Category Archives: Radio/TV
When Comcast SportsNet released its A’s broadcast schedule for 2013, I took a brief glance at it and it looked similar to previous years so I didn’t pay much attention to it. This week I’ve had a chance to look at it in greater depth, and while it is not much of a departure from past years, there’s a quirky stretch in there that could throw fans for a loop. CSN California will show 144 regular season games and two spring training contests. The April 3 game vs. Seattle will be shown on KOFY-20 instead of CSN California, as both the Earthquakes and Kings have 7 or 7:30 scheduled games that night. As for the quirky stretch, it’s during the dog days of summer.
Thanks to a number of getaway day games both home and away, nine games in a month-long stretch will not be on CSNBA. This is something we’re used to, as the A’s prefer to have their “businessperson’s special” games not televised in order to get more fans out to the Coliseum (there are exceptions late in the season). Road games are more of a mystery, and seem like nothing more than cheapness or a product of a ratings cost/benefit analysis. In any case, it seems like there are a lot of holes in that stretch. Fortunately, three of the games during that month are Saturday day games that will be regionally broadcast on Fox (KTVU). In fact, the A’s will be on the big Fox network at least six times during the season, with the possibility of additional broadcasts coming at the end of the season if the A’s are in a pennant race. That’s a huge improvement over the mere two planned Fox broadcasts last season, one of which was a game against the Giants. Those six games with broadcast times are:
- May 25 – Oakland @ Houston, 4 PM
- June 15 – Seattle @ Oakland, 4 PM
- July 27 – LA Angels @ Oakland, 11:30 AM
- August 3 – Texas @ Oakland, 12:30 PM
- August 24 – Oakland @ Baltimore, 12:30 PM
- September 14 – Oakland @ Texas, 9:30 AM
There’s also the chance for games on ESPN, ESPN2, and TBS. Given those networks’ East Coast biases, I don’t expect any gaps to be filled in. ESPN and TBS haven’t filled out their season schedules yet, and TBS’s incomplete schedule is so heavily weighted towards the Eastern Time Zone that it’s worth asking why anyone from the West Coast would bother watching TBS.
Next year will be a little more complicated in terms of national broadcasts with the advent of Fox Sports 1. Fox will program frequent Saturday doubleheaders, with the day game on Fox and the night game on FS1 or both on the cable network. The deal calls for FS1 games to involve teams whose games are already carried and produced by Fox Sports regional networks. That could prove problematic for the two Bay Area teams, as they are under the Comcast SportsNet umbrella. Chances are that if we see the A’s and Giants on FS1, it will be with broadcasters from Fox Sports West/Prime, Southwest (Texas), and the YES Network, which Fox bought an interest in last year.
All told, the A’s will have 150 regular season games on TV, 144 on CSNCA and 6 on Fox. Get your radio out for the rest.
Remember 1996? It was a pretty cool year. The Cowboys last won a Super Bowl in ’96. The internet was about to blow up and lead to the dot-com boom. Alanis Morissette won a Grammy for writing a song about a failed relationship with Joey from Full House. There was that cute dancing baby. The first digital HDTV broadcast was made in North Carolina, setting the stage for a new broadcasting world. And until 1996, ESPN ruled the national cable sports world, with regional channels like MSG and SportsChannel satisfied to reign over their fiefdoms.
Two heavy hitters decided to enter the scene. Turner launched CNN/SI, an all-sports-news network to compete with the also-1996 launch of ESPNews. Fox decided to buy stakes in a bunch of regional sports networks (like SportsChannel) and rebrand them as Fox Sports Net. Tied together by a handful of national sports news shows, FSN had a difficult time finding a balance between locally-oriented content and genericized national content. Fox Sports head David Hill famously called sports “tribal” and favored his company’s confederacy-like approach as a challenger to ESPN. Hill hired Keith Olbermann, Jim Rome, and Van Earl Wright to bring in big names with bombastic voices. Eventually the bombast faded away and viewers watched the same thing on FSN they’d always watched: their teams and pre/postgame shows. Fox sold some of the RSNs to partners such as Comcast. Meanwhile, ESPN continued to gobble up national broadcast rights to numerous properties and made huge shifts in the process (signing the NBA, dropping the NHL, giving up SNF for MNF) and established a market power and hegemony that is easy to hate and impossible to ignore.
Now, in 2013, Fox has belatedly decided to launch a new national sports network of its own. Launching in time for the NFL season, Fox Sports 1 will start broadcasting on August 17 in 90 million households, replacing racing-focused Speed. FS1 will find itself surrounded by competition, as it will be the 20th English-language national sports network in the US, with potentially more to come.
As a Johnny-come-lately, FS1 can’t sew up the kinds of long-term content deals ESPN or even slightly newer networks like NBCSN and CBSSN has. The latter two are dealing with their own growing pains and identity crises, as they struggle to find meaningful content that doesn’t come in the form of game telecasts. NBCSN made the biggest coup of the 2012 by stealing future Premier League seasons from Fox Soccer Channel, which may force Fox the reevaluate how it uses that slot. For now all of these media companies can be thankful that there is so much content from colleges and conferences to make deals for. Still, ESPN has the cream-of-the-crop, getting rights for the BCS, SEC football night games, and Big East and Big Ten basketball. That’s not to ignore the role of the big four broadcast networks, who have the biggest deals, and other national cable players who have their own rights secured (TNT, TBS, FX).
What does that leave for Fox Sports 1? Well, if you believe the press release, quite a lot.
- MLB – Some League Divisional Series and League Championship Series games, plus regular season games on 26 Saturdays. Putting a few LDS games on FS1 makes sense considering the spread among the networks, but the LCS? Not sure how that’s going to work between FS1 and the Fox broadcast network. On one hand, maintaining cable control over some series may push cable providers to carry the networks. On the other hand, limited carriage may cause reduced ratings, which would piss off MLB and its advertisers.
- NFL – No games, but FS1 will have its own hourlong NFL news show just like every other network.
- NCAA Football/Basketball – Mostly remainders of non-premier games not carried by other broadcast and cable networks. Key to this observation: the press release features Conference USA. Meh.
- NASCAR – Speedweeks leading up to the Daytona 500, some Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races, daily and weekly news shows. For a couple of years there was talk that Fox and NASCAR would launch a NASCAR-branded network, which may have led to the delay in launching FS1. In any event, the NASCAR network didn’t come to fruition, and Fox Sports 1 appears to be taking on additional NASCAR programming, so that looks like the compromise struck between the two.
- Soccer – While Fox Soccer Channel lost the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches will move over to FS1
- UFC – Wednesday Fight Night, a card on the network’s launch day, and a weekly news show.
- Sports news and original programming - Fox Sports Live to go head-to-head against SportsCenter, Rush Hour, an afternoon talk show hosted by Regis Philbin designed to compete with the Around the Horn/Pardon the Interruption combo, and a series of documentaries that look a little like the “30-for-30″ series.
Fox claims that over 5,000 hours of live programming will air every year, which means more than half of the network’s slate will be live or original broadcasts. FS1 is trying to grab a bunch of niches, which should help it build a solid niche fanbase while it waits for less sport-specific fans to tune in. Frankly, I’m surprised that none of these networks has tried a show that would appeal to sabermetricians and numbers geeks in other sports (no, ESPN’s lightweight “Numbers Never Lie” doesn’t count). Eventually, the extreme sports-focused Fuel is expected to switch over to a Fox Sports 2 branding, though it will probably continue to carry extreme sports. If Fox can angle its programming in a less self-referencing, self-promoting hypefest manner than ESPN, it can lure fans who have been alienated by ESPN’s presentation. Of course, NBCSN and CBSSN are trying to do the same and are struggling to gain traction. As a sports fan who doesn’t hate ESPN, I still want at least one of these networks to succeed if only to make ESPN honest and more competitive. Otherwise we’ll get our sports through one national filter. When that happens, you get a host talking hockey when he clearly has no expertise to do so. We deserve better.
Two weeks ago, I tweeted this:
— newballpark (@newballpark) February 7, 2013
Today came this:
KHTK will broadcast regular season games as part of the #Athletics Radio Network beginning this upcoming 2013 season.
— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) February 20, 2013
Which leads to this:
There was some question as to whether KHTK would broadcast all 162 regular season games going into the announcement. Thankfully, it will be the full season. There are still some dead spots in parts of the East Bay and North Bay, but this is a huge improvement. The station may be looking to capitalize on the A’s recent success or is planning on replacement programming in case the Kings leave. In either case, it’s great news for A’s fans in Sacramento.
On Christmas Eve, 95.7 The Game announced that it will become an ESPN Radio affiliate starting on January 1. In the press release, parent company Entercom touted The Game’s coverage of the NBA, BCS, MLB, all through ESPN. It’s unclear which sports radio station in the Bay Area will carry Dial Global’s NFL national radio broadcasts. Both of the KNBR stations are signed with new Cumulus property CBS Sports Radio, leaving Dial Global/NBC Sports Radio on the outs. I had opined that The Game might hook up with NBCSR because of its somewhat cozy relationship with Comcast SportsNet, and because in the spring Entercom worked a deal with Dial Global to broadcast the NFL and NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Obviously that did not come to pass.
What will change? Well, if you’re sick of ESPN’s relentless self-promotion, prepared to be sickened even more by The Game. Periodic news and score updates should carry the branding. Interview segments will frequently carry ESPN reporters like Buster Olney and John Clayton. Overnight and early morning shows from the national ESPN Radio feed will be on The Game, including “Mike and Mike in the Morning”. Other short segments like Mike Tirico’s “SportsMinute” should follow. As for the actual lineup, there are no changes to the talent. After a bit of scheduling weirdness when Eric Davis and then Brandon Tierney left within weeks of each other, the lineup appears to have solidified.
- 6:00 – 10:00 AM: The Rise Guys: Whitey Gleason, Mark Kreidler, and Dan Dibley
- 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: The Pulse with Matt Steinmetz [and a rotation of co-hosts]
- 12:00 – 3:00 PM: The Wheelhouse with John Lund & Greg Papa
- 3:00 – 7:00 PM: Bucher & Towny: Ric Bucher & Chris Townsend
- 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM: Guy Haberman
- 3:00 – 6:00 AM: Mike & Mike In The Morning (ESPN Radio)
Going forward, the best thing about the schedule is that Haberman’s show runs until midnight, allowing for extended postgame A’s talk, which will be driven in large part by the team’s success. Chris Townsend continues with the drive-time slot he has richly deserved. That won’t be enough to hold the interest of those who believe local radio is one Giant suckfest, but what are you going to do? Radio and TV ratings for The Game and CSNCA correlate directly with interest in the A’s, and when the A’s aren’t winning all that’s left are the hardcore fans. We’ll see if many of the fans who came back during September and October stick around this time. One thing’s for sure – as a presence The Game isn’t going anywhere for a while. Considering the nomadic existence the A’s lived on the radio prior to The Game, we can only be grateful.
P.S. – Logo shown is an approximation. Hat tip to Bay Area Sports Guy/Ruthless Sports Guy for picking up the news first.
Belated congratulations to Bob Melvin for winning AL Manager of the Year. While there’s no photographic evidence, Melvin’s daughter Alexi admitted to pieing him in the face recently. All in celebration, of course.
On to the news.
- MLB’s big three national television contracts were approved this week during the owners meetings. Apparently this was so anticlimactic that only a single tweet about the news emerged, from Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal.
- As mentioned yesterday, all ballots in Alameda County have been counted. With that, Measure B1 appears to have been narrowly defeated by less than 700 votes. Perhaps the backers had a false sense of security due to the lack of fervent opposition. Back to the drawing board, I guess. [Contra Costa Times/Denis Cuff]
- Fox is fixin’ to buy a big piece of the YES Network. Not the Yankees’ piece, the part owned by Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity. The network is worth as much as $3 billion, making the two-thirds share up for grabs worth $2 billion. [NY Times/Amy Chosick, Michael Cieply]
- The Rangers have announced that they will play two exhibition games at San Antonio’s Alamodome in March. The stadium’s only full-time tenants are the UTSA college football team and the AFL’s San Antonio Talons. The seating bowl layout (see pic below) makes it even less baseball friendly than previous square/rectilinear multipurpose domes like the Metrodome and Kingdome because it has a very limited number of corner seats. It’s also a bit narrower along the football sidelines than the Metrodome and not all of the rows retract, making the right field line dimension perhaps as small as 280 feet. Backers of MLB to San Antonio see this as a good sign, but the arrangement is a double-edged sword. Just as the Cowboys staged training camp in the same Alamodome multiple times, the Ryans are doing this to reaffirm the brand throughout the state, not to promote MLB there. After all, the Rangers have some solid TV money to protect. [San Antonio Express News/Josh Baugh]
- The ballpark for the Midland Rockhounds (A’s AA affiliate) will soon be losing its naming rights partner. Citibank has been the sponsor since shortly after the ballpark opened. The ballpark sits as part of the nicely designed and manicured Scharbauer Sports Complex, alongside one of the best high school football stadia I’ve ever seen. It is the land of Friday Night Lights. [Midland Reporter-Telegram/Sara Higgins | Bud Swanson]
- The Mariners are going a different route to make a splash in the offseason, unveiling plans for what will be the largest video/scoreboard in MLB. The display will measure 57 feet tall by 201.5 feet wide, with a resolution of 3840 x 1080. Effectively that’s two Full HD screens side-by-side. At 11,425 square feet, the display will be 70% larger than the display the Astros had installed at Minute Maid Park last year, and 30% larger than baseball’s largest current screen at Kauffman Stadium. Panasonic will be the manufacturer, displacing Daktronics. The display is part of a $15 million capital improvements fund, negotiated by Seattle/King County and the Mariners prior to the opening of Safeco Field. [MLB.com/Greg Johns]
- Chris Hansen released renderings for his dream arena in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle. The concept, penned by 360 Architecture, is reminiscent of 360′s Sprint Center project in Kansas City. It’s meant to house both basketball and hockey teams. Unlike Sprint Center, Hansen’s arena won’t be built without commitments from existing NBA and/or NHL franchises. Ironically, the opposite is what occurred in Kansas City, as the city chose to plow forward with an arena with no permanent tenants. That would put KC and Seattle in direct competition for any future franchise moves. [KING 5/Chris Daniels, Travis Pittman | 360 Architecture]
- Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) played to populist roots earlier this week by decrying the Vikings’ plans to sell PSLs at their $1 billion stadium. Most everyone throughout the Twin Cities expressed confusion at this sentiment, since it was pretty clear from the beginning that PSLs were a crucial piece of the financing plan. [MN Gov. Dayton | Minneapolis Star-Tribune Editorial Board]
- Perhaps just in time for the start of the Mike D’Antoni era in LA, DirecTV and Time Warner Sportsnet agreed to a carriage deal of the fledgling regional sports network. (Laker fans weren’t missing much the last two weeks anyway.) Terms were undisclosed, but TWCSN has been seeking $3.95 per subscriber per month, making the channel among the most expensive RSNs in the nation. [LA Times/Joe Flint]
- The City of Reno swore in a new City Council this week, and with that came swift action. They nixed the narrowly approved debt restructuring/refinancing plan completed just before the election. That puts both the team and the city in a bind. The team is threatening to leave without a tax subsidy. The Council clearly wants nothing to do with the debt liability. This snag gives the two sides about a year to figure out some sort of solution before Aces ownership figures out a move. If the Aces leave, Reno would be stuck with the debt anyway. Already the city has stopped making debt payments, pushing its credit rating into junk status. [Reno Gazette Journal/Brian Duggan]
- Did you know about the Sacramento Sports Commission? If you didn’t , then it matters little as it’s about to be dissolved. The commission’s job was to attract different types of sporting events and maintain relationships with governing bodies like the NCAA, so that Sacramento venues could remain in constant rotation for major events such as NCAA championships. The task will probably end up with Sacramento’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. One of the reasons for the dissolution is that SSC failed to repay a $400,000 loan taken out for the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships. [Sacramento Bee/Ryan Lillis]
That’s it for now. Feature on media coming over the weekend.