Category Archives: Cable TV

News Bites for February 6, 2015

Cubs radio job draws hundreds of pros … and fans.  Over 400 resumes have poured in for the new third announcer position on Cubs radio broadcasts airing on new flagship WBBM-AM, not only from pros, but from dewey-eyed “lifetime Cubs fans who got an autograph from their favorite player when they were 7.  Because of that, they are perfect for the job.”  Yes.  That is perfect.

MLB’s Awful Blackout Rules Are Finally Under Attack In Court.  If you haven’t read this Deadspin piece, consider clicking the link and doing so.

MLB Blackout Restrictions are the Same Old Story.  An op-ed piece against the restrictions by generally excellent Vice News.

Shedding Light on Blackouts: Nothing Wrong with MLB’s Territorial Rights.  Here’s a relatively contrary point of view presented without comment, other than to say be sure to read the comments as well.

Manfred predicts resolution in Orioles, Nationals TV dispute.  The crux of the biscuit lies in what “fair market value” means, dictating what the Orioles, supermajority owner of MASN, should be paying the Nationals for their games on the RSN.  The Nats are looking for a 3x annual increase for post-2012 games versus pre-2012 games.

Tigers to appear on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball 3 times in May.  What, no Yankees?  What are we supposed to complain about now?

Nationals’ outfielder Jayson Werth’s likeability questioned by John Feinstein. Interesting question: do baseball players owe beat writers not only their time and attention, but their pleasantness and deference as well?  And are writers justified in criticizing players’ personalities when they feel players don’t sufficiently comply?

Harrisburg, Penn. radio station dumps Phillies for Nationals.  Insert Phillies on-field-performance jokes here.  Remember, also, that Harrisburg is home to the National’s Double-A affiliate.

Louisville Baseball Releases 2015 Radio Schedule.  Fifty-three of the university’s regular season games, all postseason games to be aired on 93.9 The Ville or 1450 WXVW.

Great Lakes Loons hire Chris Vosters as new play-by-play announcer.  Chris Vosters called two seasons in the collegiate summer Northwoods Baseball League.

Lexington radio station to broadcast Blowfish games. Z93.1 The Lake will broadcast play-by-play action for all 56 games for the Coastal Plain League team for the 2015 season, plus any playoff games they might play.

Signups for 2015 MLB.TV are underway. Baldly promotional release, although it’s entertaining the way the Brit calls the package “brilliant.”

New Commissioner Rob Does Not Want To Budge on MLB Blackouts

 

Rob Manfred has been making the media interview rounds of late, speaking with ESPN, the Los Angeles Times and Fox Sports, among others.  But by far, the most interesting interview took place with Maury Brown of Forbes.com, at least from our standpoint, because it is the only interview in which the suboptimal (from the fan’s POV) state of out of market game broadcasts was broached.

The other day, we posted about last week’s ruling in the District Court of Southern New York in which Judge Shira Scheindlin rejected MLB’s petition of a summary judgement against the several fans bringing suit challenging Baseball’s monopoly on delivering broadcasts of games to out of market fans, because of high pricing and lack of availability based on the crazy quilt that is Baseball’s territory map.  Every square inch of the United States falls into the territory of one team or another—or even six, in some cases, as demonstrated by this map:

(h/t Deadspin)

Iowa, in particular, is one of the unluckiest places in the country to be a baseball fan, especially if you’re a fan of the Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Cardinals and Royals.  It’s even worse when you realize that on some days during the season, as many as 40% of all major league teams are completely unavailable for you to watch (since the blackout affects their opponents that day, as well.)

So unlike the other three vehicles mentioned earlier–all of which are owned by media companies who broadcast major league ballgames–Brown was free to ask the prickly questions about the restrictive broadcast policies to an annoyed commish that the others presumably were not.

Here’s the key question from the Brown interview:

Maury Brown: The #1 customer complaint to MLB.com is about the league’s blackout policy. There are some markets that see as many as 6 teams blacked out due to club TV territories. What would you say to fans that pay to see games, yet wonder why a business would limit its product to them?

Rob Manfred: Television territories that cause these blackouts are integral to the economics of the game. They’re a foundation of the very structure of the league. Blackouts are actually caused, not by our desire not to cover that area, but by the inability of the rights holder to get distribution in certain parts of the television territories. It’s not solely our issue to resolve. Having said that I am aware of these complaints and whenever we have an issue like this we are constantly evaluating how we do business to make sure we are as fan friendly as possible.

Did you get that?  MLB blackouts are not caused by asinine MLB blackout policies.  MLB blackouts are caused by ineffectual broadcast partners who are unable to get distribution in the affected areas, many of which are outside of the DMA in which the team is located, and some of which are over 1,000 miles away from where the team plays.  So if you want to watch any of the blacked out teams on TV, you better subscribe to satellite or cable AND hope you have an RSN on your system that offers your favorite team.  Because if you don’t, you are SOL (“so out of luck”).

It strikes me as disingenuous that MLB should blame their rights-holding partners for the inability to broadcast games in certain areas because of the way Baseball themselves drew up the map.  After all, MLB could open up huge swaths of territory that does not host any major league teams and allow them to be free of such broadcast restrictions, if they so wanted.  Digital commercial insertion technology exists that could deliver local or regional commercials, the same ones that local RSNs show to their viewers in the area, to those in the area who are watching on Extra Innings or MLB.TV as well.  So there could be a revenue stream that could mollify the RSNs on that front.

One thing is pretty clear from Brown’s interview, however: Manfred thinks MLB’s out of market broadcast policy is peachy just the way it is.  And to change it, it’s going to take nothing less than overturning the broadcast monopoly that MLB presumes they have in court.

News Bites for January 31, 2015

Serie Del Caribe Logo.
(h/t channelguidemagblog.com)

Serie del Caribe: Caribbean World Series 2015 TV schedule. All thirteen games will air in Spanish only on ESPN Deportes starting February 2, although ESPNDeportes.com launched a microsite in advance of the tournament this past Wednesday, January 28.  Coverage will be provided by “Caribbean Baseball Hall of Famer Candy Maldonado, and baseball experts Ernesto Jerez, Luis Alfredo Alvarez, Carolina Guillen, Enrique Rojas, Guillermo Celis, Eitan Benezra and Jorge Eduardo Sanchez”.

Bobby Ojeda splits with SNY as sides fail to agree on new contract. Even though Ojeda was said to have “absolutely wanted to” return, a agreement could not be reached between the two sides.

Baseball Scheduled for Four Games on National Television. The  University of Cincinnati will air two on SEC Network + on February 13 and 14, and on SEC Network on March 10 and 25.

Rome Braves games to be broadcast on 99.5 the Jock. Starting with the April 9 season opener, all 140 games will be handled by Kevin Karel on play-by-play and Charlie Johnson on color.

UCF Announces 2015 Baseball Radio Schedule. The University of Central Florida will air 28 home and away games on Orlando’s 740 The Game, anchored by Marc Daniels.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS, UECK. Even at age 81, Bob Uecker looks to be in good enough shape to get up to his seats “in the front ro-o-o-ow”.

Twins announce Spring Training broadcast schedule. Twelve games will be televised on Fox Sports North starting March 4, and 18 games will be carried on radio on twinsbaseball.com, with 14 of them also airing on Go 96.3 in the Twin Cities.

Baseball and Softball Added to Bear Sports Network. Twenty-five Washington University baseball contests (and sixteen softball tilts) will stream live on bearsports.wustl.edu, beginning February 24.  Matt Schumaker will fly solo in the booth on the baseball side.

Bulldog broadcast schedule set for 2015 baseball season. The Cumberland University Bulldogs will air 29 of their 55 games split between WANT 98.9 FM and WCOR 1490 AM beginning February 28.  The remaining 26 games will stream on the Internet only.

MLB Veterans Join Baseball Broadcast Crew. Oklahoma University will benefit from the insights of George Frazier and Mickey Tettleton on the 21 games being aired by the Sooner Sports TV network across four FOX RSNs.  They will split color duties in support of play-by-play announcer Chad McKee.

LCU Baseball Online Broadcasts are Back.  All Lubbock Christian games will be broadcast “in some form”, although all those forms will be exclusively online.

News Bites for January 27, 2015

Jerry Gross, long-time radio announcer for the Padres and Cardinals in the 1960s and 70s, died last Wednesday at the age of 81. (h/t  utsandiego.com)

Versatile broadcaster Jerry Gross dies: Gross was the first play-by-play announcer for the major league version of the San Diego Padres, doing radio 1969-71, and also TV in 1969 and 1978.  Gross also did St. Louis Cardinals games in 1961 and 1963-67.

Bears to have 11 home games featured on FOX Sports’ family of networks.  The games will start with the West Virginia series on March 21 and be spread among six different Fox networks before the final doubleheader on May 17.

93.9 The Ville New Radio Home for Louisville Baseball. The new station, a venture of ESPN Louisville, signs onto the air this Thursday, January 29.

Longhorn Network to air 28 baseball games. Every University of Texas home game, except one, will be aired on the ESPN-run network, beginning with the February 17 tilt against UT-San Antonio.

News Bites for January 23, 2015

This is the first “News Bites” post for this blog, which is something we’re going to experiment with.  The intent is to make News Bites a round up of stories involving the baseball media that broke during the prior day (or few days).

Major baseball media stories will rate their own, more elaborate posts with greater analysis, but otherwise we will put as many stories as we can capture into a News Bite post and provide links for you to “read all about it.”

The hope is that there there will be enough ongoing baseball media news to rate publishing a News Bites post at least most days.  And there have been in the last 24 hours, so here you go:

Jeff Levering joins Brewers radio broadcast team: Levering was play by play for the Pawtucket Red Sox the past two seasons.  He will work three innings on those days Bob Uecker is absent, and will do media support for the broadcasts otherwise.

MSSU Athletics announces baseball radio partner for 2015: Missouri Southern State University will have ten regular season games air on WMBH-AM in Joplin.

River Bandits return to the radio: All games in 2015 for the Quad Cities team will air on KBOB-AM, bumping Chicago Cubs broadcasts to ESPN 93.5.

Tech Baseball Will Have Nine Big 12 Games Televised: The games will air on Texas Tech TV on Fox Sports starting with the home opener against Kansas on March 27.

SEC ANNOUNCES BASEBALL TV SCHEDULE: A total of 80 games will air on the new SEC Network beginning with the February 21 Florida State/Georgia tilt.

WKU baseball has five TV games: Western Kentucky University games will air starting May 1 against Middle Tennessee on Fox Sports 1.  The other four will run on the overflow channel for the SEC Network and on WatchESPN.

In Case You Missed It …

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything in the way of news here.  Bad on us, and we’re working to be better in 2015.  We have to, because it’s our New Year’s resolution.

So we’re jumping back in by providing links to some of the top baseball media stories that have broken just since the end of the season.

World Series TV Ratings: Giants/Royals Game 7 Nears Ten-Year High: Game Sevens really do matter. The only game with a higher rating in the past ten years was also a Game 7 (2011 Rangers/Cardinals).

MLB’s Low National Ratings vs. Record-High Local Ratings: I love dichotomies, and not just because it’s a fun word to say.  Although as the Sporting News says in that first linked article, it might be more of a Fox problem than a general national problem. If you want to know what I think, ask me offline.

DIRECTV and Disney sign long-term agreement; adds WatchESPN and Longhorn Network: Oh my god, THANK you. Finally. This means you (and I) as a D*TV subscriber will soon be able to watch baseball on your smartphone or tablet without begging a friend for their Dish or WOW login credentials.

Early overdose: Even without Jeter, ESPN still loves Yankees for Sunday night: You probably already saw this in Chad Osborne’s post from last week.  Eye rolls, yeah, I know, but let’s face it: almost 9% of the entire US lives in the New York and Boston TV markets, but also, according to Facebook, the Yankees and Red Sox are among the top teams in basically every county in the United States. Just goes to show you: you don’t always have to rob banks to know where the money is.

Chicago news: Harrelson pumped up about White Sox moves; won’t cut back schedule: Vin Scully isn’t the only multiple decade-tenured broadcasters working well into his golden years.  And just think, Hawk Harrelson is 13 years younger than Vin, so maybe he’s got a long way to go?

ESPN goes all in on Cubs to open 2015 baseball season: And really, who doesn’t want to spend a chilly Sunday night in April gazing at a Jumbotron rising from the surrounding wreckage whence people once watched baseball games?

Networks will be active in quickening the pace in baseball; New commish expected to be ‘open to new ideas’: This is one of those rare instances in which the interests of fans and of broadcasters are well-aligned.

Long-time Detroit baseball writer retiring after 29 years on the beat: Did you know that John Lowe invented the quality start?  He may be ink-stained, but he’s not a wretch.

The Sportswriter of the Year is Si’s Tom Verducci: Tom is both a baseball journalist and a baseball broadcaster, so he’s double trouble, and thus a favorite.

SportsNet LA standoff was top story: Because of TWC’s strong-arm methods, 70% of the LA market did not have Dodger games available to them, and there doesn’t appear to be any thawing for 2015 as of yet.

Scully may travel less in 2015: And really, who can blame him? After all, the guy is 86 freaking years old.  Most people born the same year as he was aren’t traveling anywhere anymore.  (Yes, it’s because they’re dead.)

Fox’s Chatty Booth Makes Few Good Points to Speak of During World Series: Two’s company, three’s a crowd?  Four is definitely a British Invasion band, though.

Postseason Vanishing From Broadcast Networks: But with the combination of cable and “alternate delivery systems” penetrating about 90% of TV households, will anyone really miss it?

Enberg, Gage Named Ford C. Frick Award Winners: Big shout out to two Detroiters made good in baseball media.  Hat tip to you both.  Congratulations.

 

ESPN announces Opening Day quadruple header, first month of Sunday Night games

Where you are right now, it may be sunny and bright or it may be cold and white.

But one thing is for sure as we mark another day off the calendar: Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is right around the hot corner.

Today, Jan. 14, ESPN announced its slate of Sunday Night games through May 3, including the April 5 opener pitting the St. Louis Cardinals against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The network also announced a quadruple header for April 6.

Your first question might be: Is my team playing in one of the ESPN televised games? Maybe. You’ll have to check the schedule.

Your second query may ask: How many times will a Yankees-Red Sox game be televised during this first month of the season?

Twice.

There has to be at least a couple, right?

Right!

The Monday, April 6, Opening Day ESPN schedule begins with a 1 p.m. American League East matchup between the Blue Jays and Yankees in New York. Of the nine broadcast games announced, the Yankees will play in four.

At 4 p.m., viewers can see on ESPN a potential pitchers’ duel between the Mets and Nationals in Washington, D.C. ESPN’s Buster Olney recently ranked the Nats’ and Mets’ pitching staffs as the best and fifth best in the MLB, respectively.

Cleveland visits the Astros for a 7 p.m. game on ESPN, and then at 10 p.m. on ESPN2, the World Series champion San Francisco Giants visit the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Beyond the aforementioned opener at Wrigley, ESPN announced the lineup for its next four Sunday night games, which include:

April 12, 8 p.m. – Red Sox at Yankees

April 19, 8 p.m. – Reds at Cardinals

April 26, 8 p.m. – Mets at Yankees

May 3, 8 p.m. – Yankees at Red Sox

ESPN is entering its 26th season of broadcasting Sunday night games and will again use the three-man booth of Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Curt Schilling. Olney again will serve as the field reporter.

And if you’re a radio guy like me, you’ll be glad to know ESPN Radio will also carry the Sunday Night games with Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton calling the action.

MLB Network ratings spike during busy Winter Meetings

How often are you glued to a television watching men chat in a hotel?

If you’re like me, that’s what you did during the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings, held Dec. 7-11 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. But don’t feel too bad for spending hours of tube time on what many baseball outsiders may see as the TV equivalent of watching paint dry.

Since launching into our living rooms in 2008, the MLB Network has been a game changer in terms of how we get our baseball fix. It’s baseball 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a concept I couldn’t imagine while growing up in the 80s and reading box scores and game recaps in the morning newspaper.

The network offers its viewers a plethora of options from games and highlights to loads of chatter from a talented, knowledgeable and entertaining – I could listen to Billy Ripken talk all day about baseball – group of studio hosts and reporters.

MLB Network has developed a successful formula for attracting viewers and giving them a reason to put down the remote. Its live coverage of the Winter Meetings serves as a prime example.

According to Forbes’ Maury Brown, MLB Network’s primetime coverage set a new ratings high for the network by attracting 179,000 viewers, an increase of 48 percent over the previous record.

“The record speaks much to how deals that go down during the meetings, when there is so much interest, and yet often times, when the meetings yield little in terms of such critical contracts that create a domino effect, can affect television ratings,” wrote Brown on Forbes.com.

Much of the interests, as Brown notes, was the Jon Lester watch. For which team would the lefty sign and when. Would it be the Cubs? Or, the World Series Champion Giants? How about a return to Boston? There was even talk the Yankees were lurking, waiting to swoop in at the right moment.

That’s a lot of drama, even for night-time TV.

I’m not a fan of any of the teams that were reported to be targeting Lester at the time, but being a baseball fan, I wanted to know the minute he committed to a team, a city. I knew MLB Network had us covered.

And sure enough, when I hoped out of bed at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday and turned on the television – the channel was still, of course, on MLB Network from my previous night’s viewing – I saw in a little red box on the bottom right of my screen that Lester had indeed agreed to be a Cubbie.

“Yes,” I said with a half-hearted fist pump. As I said, I’m not a Cubs fan, but I was excited for their fans, one of which is my 9-year old son, Ty.

But it wasn’t just Lester drawing us in. This was one of the most active Winter Meetings, in terms of players swapping teams, in recent memory. Free agent signings, trades and persistent rumors of both types of transactions left us feeling like we couldn’t turn away from MLB Network.

I couldn’t.

Being a Nationals’ fan, my ears perked up even more when there was talk of my team potentially making a trade that would “blow the roof off this place.”

According to MLB.com, 79 players – 15 of those were All-Stars – changed teams during the 2014 Winter Meetings through free agency, trades or the Rule 5 Draft.

“Teams handed out more than $500 million in guaranteed contracts and signing bonuses this week in deals that either became official or were agreed upon at the Winter Meetings,” MLB.com reported after the meetings broke up.

The Winter Meetings were gold, and so was MLB Network. It provided us baseball enthusiasts with the ability sit in our living rooms and man caves and track the hot stove league in front of, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, “TV’s warm glowing warming glow.”

Vin Scully is Coming Back for a 66th Season!

Vin Scully
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully will return to broadcast for a 66th season in 2015, the team announced on Tuesday night. (h/t SBNation.com)

Good lord, how did we become so blessed?

At least this will give TWC and the various LA cable operators—and Congress?!—another year to hammer out an arbitrated deal so that everyone in the Los Angeles market can actually enjoy the dulcet tones and exquisite stories of Vin Sully.

Read all about it here:

Vin Scully to return to broadcast Dodgers games in 2015 (SBNation.com)

Fox Reports Tiger Games Have Highest Ratings in the Market

Fox Sports Detroit reports that since the beginning of the season on March 31, the average household rating for Tigers games is 7.5, which means that 7.5% of all the household with televisions in the Detroit DMA (i.e., TV market) are tuned to the Tigers game.

In prime time, the rating goes up to 8.4, which is 71% higher than WDIV (NBC), in second place with a 4.9.

For a city routinely called “Hockeytown”, that’s pretty amazing, and also pretty great.

Read more here:

Tigers telecasts on FSD dominate summer TV ratings