Is it revenue or viewers that got the NFL to make a slight revision in its TV blackout restrictions beginning with the coming season?
Now it is possible for local home games not completely sold out 72 hours prior to game time to be shown in the local and secondary markets if a game is "at least 85% sold out" and team officials allow it. Granted, the NFL claims only 6% of its games were blacked out last year under the previous restriction. Really, all this does is save some local TV stations, local sponsors, and in some instances, the teams themselves, from buying up blocks of remaining tickets to be able to show the local team and sell the advertising time. Yet, there are times when the "previous" blackout policy came in handy.
Many NFL fans in the city of a poor performing team often prefer to see a more competitive and meaningful game instead of watching the locals lose still again. In those situations, there are reasons not related to the economy as to why enough of the game tickets are not purchased.
I'll go with the more important TV change being the pushing back of the national doubleheader game until 4:25 ET to allow those viewers to see the conclusion of the early game(s) in their market.
Let's credit ESPN with a nice innovation for Sun Belt Conference football fans. The Conference's "Media Day" for its football coaches is next Monday (7/16), and ESPN will stream speeches or interviews with all 10 head coaches. In addition, Cole Wright will host and Cole Cubelic, who handles analysis during some of the Sun Belt football telecasts, will also participate. Considering the amount of college football coverage on ESPN, providing this type of in-depth coverage for fans is fitting with the network, even if it is being promoted as a stream. Hopefully ESPN will schedule time on Monday (or Tuesday at the latest) to show this content on at least one of its channels. It's hard to believe that ESPNU isn't carrying this instead of or in addition to the stream, but the concept is a good one.
The Pac-12 Network is now scheduled to launch on August 15th, with plans in place to air more than 800 live events over the next 12 months. For the coming 12 months, this includes 35 football telecasts and more than 130 basketball telecasts. In addition, the Network is splitting up into six regional channels with two member schools (determined geographically) and providing around 50 more events per school at the regional level.
Baseball fans who can recieve the MLB out-of-town games package via their "expanded" or "preferred" cable or satellite package should check those channels over the next few days. Several cable and satellite systems will be offering the games as a free preview from Friday (7/13) through next Thursday (7/19) in an attempt to sign up more viewers to purchase the package for the remainder of the season. For those who contend that they pay enough each month to watch the games via ESPN, MLB Network, TBS, and the local teams on cable/satellite, this is a chance to catch some of the announcers around the country a couple of times. The Dodgers (with Vin Scully) are home during the coming week, as are the Padres (with Dick Enberg) early next week, for example.
Sorry to learn of the passing of former NBC-TV President Julian Goodman last week at the age of 90. Goodman is actually responsible for sports fans seeing the conclusion of nationally televised games even when they run into prime-time TV schedules, even though it took a TV 'disaster' to make it happen. He was in charge in 1968 when he determined that NBC-TV would cut away from the N.Y. Jets vs. Oakland Raiders playoff game to show the movie "Heidi", only to have the Raiders stage a late 4th quarter comeback to defeat the Jets and create a media storm. Ever since, the games were shown to conclusion, and "60 Minutes" on CBS-TV has been seen "in its entirety" following the late game.
DALLAS: Rangers play-by-play voice Dave Barnett now figures to be out of the TV booth for the remainder of the season, having taken a leave of abscence after his June 18th on-air babbling experience. The 54 year-old Barnett, to his credit, went on KTCK 1310 The Ticket last week to talk publicly about the incident, and how he is seeking medical attention.
WASHINGTON D.C.: Some of the Redskins' radio broadcasts won't be the same starting with the coming season, as ageless Sam Huff has officially reduced his workload to 10 (out of 16) regular season games. Huff will be on the air for all 8 regular season home games, and only travel to Dallas and New York, since those games are, well, against Dallas and New York. He has been a radio analyst since the 1975 season. Larry Michael continues on play-by-play, and Sonny Jurgensen will continue as analyst for all games. Jurgensen has been an analyst on Redskins radio since 1981.
St. LOUIS: This week sees a call letter and name change for KSLG 1380, as it has become KXFN "The Fan 2". Sister station KFNS 590 "The Fan" and KXFN 1380 are already doing cross-promotion of their sports programs.
MEMPHIS: Chris Vernon has joined WMFS 680/92.9 as of this week (7/9) and now handles the 11 AM to 2 PM show. Vernon left KQPN Sports 730 to move over to WMFS.
WATERLOO: KWLO 1330 has dropped its music format and turned into ESPN Radio, and is now competing with KCNZ 1650 The Fan, which carries Fox Sports Radio. However, KWLO has only Northern Iowa University women's sports for its local play-by-play.
JACKSON TN: WBFG-FM 96.5 has started a new weekly high school football show which airs each Monday from 6 to 8 PM (as of 7/9) and will continue through the playoffs. "Prep Football Opening Drive" features local coach interviews and is hosted by reporter Brandon Shields and longtime local coach Joe Holloway.