Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Will Rockets TV Take Off?

Perhaps the biggest sports media story of the year could have its next important development early next week, where a Houston Bankruptcy Court will be the location for a hearing regarding the status of CSN Houston and its future (or lack thereof) of televising the Rockets and Astros games.

This hearing, scheduled for Monday (10/28) at press time, could determine the short-term status of CSN Houston. Which, of course, would also play a role in determining its long-term status. The Astros are looking to get out from under their original deal with CSN Houston which was structured to provide significant income for the team, but has resulted in barely 40% of the local cable and satellite market being able to receive the games. On the other hand, the Rockets, whose regular season with star acquisition Dwight Howard begins next week, are looking for CSN Houston to continue based on a different revenue guarantee than the Astros deal has.

You can be sure that other pro teams will be watching this one closely. Teams such as the Dodgers and Rangers are getting ready to embark on similar huge long-term TV deals, while other teams are eyeing those while counting the days until they can begin negotiations. If the Astros, who were reportedly not paid millions due from the 2013 regular season contract, are forced to continue with CSN Houston and do not receive the multi-millions they were expecting, look for a ripple effect in "new" negotiations around the country as local and regional networks will be less likely to pull the trigger.

Given how much money sports and non-sports fans now pay for their cable and/or satellite TV, without new and even more inflated contracts in place, it will be interesting to see the fallout from this upcoming ruling, if it happens. There is, of course, the possibility of a postponement or continuation.

Meanwhile, ESPN/ABC has finally addressed its long standing (2 seasons) need to have a true host for its NBA studio programming surrounding game telecasts. Sage Steele has been named as the host of NBA Countdown on Fridays and Sundays, even though not yet for those Wednesday night telecasts ESPN provides. With the recently added Doug Collins, along with Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons, the studio will still be crowded with analysts wanting their air time, but at least having a host will hopefully restore order. Why Wednesdays nights are not including Steele is a bit of a mystery, although those nights also will not include Collins and the others. Instead, Doris Burke will be joined by Avery Johnson and Jalen Rose for the studio segments.

The start of the NBA season next week brings its fans four consecutive nights of national doubleheaders, even though a couple of teams will be shown multiple times at the start.
TNT starts with a special opening night doubleheader on Tuesday 10/29 (potentially against Game 6 of the World Series) with Chicago at Miami (including the Heat's championship ring ceremony) followed by the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Clippers. On Wednesday 10/30, NBA-TV airs a live doubleheader with Brooklyn at Cleveland followed by the Lakers (again) at Golden State. On Thursday 10/31, TNT airs a pair with New York at Chicago (again) followed by Golden State (again) at the L. A. Clippers (again). Then, on Friday 11/1, ESPN debuts its studio show with Sage Steele and Doug Collins with the fourth doubleheader in four nights. The opener has Miami (again) at Brooklyn (again), while the late game has the Lakers (3rd straight game) hosting San Antonio. NBA-TV already has single telecast scheduled for each of the following three nights.

ATLANTA: Braves radio remains in WCNN 680 as part of a multi-year renewal, with Jim Powell and Don Sutton remaining as the broadcast team. The games will be moving down the FM dial, with News 106.7 taking over the broadcasts, which had aired on Rock 100.5 since the 2010 season.

LOS ANGELES: With the Dodgers' new TV package set to start with the 2014 season, the play-by-play team has yet to be determined for the road games which Vin Scully does not call. Word is that Eric Collins and Steve Lyons have been dropped. Speculation includes Orel Hersheiser, whose contract with ESPN is up after the World Series ends.

CHARLOTTE: WFNZ 610 The Fan has let go of Brett Jensen about about three years with the station. The Fan has extended "Bustin' Loose with Frank Garcia" from 10 AM to 2 PM, and the afternoon show with Taylor Zarzour and Mark James from 2 to 6 PM weekdays.

MONTEREY CAL: Having those "contests" for a shift on a sports radio station are bad enough when they are for the Sunday overnight slot or some other "Who cares?" time slot, but this one takes the cake. KIDD 630 went as far as to hold on-air auditions with six finalists for a "possible" on-air slot with the station. When? From 3 PM to 5 PM on weekdays. I had to look at the calendar to be see how close this is to April 1st, but it's not. Maybe by the time it is, there will be a contest to audition for station manager.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When Opinions Are Not News

The opinions of professional broadcasters, unless directly involved, are NOT news stories. At least they should not be. However, this past week brought still another instance where this comes into question. As many of you know, Bob Costas went on at halftime of Sunday Night Football (on 10/13) and gave his opinion about the Washington Redskins team name not being changed. Costas is most certainly entitled to express and opinion, and was able to do that to a large national audience, providing the opportunity for viewers to agree or disagree. No problem there.

However, where I do have a problem is how this became a "news" story and was actually reported by other networks and stations around the country. Say what?

I will grant you that at this moment in time I am not a News Director or Sports Director who is in charge of making decisions about what gets reported. But I will tell you that if I were at this moment, there is ZERO chance that I would tolerate any of the writers or reporters in my command to put a story on the air about Bob Costas' opinion. Whether I agree with it or not.

Of course, I understand that the recent outcry over the Redskins team name has been in the news of late. But a national sportscaster expressing his (or her) feelings about it is NOT news. If a station, network, web site, or publication wishes to "report" on this story, then do so by presenting facts about it and/or an opinion of someone directly involved.

This is far from the only time a TV or radio broadcaster has expressed what is merely an opinion and had it be treated as if it is newsworthy. Sports fans have had to put up with stories about things that Charles Barkley has said, among others. Although Barkley was a Hall of Fame caliber player, he, like Costas, is paid by at least one TV network to provide analysis, opinions, and related broadcasting duties.

Yet, other media, often networks competing for those same sports viewers, seem to treat such opinions and commentaries as if they are big news items. If the story being commented on is that big of a deal, then pick up the phone or grab the camera and get reaction from a team official or someone directly impacted by the subject.

Personally, I was not watching at halftime, and did not see the Costas commentary, since I had switched to the baseball playoff game. Yet, I heard about what Costas said from several different media sources, including local TV stations, within the 24 hours after. I should either have not known that Costas said anything, or at the most have seen something about it on an NBC or Comcast sports related web site.

While Sunday Night Football continues to deliver ratings for NBC, and NBC Sports Network is getting a boost from the start of the NHL regular season, it is otherwise quiet. The fact that both NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network were making a big deal about adding college hockey telecasts for this season reflects that. Although it is live programming instead of some of the hours of filler programming both networks have, I'm not seeing a demand for more college hockey at the national level.

Over at Fox Sports, it has been a mixed bag of late. Fox is doing very well with the exciting (as of press time) Red Sox vs. Tigers ALCS, including a ratings gain on Sunday (10/13) night, even going against Sunday Night Football on NBC. That telecast set a LCS ratings record for Fox in Detroit, which had a higher local rating than Boston. The early series ratings for Fox were up more than 20% across the board compared with their NLCS games last October.

However, Fox Sports 1 actually showed a game on Saturday (10/12) that was actually worthy of attracting a big audience, but failed to do so. The Oregon vs. Washington telecast, with the #2 team in the country against another ranked team, finished with a 1.3 overnight rating. In comparison, CBS (Florida vs. LSU), ESPN (Michigan - Penn State), and ABC (regional games including Clemson vs. BC and Northwestern vs. Wisconsin) all showed much higher ratings.

It was interesting that Fox Sports 1 did beat one other national telecast with this game. That was the Baylor vs. Kansas State game on Fox Sports, also seen over-the-air.

On the other hand, CBS reports that its SEC telecasts are, thus far into the season, averaging the highest ratings in 12 seasons.

CHICAGO: CSN Chicago has added another full-time anchor and reporter with the addition of Kelly Crull, formerly with Fox Sports San Diego.

WVMP ESPN 1000 will be airing at least 17 games of the University of Illinois Chicago's basketball games this season, with Dave Juday and former UIC player Ken Williams on the call. The station will air every game which does not conflict with its schedule of Chicago Bulls broadcasts and ESPN national games it carries.

CLEVELAND: WEWS-TV Channel 5 has added Kenny Roda to its football coverage effective immediately. Roda will participate on "Tailgate Saturday" Ohio State coverage, among other duties. He had recently lost his gig at WKNR after roughly 20 years there.

WKRK 92.3 has added T.J. Zuppe to its staff on what is reportedly a part-time basis. Zuppe had also previously worked for WKNR as well. Zuppe replaces Matt Loede, who had covered the Indians and Cavaliers beats this past season before being let go by the station last week.

LOS ANGELES: As Time Warner Cable gets set to begin its first season of Lakers telecasts under its expensive new package, the network is adding an all-star team of analysts. I'm not sure how having a total of FOUR analysts on the telecasts is not major overload, but James Worthy and Robert Horry will have even more company. Byron Scott and Luke Walton have been added to the on-air staff, with both added to the pre-game and post-game shows.

NEW ORLEANS: WWWL 1350 has dropped ESPN Radio and cut back on its sports programming. Although a local sports talk show is in the works for at least one weekday shift, the station has reduced to merely airing NBC Sports Radio for nights and overnight.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Picture This Alabama Home

Not everyone agrees with me that a big part of the reason that homes do not sell fast enough and/or for the prices they should is because of how poorly they are advertised and marketed.

If ever there was a prime example, it is this ad for a home in the Montgomery AL area, listed at $199,000.

This advertisement, for a 4 bedroom 3 bath home, was one of SEVERAL shown at the same price as found via the Montgomery daily newspaper's statewide online network search.

I chose to look at this particular home, at 38 Travertine Dr in Pike Road, AL because of the primary photo being difficult to comprehend as a thumbnail.

When I opened up the full web page devoted to the property, I quickly understood why. The photo is taken from an angle looking DIRECTLY into the sun, making the upper portion of the photo too bright to see detail. Incredibly, the rest of the photo shows the home under construction, compete with the siding visible and what looks to be debris and supplies instead of a front lawn. There are NO other photos available.

Even more incredibly, the one paragraph description has NO mention that the home is not finished. Therefore, either the photo is way outdated, OR the advertiser left out an important piece of information if there is NO house at this point in time.

The description copy includes the phrase "This is a must see at only $199,900". A "must see" that anyone looking at the photo cannot see?

This advertisement goes on to invite viewers to come visit the model home for the builder, and gives an address on a different street without a city. And no directions or any indication of the community it is located in.

I'll say this again. This is not the only property shown on my search at this same price. The other advertisements I could have opened up all had photos of "real" homes with the promise of several photos.

Incredibly, the web site claimed that this page (for the home on Travertine) had been UPDATED on the very day I found this. Which means that someone, somehow, somewhere, actually approved to continue running it this way.

Sure. If this home doesn't sell, blame it on the housing market. Right?