Two NBA teams and one NFL team are moving their radio broadcasts, in a series of coincidental announcements within the past week. Most noteworthy is that the NFL team is the San Francisco 49ers, expected to be serious contenders, moving to back to KGO 810. KGO was the 49ers flagship during their glory years from 1987 to 2004 which included three Super Bowls. Ted Robinson returns for play-by-play with Eric Davis returning as analyst. Last season, the Niners aired on highly rated KNBR 680 as well as KTCT 1050 and The Bone KSAN 107.7.
NBA fans throughout the south will be delighted to learn that the New Orleans Hornets broadcasts will be on WWL 870 starting in October, after just one season on WMTI-FM 106.1. The station's strong night signal will enable fans in several states to hear the majority of the broadcasts. This addition makes WWL the dominant play-by-play station in the region, adding the Hornets along with Saints football along with LSU sports. To start, the Hornets games which conflict will be moved to WWL-FM 105.3. Sean Kelley returns for his 8th season of Hornets play-by-play, with local columnist John DeShazier as analyst. DeShazier is also being tapped to host the Thursday night coaches show.
In Portland, the Trailblazers are moving back to 1190 AM and KEX 102.3, where they had been for all but four seasons between 1979 and 2001. Brian Wheeler and Antonio Harvey continue as the broadcast crew. The team added to its announcement that radio affiliates in other markets remain in place under their existing contracts.
What makes this unusual (three teams moving within a few days) is how these announcements come within just a few weeks of the respective teams' seasons opening. These stations miss out on what is usually months of advance promotion of gaining the broadcasts.
NEW YORK: YES Network is gearing up for increased coverage of the NBA Brooklyn Nets, and has added Sarah Kustok to the Nets' beat including pre and post-game programming. Kustok joins YES from CSN Chicago where she did extensive game coverage as well as anchoring. It should be noted that Kustok was a standout basketball player in Chicago at DePaul University, and later an Assistant Coach with the team.
ATLANTA: What is now Dave FM 92.9 will later be sports talk, as station management confirmed the recent rumors with the announced hiring of Terry Foxx as Program Director. Foxx comes from The Fan in Pittsburgh. Mitch Evans, currently sportscaster on Dave FM, has been retained for the sports station, with more announcements about local talent to come. The change to sports is most likely to be in place on or around October 1st.
TAMPA: WHFS The Fan 98.7 is now on the air as a sports station, with Kirk McEwen co-hosting mornings with former Tampa Bay Lightning player Chris Dingman. Afternoons are hosted by Todd Wright, formerly with ESPN Radio and Yahoo Sports Radio, along with former Buccaneers lineman Anthony McFarland. Perhaps the most interesting addition to the station is, for now, overnights. The station not only stays local, but its host is Nanci Donnellan, once known nationally on ESPN Radio as The Fabulous Sports Babe in the mid-90's. Donnellan has had some major health issues in recent years. The thinking is that if and as she remains in good health and does a good show that she'll be moved to a daypart "in need" down the road. Granted, Donnellan was in the "love her or hate her" category in the 90's, but she did use the ESPN resources well and brought listeners a lot more name guests than many other hosts, local or national.
The biggest challenge this station faces is that WDAE 620 still has the broadcasts of the three area pro teams. It will be interesting to see whether or not Tampa turns into another Milwaukee or not. In Milwaukee, WTMJ is not all-sports, but thrives in the ratings by having the Packers, Brewers, and U. of Wisconsin broadcasts all year round, while the two all-sports stations have ratings of less than one point. To this point, The Fan only carries the University of South Florida football and basketball.
Meanwhile, the July radio ratings are being released this week, and for the larger markets, there is little positive for sports stations. New York and San Francisco have steady ratings, although they do both remain strong, for their sports leaders. The Fan 660 held steady to finish 11th overall in the market, while WPEN-FM (the stronger FM signal) actually dropped from June to a 1.3.
San Fran's KNBR 680 finished 5th overall for still another Top 5 finish. However, even with the Oakland A's now making an unexpected playoff run, KGMZ-FM The Game is still at a lowly .7 (the same as April when the season started) with the A's broadcasts and sports talk.
In Chicago, WSCR 670 The Score held at a 2.8 rating, but ESPN Radio WMVP 1000 dropped again, now at only a 1.2, which is more than a 33% decline since April. In Dallas, KTCK-AM dropped 1/2 point overall, while KESN trails by almost a full point and KRLD-FM is now down to a .9 overall.
Philadelphia's WIP-FM is holding at 15th place overall, but is down since May, while WPEN-FM is down to less than half of the audience of WIP-FM. This is while the Phillies are in to an extremely disappointing season, normally major fodder for the sports stations.
It's the usual for Los Angeles and Houston. Even with the Dodgers making a surprise run for the National League West, and with the clock ticking on Vin Scully, KLAC 570 dropped during July to only 1.0 overall. KSPN 710, now down to a 1.4, is in 27th place overall in the market.
Houston's KILT held steady to finish in 21st place overall, while KBME dropped to only a .7. KGOW has dropped to a paltry .1. This is a ratings battle worth watching, as we will see in the next three months just how much (or how little) the local fans are into talking and hearing about the Texans as NFL season is coming up.
Meanwhile, announcers have been announced.
NBC Sports Radio Network, which is still targeting a Sept. 4th launch, has brought in Jon Stashower (formerly WFAN and The Golf Channel) to handle its morning updates. Erik Kuselias, already on staff as a host on NBC Sports Network (TV), will host the 7 to 10 PM ET shift. Whether any major stations will pick this up remains to be seen or heard.
ESPN has announced its college football announce teams, including Brent Musburger and Kirk Herstreit for ABC Saturday Night, and Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge for ESPN Primetime games on Saturdays.
Other play-by-play voices will include Sean McDonough, Mike Patrick, and Danny Kanell on Saturday games; Rece Davis on the Thursday night games; Carter Blackburn on Friday nights, and Dave Pasch, Beth Mowins, and Tom Hart handling Saturday regional telecasts. Marc Jones will call most of the weeknight telecasts.