where to find the game) that they didn't air these games over the air on Fox Sports. There were plenty of fans who still have no idea where to find these games that would have increased these ratings had they been able to find the game, or even receive it.

FS1 would be fine for overflow (when one game runs into another) and for expanded pre and post-game coverage, but hiding these telecasts is an outrage to baseball fans. The sports suffers with both Fox Sports and TBS not making these games available over the air or having local telecasts, such as the NBA and NHL do for the first round.

It's time to welcome the NHL regular season, and NBCSN has some excellent matchup for the first couple of nights. After showing rivals St. Louis vs. Chicago and Los Angeles vs. San Jose on Wednesday, the network comes back with Pittsburgh raising the Stanley Cup banner and opening against Washington on Thursday. They get a tough break, as it turns out, because the D.C. audience also has the NLDS Game 5 with the Nationals and Dodgers to choose from.

PHILADELPHIA: Although it is from the 6 to 10 PM slot when the games are going on, 97.5 The Fanatic is temporarily without a night time sports talk host. After a year and one-half of hosting nights, Joe DeCamara is out and even removed from the station's web site. No reason given as of press time.

ORLANDO: For the Magic's pre-season game vs. San Antonio on Wednesday (10/12), the team is streaming a telecast via Facebook within a 75 mile radius of the arena as an experiment. This will be the arena feed combined with the radio play-by-play with Dennis Neumann and Richie Adubato. The Atlanta Hawks streamed an open practice on Facebook Live back on October 1st.

WASHINGTON D.C.: It is now definite that there will not be a new "in house" cable channel created for the Capitals and Wizards games. The teams, whose ownership had been considering their own channel and adding other area teams, have taken a deal from NBC Sports Group to partner in Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. As a result, the Caps will reportedly receive around $28 million per season in rights, while the Wizards will receive about $35 million per season through the 2031-32 seasons. For this coming season, this will be roughly double the revenue each team received for last season.

NEW YORK: WABC-TV 7 has hired Ryan Field away from Fox Sports to become its lead sports anchor. Field has been anchoring on Fox Sports 1 for most of the past three years.

DETROIT: Sorry to report that WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket host Terry Foster suffered a setback in his recovery from the stroke he suffered in August. Foster had planned to return to co-host along with Mike Valenti last week.

Fox Sports Detroit has confirmed that Mario Impemba and Rod Allen will return to the Tigers telecasts for 2017.

MINNEAPOLIS: Two outlying area stations have dropped their sports programming. WXCX 105.7 (Siren MN) dropped its simulcast of The Fan from Minneapolis, as did WXCE 1260 (Amery MN), which had been airing NBC Sports Radio. Both stations have gone to music formats, as sister station WHSM 910 (Hayward MN) had done earlier following an ownership change of all three of these stations.

ROCHESTER: With 990 AM discontinuing its sports programming Rochester Americans hockey has moved to WROC 950 and 95.7 ESPN in time for the new season. Don Stevens continues as the team's play-by-play voice.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Week in Sports Media - 10/5/16

It appears that the networks are showing some concern about the slight drop in NFL ratings through the first quarter of the season. Some of the games being shown in key cities and announcer assignments would seem to confirm this.

As I have commented since even before Los Angeles got an NFL team again, there appears to be an impact from the #2 TV market in the country not always getting the more important Sunday afternoon games because of the Rams.

CBS has Cincinnati at Dallas for its doubleheader game this Sunday (10/9) to most of the country, but the Los Angeles market instead gets the Rams vs. Buffalo. You can't tell me that the casual fan or fantasy player would choose that game ahead of the Dallas game. It's just that for this week, CBS has no choice.

In markets where there is a choice, we are seeing some interesting developments. The St. Louis market has been stuck with the Rams telecasts thus far this season while there are clearly fans in that area who no longer care. The low point for them was last Sunday when Fox showed the Rams vs. Cardinals, the two teams which left St. Louis, against each other.

This coming Sunday CBS in St. Louis is sparing their viewers from the Rams vs. Buffalo and instead showing the Cincinnati vs. Dallas game.

Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and other Midwest markets will, obviously, get the Chicago at Indianapolis game as the early Fox game. What makes this interesting is that Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call this game, even though it goes to fewer markets than the Philadelphia vs. Detroit telecast. Interesting timing considering that it is a rare month when the Bears are not the biggest sports story in Chicago.

Kansas City and surrounding markets will get the Oakland vs. San Diego telecast ahead of the Cinci-Dallas game since it features division rivals.

Last Sunday CBS had to bail out on the finish of its Denver at Tampa Bay telecast when a weather delay ran the game well into prime time. Only KCNC-TV Denver and KKTV-TV Colorado Springs, along with WTSP-TV Tampa and WKMG-TV Orlando returned for the last part of the telecast. Stations including WBBM-TV Chicago which were also airing the game were sent off to the regular CBS Sunday night lineup.

At ESPN, while it continues with its post-season coverage, it became official this week that analyst John Kruk is no longer with the network, after having been there since 2004.

ESPN also reported that the 9.3 million for Louisville-Clemson game on Oct. 1st was 3rd most-watched regular season Saturday Night Football game ever, and the 2nd biggest since the 2008 season.

HOUSTON: Josh Innes, recently bounced from WIP-FM Philadelphia's afternoon drive slot following a ratings struggle, has returned to Houston. Innes will be hosting the 3 to 7 PM weekday slot on KMBE Sports 790. Prior to going to Philadelphia, Innes was heard on KILT 610. There will be other lineup changes on KMBE, which is the flagship for the Astros and Rockets along with airing U. of Texas football and basketball. "The Proper Gentlemen" Lance Zierlein and Matt Thomas will air from 6 to 10 AM.

KILT 610 has a new addition, bringing in Derek Fogel as a sports anchor and weekend host. He comes to Houston from WXLT 103.5 "ESPN Southern Illinois" and sister station WJPF 1340.

NEW YORK: Not only did the Mets go further than the Yankees in the regular season, but the local TV ratings went in their favor as well. For the first time since SNY began Mets telecasts 11 seasons ago, the Mets games finished with a higher audience rating than the Yankees telecasts on YES Network. Some of this is due to the dispute between YES Network and Comcast, which kept YES out of approximately 900,000 homes this season.

WFAN 660 is going hockey crazy for the coming NHL season. The station will air 59 New Jersey Devils games and has now picked up 30 of the Islanders broadcasts. This gives the Islanders a much needed strong signal and market presence. The remaining Isles games will air on 970 The Answer and WRHU-FM.

CHICAGO: As much as I try not to pick on sportscasters who mess up big time, this one is beyond belief. Lauren Magiera, who just this summer replaced the retired Rich King on WGN-TV Sports amazed local sports fans this past Sunday (10/2) night.

During her hosting role on "Instant Replay", WGN-TV's expanded 20 minute Sunday night sportscast, her first blunder was showing the highlights of the afternoon's White Sox season finale vs. Minnesota. Nothing wrong with the highlights package. However, after showing footage of this meaningless game she THEN presented the story that Robin Ventura announced he would not be returning as manager after the game. Most other TV stations led with the Ventura story that night, even ahead of the first Bears win of the NFL season. Instead, Lauren and the crew totally reversed the order.

If only that was the worst of this. Later in the show, while showing highlights of the NHL Blackhawks pre-season game against Detroit, Magiera showed a goal "in the third quarter". Yes, the "third quarter" of a three period NHL game. On the TV station which airs 20 regular season Blackhawks games.

FAYETTEVILLE NC: As much as we respect media members taking a stance when the occasion calls for it, WFAY-AM and its decision to cancel its scheduled broadcast of the East Carolina game at South Florida this Saturday (10/8) seems a bit extreme.

Station CEO Jeff Andrulonis said the station is doing this in protest of the school's band members kneeling during the national anthem last week in their game against Central Florida. This, even though the band members later apologized and the station acknowledges it will lose the advertising revenue. The station plans to, as usual, broadcast all of the team's remaining games this season. Even if the station actually airs the anthem (and not all of them do from the various college football games) this is still radio, and the listeners can't tell who is standing or not standing during the anthem.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Sunday When Off The Field Dominated On The Field

This past Sunday (9/25) was one of the most significant sports media days in history. While there is the occasional day when sports becomes "news", this was a day with three such instances within the 24 hour period.

The morning began with the unfortunate death of Miami's Jose Fernandez. MLB Network went live with hours of coverage and reaction, as you would expect. ESPN dominated with that story until 10 AM ET when it went to its NFL programming.

At that time, its NFL programming had the lead news story of the pending protest outside of the Carolina Panthers home game (in Charlotte) vs. Minnesota. ESPN covered that possibility, as well it should have, for the first few minutes before moving on to that game and the others of the day.

Late afternoon, we had MLB Network airing the Dodgers telecast of Vin Scully's final home game broadcast after 67 seasons, including staying on after the game ended to show the tribute which followed. They stayed on with it until 7 PM ET, as late as they could due to the ESPN window for Sunday Night Baseball.

(On a very important separate note, Vin Scully's final Dodgers broadcast is this Sunday at 3 PM ET from San Francisco. While the TV version cannot be shown nationally, KLAC Los Angeles will be simulcasting Scully's call on radio for the entire game, rather than the usual first three innings. This means that the millions of fans with AtBat will be able to listen to his final broadcast. Those with the MLB-TV package will be able to watch.)

As it turned out, both Sunday Night Baseball and Sunday Night Football on NBC were overshadowed by the (then) breaking news that golf legend Arnold Palmer had passed away. NBC, understandably, devoted much of its half-time segment to that story instead of the usual NFL highlights.

On days like that, it is a difficult challenge for broadcasters to maintain a balance between the news stories and the games which we as fans enjoy. Let's give credit to the major networks for doing a solid job in that regard.

Also on Sunday, it was nice to again see both Fox and CBS able to better serve the "over the air" fans viewing early regional games by providing bonus coverage without the restrictions they have faced in the past.

For its early games, Fox was able to send its viewers from earlier ending games, such as the Green Bay vs. Detroit game, to the Washington vs. New York Giants telecast and stay with it until the end. Fans watching the GB - Det. game got to see the entire final 8 minutes of the game.

At the same time, when CBS' early primary regional game between Denver and Cincinnati ended, fans were switched to the Cleveland vs. Miami game at the end of regulation. Even with its scheduled doubleheader game, markets other than those which are primary or secondary markets for the teams playing in its doubleheader game were able to watch the Cleve.-Miami game through the overtime to its conclusion.

In the past, NFL restrictions prevented fans from seeing any more than limited live cut-ins. The fact that this happened for both networks simultaneously in neutral markets added to the drama of the opening games. Nice to see!

The Sunday Night Football game between Chicago and Dallas finished as the lowest rated Sunday Night game which featured the Cowboys since 2010. NBC had two factors going against it. One was the early blowout lead by the Cowboys, while the other was ESPN adding the Cubs against the Cardinals for Sunday Night Baseball. This did serve to cut into the Chicago audience which usually dominates with the Bears. In fact, Norfolk VA had a higher local rating (with way fewer households) than Chicago. The Chicago rating was only 60% of what it was in Dallas.

On Monday night (9/26), Monday Night Football on ESPN continued its dismal start to the 2016 season, finishing as the lowest rated NFL telecast of the entire first three weeks of the season. Sure, there was the debate which attracted a huge audience.

However, the fact is that the previous time that a presidential debate opposed Monday Night Football, back in 2012, there was also a Game 7 in the MLB NL Championship Series. And, on that night in 2012, the NFL telecast that night (Detroit vs. Chicago) finished with a higher rating than this week's game - even without post-season MLB against it.

Well, somebody at Fox Sports must have a wicked sense of humor. NFL fans in the St. Louis area are upset enough that this Sunday's matchup includes the Rams vs. the Cardinals, the two former St. Louis teams.

So which game do St. Louis area fans get for the Fox doubleheader game? The Rams vs. the Cardinals, instead of Dallas vs. San Francisco. Ouch.

The newest Nielsen radio ratings are out for the August-September period with a few very interesting developments for sports radio.

In Boston, WEEI-FM, which has the Red Sox as they go into the post-season, actually dropped .3 from the previous month but came in a solid #6 overall in total audience. WEEI-FM is .4 ahead of rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub, which held steady from the previous month and finished #8.

The successful regular season by the Cubs propelled flagship and sports station WSCR The Score 670 to #5 overall in the market, its highest rating ever. WMVP ESPN 1000 went up slightly from the previous month but now has less than one-half of the total audience that WSCR does.

With the Rangers headed back to the post-season KRLD-FM Dallas (flagship station) is a solid #1 at night and helped the station rise to #8 in the market. KTCK-AM The Ticket is down since July and trails KRLD by .7 of a ratings point, although it now has more than double the total audience of KESN-FM ESPN.

Philly's WIP-FM, despite a poor season by the Phillies, rose to #10 in the market, while WPEN ESPN held steady with under half of "the Whip" audience size.

Twin Cities listeners are clearly excited about the Vikings, as The Fan rose to #4 overall in that market, while in San Francisco, KNBR slipped down to #3 (from the top spot), losing .8 from the previous month.

In Los Angeles, KLAC 570, the Dodgers flagship, went up to a 1.4 rating, but remains well out of the top 20 in overall audience size. Yet, it has more than double the audience of KSPN ESPN 710.

INDIANAPOLIS: And this was for the winning team! It was a big relief to Colts fans this past Sunday when the team recovered a fumble to clinch victory in a tight game vs. San Diego. It seems that Colts radio broadcaster Bob Lamey was a bit relieved. He announced to his listeners that the "F-ing game is over!!", actually using the F-word on the broadcast. As of press time, no disciplinary action has been taken. Have to wonder if he had done that on social media if this would have been the case.

CHICAGO: To the disappointment of many baseball fans, long time White Sox TV voice Ken Harrelson plans to return to call the teams road game telecasts again for the 2017 season. He made the announcement at the conclusion of the team's final road telecast from Cleveland this past Sunday. Many baseball fans probably had the same reaction as Bob Lamey did on the air later that day. Harrelson (and analyst Steve Stone, when he can a word in edgewise) recently finished 32nd in a national poll of TV baseball play-by-play teams, which was fitting considering there are 30 teams.

The NHL Blackhawks will have 14 of their games this coming season broadcast in Spanish for the first time ever. WRTO 1200 will air the first of these 14 games on October 12th, naming Univision Radio's Hector Lozano for play-by-play and Omar Ramos as analyst.

COLUMBUS: WBNS-FM 97.1 The Fan has renewed the broadcast of the Blue Jackets, starting with what will be its 7th season as flagship station. Ohio State football and basketball will continue to have priority on The Fan. Sister station WWCD 102.5 will air the Blue Jackets games when there are conflicts.

CHAMPAIGN: The University of Illinois has named Deon Thomas, who played for U of I in the early 90's, as its new analyst for its basketball radio broadcasts. He replaces Jerry Hester, who gave up the role earlier this off-season. When their broadcast schedule allows, Illini basketball is heard in Chicago on WSCR 670.

JOHNSON CITY TN: The increased sports presence continues for area radio listeners. WXIS 103.9 has gone to an all news format during drive times, including sportscasts at :15 and :45. Earlier this month, WEMB 1240 switched from music to sports, including adding local host Marky Billson weekdays from Noon to 2 PM.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Scully Final Home Game Broadcast To Air Nationally

It's not often that fans would choose a regular season baseball telecast over the NFL doubleheader game, but this Sunday (9/25) could be an exception for many. It will be the Dodgers final home game of the regular season, which makes it Vin Scully's final telecast from Dodger Stadium.

Since TBS is showing the Yankees vs. Blue Jays game as its national tilt, starting at 1 PM ET, it clears the 4 PM ET time slot, which is when the Dodgers vs. Rockies game begins. As a result, MLB Network is able to air that game nationally (except in the Denver and Los Angeles markets) and bring baseball fans almost everywhere this special telecast.

As expected, Scully will not call any post-season action, home or road, making the following Sunday (10/2) his final telecast ever, from San Francisco. Because of the uniform 3 PM ET start time for all MLB games that day, TBS (or MLB Network) will be unable to carry the Dodgers telecast. Our only hope is that the Dodgers - Giants game would have some meaning (which is possible based on the wild card race), and that TBS would select that game and perhaps carry Vin's call of the final inning.

On the NFL side, while it's only two full weeks into the season, there is already concern about the reduction in the ratings for prime time telecasts, especially Monday Night Football. This past Monday night (9/19), even with strong ratings from both Chicago and Philadelphia, was about 11 ratings points lower than week two (Jets vs. Colts) last season.

While it is true that the second half of the game was not competitive, this followed a week one doubleheader for which both games had a drop compared with last season's ratings. In fact, the late game between the 49ers and Rams (with the added significance of being the Rams first game as the L.A. Rams in many years) wound up with a 25% audience reduction from last season.
Having Atlanta vs. New Orleans this coming Monday might not be a ratings winner either.

Doug Sherman, who has called play-by-play of more than 50 college games for ESPN over the past year, has officially joined ESPN full-time. While he will also continue as the voice of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Sherman is giving up his gig as Sports Director of WRGB Channel 6 in San Antonio.

Sherman, who was with WRGB-TV since 1995, will continue as sports anchor on the 6 PM and 11 PM newscasts through October, when his contract runs out.

ESPN is moving some of its program hosts around over the next couple of weeks. Jorge Sedano will join ESPN2 as co-host of what it calls a bi-lingual sports show, "Nacion ESPN", which will end the Jorge & Izzy Show on ESPN Radio on weeknights. Sarah Spain will join Izzy Gutierrez as co-host for "Izzy & Spain" starting next week.

Los Angeles over-the-air NFL viewers probably feel that they are getting screwed with this coming Sunday's local telecast schedule. The market does not get prime matchups such as Denver vs. Cincinnati or Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia.

Instead, its only Fox game will be a late game with the Rams playing at Tampa Bay. The local CBS doubleheader only gets those viewers Oakland at Tennessee followed by San Diego at Indianapolis. Back to the 'secondary market' bit for the Raiders and Chargers.

PHILADELPHIA: Let the speculation intensify about who will take over afternoons on WIP-FM 94.1 to officially replace Josh Innes. Afternoons had been the one shaky time slot for WIP-FM over the past year or so, yet the station has been in no hurry to announce a definite replacement.

This week brings the reports that Jon Marks plans to leave his morning co-host role on WPEN 97.5 The Fanatic when his contract is up in late October. Marks has been with WPEN (both the FM and the AM) in some capacity since it first went to all sports back in 2005.

Since the rumor is that Marks is "leaving" at the end of his contract (as opposed to being let go, which he is not), and WIP-FM has yet to name a replacement for Innes, it will be most interesting to see what Marks has to say on the first day after his contract expires. It is quite possible that, since he is still under contact, he can't say anything publicly about where he will wind up.

CHICAGO: As mentioned above, even with lower national ratings for this past Monday's Bears vs. Eagles game, the telecast was the most watched television program in the Chicago market, combining for a 22.1 rating between ESPN and its telecast airing locally on WCIU-TV.

Speaking of WCIU-TV, our best wishes to Sports Director (for the past 15 years) Kenny McReynolds. Kenny Mac, who has had some major health issues in the past couple of years, will soon need more surgery. He continues to call play-by-play of high school telecasts which air on sub-stations and sister station WWME-TV each weekend.

SAN DIEGO: Fox Sports San Diego has extended its partnership with Prime Ticket Los Angeles and will once again air all available (not national telecasts) L.A. Clippers games this season. This deal includes the ability for San Diego viewers to receive streams of the telecasts where applicable

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

L.A. & St. Louis Viewers Stuck With The Rams

Makes us wonder how many sales of Sunday Ticket there have been and will be this week in the Los Angeles area. With the Rams having played late on Monday Night Football to open their season, the impact of their Sunday schedule isn't being felt until this coming weekend.

On Sunday (9/18) the Rams are home against Seattle, and the game is sold out. As a result, viewers in L.A. will get that telecast as the only Fox telecast of the day. Thus, fans do not get an early game on Fox. The folks at Fox Sports are taking this telecast seriously, assigning Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to this game even though it will go to less than 25% of the country.

As a result, however, L.A. (over the air) viewers cannot get the CBS doubleheader game of Indianapolis at Denver because of home team restrictions, which L.A. hasn't had in all of the years since the Rams left. They do get the early primary regional game on CBS, which is the highly anticipated first meeting of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati since last season's memorable post-season battle between those two teams. All of this also prevents both the Raiders and Chargers games from being shown in that market.

However, it is possible that (over the air) viewers in the St. Louis area will feel even more screwed on Sunday. The local Fox station will also air the Rams vs. Seattle game as its only Fox telecast that day. Those fans do have another option, as the St. Louis market gets both ends of the CBS doubleheader. Have to believe that Indy at Denver will draw a bigger audience than the departed Rams vs. Seattle.
Denver's opening night win over Carolina last Thursday (9/8) was the lowest rated (nationally) since 2013. The Denver ratings rocked with a 74% share of the local audience, while the Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham, and Greenville markets were each among the top seven highest local markets.

For the Sunday (9/11) season openers, the Fox telecast of the NYG vs. Dallas game was up about 15% from last year's doubleheader telecast opener. It also had a larger audience than NBC's Sunday Night Football season opener with New England and Arizona, which was down 11% from last year's.
For this Thursday (9/15) the Buffalo vs. NY Jets telecast will also be the first to be streamed live via Twitter. The service has added Chris Carter as an analyst only for its feed. Carter, who is no longer with ESPN, will host a Twitter-only pre-game show about 90 minutes prior to kickoff, along with a half time and post-game presentation. He will also reportedly be Tweeting comments and possibly taking viewer questions during the games.

On the college side, Fox Sports is adding a "virtual reality" broadcast feed via its Fox Sports app for mobile devices for its Ohio State vs. Oklahoma telecast this Saturday (9/17). This feature will allow users to choose among multiple camera views as well as having access to stats and rosters.

ESPN/ABC continues to try and find a better studio presentation surrounding its NBA telecasts for the upcoming season. The struggle to find the right studio host for the pre-game, half time, and post-game show continues as Michelle Beadle is being brought in to be the main host on Wednesday and Friday nights. Sage Steele will continue as the main host on Saturdays (prime time) and on Sundays.

This takes Doris Burke out of her occasional hosting role (which she did on some Wednesdays last season), although Burke remains with the show as an analyst.

Back at Fox Sports, struggling Fox Sports 1 continues its push to grow an audience. It is getting to the point where more and more fans know it exists, but is finding out the hard way that content rules.

After spending a lot of money to bring Skip Bayless over for its daily show, which began last week, the ratings dipped by 45% from the day one premiere to day two. Even with stronger first day ratings, the total audience was well under half of what ESPN2 drew at the same time (not even counting ESPN).

At CBS Sports, the network, along with Westwood One, has expanded The Jim Rome Show to a daily podcast, which is a condensed version of his radio show. The Network is actually promoting this feature in an effort to create additional advertiser opportunities.

As an old school radio person, I will once again raise the point that promoting this also promotes time spent NOT listening to the radio (especially CBS) since they could instead hear the podcast and save time in the process. Of course, this points fans in the direction of getting used to podcasts, where they can EASILY find other sports podcasts which have nothing to do with CBS or any other radio outlet.

I'll bet many of the same executives that signed off on this are also wondering why CBS Radio is close to being sold and downgraded from its once lofty status.

LOS ANGELES: KSPN ESPN 710 is finally expanding its local programming starting next Wednesday (9/21). The new local morning show, from 6 to 9 AM, will be hosted by Israel Gutierrez along with (former NFL receiver) Keyshawn Johnson. LZ Granderson will also participate in the show. (Johnson will remain as an ESPN NFL analyst from L.A.)

The Mychal Thompson and Mike Trudell show will expand by one hour and air from 9 AM to Noon. Local programming continues each weekday until 9 PM, now including Kelvin Washington moving to afternoons to co-host with Marcellus Wiley from 3 to 7 PM.

KSPN will, of course, continue to air the Angels, USC and Rams football, and the Lakers, along with ESPN Radio play-by-play when there are no conflicts.

Sister station KLAA 830 will air ESPN Radio national programming including Mike & Mike airing live at 3 AM.

DALLAS: Although local interest is solid in the Rangers as they close in on the MLB post-season, the Metroplex is still a football town when it comes to TV viewing. This past Sunday (9/11), as expected, the Cowboys opener vs. the Giants had a local Nielsen rating of 32.7. No one will question that, although the Rangers vs. Angels telecast that afternoon had a rating of 1.4. Yet, the other three NFL telecasts on Sunday (including Sunday Night Football) all had at least five times larger than the Rangers audience.

AUSTIN: KLGO 1260 and KTXX 104.9 will remain as the flagship stations for Texas Longhorn broadcasts, despite the pending sale of those stations.

CHICAGO: And finally, this week, it's "ooops" time. On Monday late afternoon (9/12), Comcast SportsNet Chicago was, as usual showing the scroll of the upcoming night's sports schedule. Several times, when it was time for the NFL scoreboard, their scroll showed the late NFL game as "St. Louis at San Francisco". You would think that, for all of the time and effort they spend on Chicago Bears and NFL related programming, they would notice that the Rams no longer play in St. Louis. Even more amazing that no one caught it after multiple airings.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Let The Pro Football Season Begin!

Always an exciting weekend as the NFL season kicks off, especially with a Super Bowl rematch on Thursday (9/8).

With the return of a home team to the Los Angeles area, it will be interesting to see if there is an impact on the TV ratings for that market. The L.A. Rams open their regular season on Monday night, which, for Week 1, opens up the L.A. market for outside NFL telecasts.

The concern is that, if the Rams do not do well this season, that fans without Sunday Ticket will be stuck with Rams telecasts instead of more important regional or national telecasts they are used to seeing.

For this Sunday (Sept. 11), the L.A. market gets the San Diego at Kansas City game as the early game telecast on CBS. This appears to be the most appealing west game of those available, while it remains to be seen (pun intended) whether or not CBS will continue to air every Chargers game it can in L.A. as if it is still considered a secondary market for that team.

The Fox games in L.A. will be Oakland at New Orleans for the early start and then the same doubleheader game that the majority of the country gets, which is the Giants vs. the Cowboys with Joe Buck on the call. It's also curious that L.A. gets the Raiders game early, since rumors persist that the Raiders could also move to L.A. in the next few years.

Thus, Week 1 Sunday is just like it has been for L.A., with the Raiders, Chargers, and regular doubleheader game telecasts being shown.

On the radio side, Westwood One continues to provide the most important national broadcasts, starting with Thursday's opener with Denver and Carolina. Ian Eagle will handle the call. For its Monday Night Football broadcasts, it will again be Kevin Harlan and Boomer Esiason, although Kurt Warner will handle several of the broadcasts instead of Esiason this season.

What is interesting is the desire for the Westwood One broadcasts of the prime time games to air in Chicago no matter what. Those broadcasts air on WSCR 670 The Score. However, WSCR also airs Cubs baseball, which looks to also include post-season games.

When there are conflicts with Westwood One prime time NFL broadcasts, they will actually air on another Chicago station through a time purchase arrangement. It is highly unusual for a station to broker time on another station when not for a local team's game. No word as to whether WSCR or Westwood One is actually purchasing the time to keep those broadcasts on in Chicago for every prime time game.

For the Monday Night Football openers, the season, as always, begins with a Monday Night Football doubleheader. While the first game, between Pittsburgh and Washington, is an anticipated matchup between two teams with significant national fan bases, from a broadcast point of view, the second game will be the bigger story.

This will be the Rams' first regular season game as the Los Angeles Rams since the team moved to St. Louis years ago. ESPN will have Chris Berman on play-by-play for the game, which is an even less popular move (based on fan reaction I've read) this season.

Besides that, this will be the first regular season game for 49ers backup QB (as of press time) Colin Kaepernick. However, with an earlier game having priority, and based on ESPN's policy, the national anthem will not be shown prior to the Rams vs. 49ers game.
In the unlikely event that the Steelers vs. Redskins game ends early, it will be interesting to see if ESPN breaks format and shows the anthem and what Kaepernick does or doesn't do during it.

On the baseball side, it is easy to understand why so many fans are clamoring for Vin Scully's final regular season game to be shown nationally on the final day of the regular season, Oct. 2nd.

However, with all games starting at 3:05 ET that day, and with TBS holding exclusive national rights, it can't happen. TBS has the exclusive national contract because they paid for it. Since it will be the Dodgers hosting the Giants that afternoon, there is a possibility that could be the national game for TBS. It would be, however, the regular TBS announcing team.

In that event, the best we can hope for is that TBS would be able to carry Scully's call of the final inning nationally and use its own graphics. However, if TBS goes with, say, an American League East battle that afternoon, the final Scully inning (or game) would not be shown live beyond the Los Angeles market, where it will be available via KTLA-TV Channel 5.

There have been reports that the Dodgers will have Scully work Dodgers post-season games, which would be radio only. The hope here is that it would not happen.

Chances are that the regular season finale will not have an impact on the post-season. That scenario would allow for Scully to have the spotlight he so richly deserves. If he calls the post-season, fans won't know which game would be his last, and the final out means that one team advances while the other goes home. The team advancing is the story, and not Scully. Vin should get the chance to wrap up as scheduled, in a more likely situation where he can be the dominant story.

Fans should also keep in mind that Scully is not the only long-time baseball broadcast legend calling it a career at the end of the regular season. This will also be Dick Enberg's last telecast.

While Scully's final regular season telecast can't be seen beyond L.A., we have hope that Enberg's final home game telecast calling the Padres, which is on Thursday Sept. 29th in San Diego, can and will be picked up nationally by MLB Network. Oh my!!

The Padres' regular season finale is in Phoenix at the Diamondbacks on October 2nd. Clearly, there is zero chance that game would have any national interest.

ESPN did the Chicago audience a favor by moving the Cubs vs. Astros game to Sunday Night Baseball this week (9/11). This allows fans to see both ends of the "Chicago at Houston" doubleheader on Sunday. Fox has regional coverage of the Bears at Texans in their season opening early game.

The following Sunday (9/18), ESPN has scheduled, of course, the Yankees at Red Sox game. While this seems to be a MLB mandate that all of their games be nationally televised, that matchup actually could be the most appealing game available that night. It might still be tough for fans around the country to adjust to having a Red Sox vs. Yankees telecast on because there is a good reason for it.

Fox Sports Radio has dumped Mike North and Andy Furman from their morning show (for the Eastern and Central time zones), doing so in time for football season.

CHICAGO: WSCR 670 The Score has a new multi-year agreement to continue to air DePaul University basketball. The coming season will be the 20th season for WSCR to air those games.

CSN Chicago received its highest ratings for a Cubs telecast since 2009 last week, when its August 31st telecast vs. Pittsburgh was the highest rated show for the entire market during prime time.

OMAHA: KXSP ESPN 590 has added the locally based "TBL - The Bottom Line" sports show from Noon to 2 PM on weekdays. The show, produced by the New Channel Nebraska Television and streamed via the local newspaper's web site, actually runs from 10 AM to 2 PM.

ASHLAND KY: WCMI 93.3 has increased its involvement with University of Kentucky sports, re-branding as Cat Sports 93.3 (for Kentucky Wildcats). The station now airs the regional Kentucky Sports Radio show from 10 AM to Noon on weekdays, along with carrying the weekly shows such as coaches shows specific to the University sports. It will also continue to air the Cincinnati Bengals games. The remaining time will continue to be filled by ESPN Radio.