Category Archives: Television

Fox Hits Season High Rating for Red Sox/Yankees Tile, but Still Down for the Season

Even though MLB on Fox’s Saturday night matchup between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees achieved their high-water ratings mark for the season with a 2.3, beating the previous season high of 1.6, it was still down -8% from high of 2.5 from both last year and 2012.

This proves once again: you want ratings?  You want Boston and the Bronx, then.

FOX Hits Season-High Overnight For Sox/Yanks, But Still Down

How To Improve TV Ratings For Nationally Televised Games

Steve Lepore is mostly an NHL media guy, writing about that pucking sport for SB Nation and Awful Announcing, as well as being a correspondent for SiriusXM radio’s NHL Network.

But Lepore does write about other sports and topics, and he has in fact recently written an article for Awful Announcing about the problem, as he sees it, that Baseball has as a national broadcast property.

Lepore proffers a cogent hypothesis as to why nationally televised baseball games continue to suffer in the ratings—e.g., ratings for one network are down double digit percents in 2014 versus last year—and makes suggestions to fix it.

It’s a good read and I would recommend giving it a look, but I can give you some spoilers here.

The two biggest problems, as Lepore sees it:

  • There are simply too many national games on TV: ESPN airs them on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays; Fox has Saturdays; TBS has Sunday afternoons in the second half of the season; and MLB Network picks up the remaining days.  Yet in this era of game ubiquity through vehicles like MLB.TV and Extra Innings, why watch a national game with a so-so matchup over a game involving a team you actually care about?
  • Baseball has what Lepore might term a “matchups problem”, concentrating too much on both (1) showing traditional big market teams which had pulled good numbers in the past, and (2) trying to be fair and featuring as many of the 29 American teams as they can.

Lepore’s suggestions for Baseball to fix this state of affairs:

  • Dump Saturday national broadcasts, which is a relic of viewership patterns from over a half a century ago, since people simply do not watch live TV on Saturdays, period.
  • Develop exclusive national broadcast game events on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the season, with all other games played during the day, and split those nights between ESPN and Fox (or more exactly, their new FS1 property).
  • Keep schedules flexible in order to choose top matchups for those Monday and Thursday games, making the decision roughly two weeks out, rather than committing to certain games and teams at the beginning of the season, when no one knows what the color of the season is going to be.

These may not make for “must see TV”, necessarily, but Lepore believes these changes could drive better ratings than Baseball gets for nationally televised games today.

Read the full article here:

RETHINKING BASEBALL ON NATIONAL TELEVISION

Ratings for MLB and College Ball on ESPN: Good

Where Fox is flailing, ESPN apparently is succeeding.

On the major league level, Fox’s Saturday night games slate has so far registered viewer interest level in the range of , but ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is getting a  from viewers, averaging a 1.3 household rating, which translates to 2 million total viewers.

Astute readers might note that the Fox number (which you can see by clicking on the “meh” icon above) is actually bigger than the ESPN number, but remember that Fox is a broadcast network with practically 100% penetration and greater ratings expectations based on its heritage and place on the dial, while ESPN is available in only about 87% of households and lives in triple digit land on most systems.

Last Sunday’s game was likely helped by the US-Portugal World Cup soccer (or “fútbol”, if you prefer) match, as the Rangers-Angels drew a 2.9, best number since a Yankees-Red Sox tilt from last August.  Or maybe more people watched so they could espy the primo Yu Darvish-Mike Trout matchup.  You’re a baseball fan—you decide.  We just report.

On the college front, the College World Series final between Vanderbilt and Virginia helped the Worldwide Leader (in more ways than one, apparently) to a viewership number of 2.4 million, best since 2009’s LSU/Texas final.  The game was, in fact, the third most-watched baseball game of any kind on ESPN all year, trailing only two games of the major league variety.

Read more here:

ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball Up; Hits Season High Thanks to World Cup

College World Series Final Sees Increases on ESPN (includes nifty six year historical viewership table)

One Option for Cubs in Post-WGN-TV World: Run Their Own Multicast Channel

Ed Sherman has written a couple of pretty good articles, both at his website and in the Chicago Tribune, about what the Cubs might do if they opt out of their agreement WGN-TV to carry 70-75 games per year: operate their own multicast channel.

(To be clear, this is a different deal than the WGN radio situation, in which the Cubs dumped ‘GN for WBBM-AM and the CBS promotional muscle behind it.)

A multicast channel is what “over the air” (OTA) TV has become in the wake of the move to all digital television for US stations in 2009.  Now the main TV channels are all “dash ones” (e.g., 2-1, 5-1, 7-1, etc.), and many of these channels carry subchannels (e.g., 5-2, 5-3, etc.) that feature additional programming, usually old TV shows and movies, cooking shows, or infomercials.

With options for OTA relatively scant—the Cubs can’t move the games over to Comcast SportsNet Chicago (CSN) because, frankly, CSN doesn’t want ’em, and no channel that’s a network affiliate can be expected to take them on—the Cubs would either have to go to a another local channel with less reach (such as WCIU-TV 26 or WPWR-TV 50); go crawling back to WGN and accept their newly suggested arrangement with less guaranteed money and more revenue sharing; or, again, start their own multicast channel, which sounds cool at first thought but would have the potential problem of not getting sufficient carriage by satellite and cable providers to warrant the startup and operational expense.

The Cubs have seemed to put themselves in a fairly bad bind, and the underlying reason for the bind is that, to be blunt, the Cubs suck (or at least they are perceived to suck), sporting one of the worst records in the majors this year.  Add to that the huge gamble being taken by the club to allow the big league club to flounder while relying on certain recent draft picks to take them to the Promised Land, a gamble that have led a lot of longtime Cubs fans to cool their ardor toward the team, and the prospects for the Cubs to generate significant TV revenue looks a lot more iffy now than it did when they presumably sketched out the idea on a bar napkin at a quarter to two in the morning one night some years ago.

Here are links to Sherman’s articles:

Cubs exploring multicast TV outlets for games

Multicast station? Cubs could leave WGN TV for highly unconventional outlet

Report: Weak Ratings for MLB on Fox So Far in 2014

From Sports Business Daily comes the news that it’s not all good for Fox as far as MLB’s appeal as a TV program is concerned so far this year.

Saturday regional MLB games earned a 1.6 overnight rating, which is -22% lower than last year’s 2.2 and -39% lower than 2012’s 2.6.  The 1.6 is the third lowest ever for a primetime MLB game on Fox, and the two lower numbers came from broadcasts earlier this year.

Read more at:

Sports Media Watch

Sports Business Daily (subscription required)

Here’s a Nice Feature Piece on Vin Scully

Here’s a link to a lovely long-form feature by Cee Angi about he who is arguably, although increasingly inarguably, the greatest broadcaster in the history of baseball:

We’ve Been Friends Long Enough You’ll Understand’: Vin Scully, Baseball’s Longest-Tenured and Most Eloquent Broadcaster, is Still Looking To Make a Connection

What struck us most while reading this piece is that, even after sixty-five years of calling games, Mr. Scully is still as dedicated to the prep work of each broadcast as he ever has been.

Here’s our favorite inexplicable photo from the piece:

 

We don’t know why, either.

Here is a bonus video of Mr. Scully at work, from April 1984:

Chicago Broadcast Update: And the Hits Just Keep Coming?

This morning’s Chicago Tribune has a front page story on the potential for the Cubs moving their broadcast (i.e., over-the-air) games, currently on WGN-TV, to another station in the market beginning with 2015.  Possible other TV affiliates, according to the article, might include WPWR-TV (channel 50) and WCIU-TV (channel 26), the latter of which already carries eight overflow Cubs games on behalf of WGN-TV.

I don’t believe the article is breaking any news here, since last year the Cubs exercise their right to pull out of the current WGN-TV deal after the 2014 season, given the current rash of ever-escalating rights deal being signed by teams.  But given the events of the last few days, the paper saw fit to make hay on the story and resurrect to take advantage of exquisite timing.

That said, it is valid to bring up, and the article points out why: for a supposedly big market team that is the darling of so many fans across the country, let alone the city and the state, the Cubs make far less per game on TV rights than other teams of its size.  For example, the article points out that the Los Angeles Dodgers make about $2 million per game in TV rights on their new deal, while the Cubs make just $500,000 per game that runs on Comcast SportsNet, their RSN partner, and about half that for games running on WGN and WCIU, which makes up about half the schedule.

Read all about it here:

Chicago Cubs seeking new TV home, may leave WGN-TV

Big Changes for Chicago Team Broadcasts

Two big stories have broken in the past week regarding the broadcast of games for Chicago baseball teams.

First, WGN America announced that they were dropping Cubs and White Sox broadcasts entirely, terminating with the end of the 2014 season.  WGN is the superstation that so many of us watched Cubs games on when we first got cable two or three decades ago.  WGN Superstation signed onto the a … or, cable … in 1978, and Cubs games were a staple of the schedule.  Lots of people between the ages of 30 and 45 remember coming home from school, flipping on the Superstation and hearing Harry Caray and Steve Stone (and sometimes Milo Hamilton, Thom Brennaman or DeWayne Staats) regaling viewers and seeing beauty shots of historic Wrigley Field.  It’s the sole reason many out of towners became Cubs fans in the first place.  In 1990 WGN started running the White Sox as well, and although many fewer non-Chicagoans became Sox fans as a result, it did provide them a national platform few other teams could claim.

But in the brave new world of new media, with MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV at our easy disposal, WGN America has slipped into irrelevancy when considering on which channel to watch Cubs and White Sox games.   Despite that WGN America is running 71 Cubs game and 32 White Sox in 2014, the decision comes down to ratings.  That is, neither the Cubs nor Sox generate sufficient ratings to justify continuing to air them.  And so WGN America-slash-Superstation is focusing their efforts on another general audience basic cable network because, you know, we need another one of those.

Read more about this here:

WGN America to drop Chicago sports

Report: WGN America To Drop Cubs, Chicago Sports Programming

On the radio front, it’s the Cubs doing the dropping as they have informed WGN radio that they no longer wish to continue their 90-year marriage, with the Cubs moving to WBBM-AM starting in 2015. Itself a 50,000 watt station with multiple state coverage, in theory the Cubs should not lose anything in the way of listenership with the move.  But again, in this age of online radio coverage (especially through MLB’s super popular At Bat app) coupled with baseball games broadcast on satellite radio giant SiriusXM, it may not be an altogether relevant change.  Don’t feel too bad for WGN for getting shut out by the Cubs, though: they precipitated the move by exercising their contractual option to re-do the deal to keep the team on, because of low ratings brought on by a frankly terrible team that locals are losing interest in, in droves.

Read more about this move here:

Cubs dropping WGN Radio for WBBM-AM

One unintended effect of these two moves is that it completely screws up the Cubs anthem played in the ballpark whenever the team wins.  The song, “Go Cubs Go” by Steve , mentions WGN explicitly in the title, although to be fair, this anthem is already fouled up since it suggests that you can “catch [all the action] on WGN”, which hasn’t been true on the TV side of the house for twenty years now.

Radio move from WGN fouls up ‘Go, Cubs, Go’ anthem

 

How Did Five Teams Get Shut Out of Fox Baseball Broadcasts For 2014?

With the release of the baseball broadcast schedules by Fox for their broadcast network and nascent FS1 property, a counting of appearances by the various teams yields some unsurprising results (e.g., the Yankees lead all teams with 11 appearances; the Cardinals lead Senior Circuit teams with ten).

But not all results are unsurprises.  Some are very surprising indeed, as you will see from this table shared with the world by the folks at Awful Announcing (click on the table to go to the article):

MLB on Fox-FS1 Appearances by Team 2014

Some surprises include the Indians, Pirates and Nationals all outpulling the star-laden Dodgers; and the Mets, non-contenders though they may be but still occupying the nation’s #1 DMA last we checked, represented by a single telecast along with the A’s and the Marlins.

But the most surprising factoid gleaned from the schedule is that fully 16.67% of all major league teams will not be appearing on a single telecast on either the FS1 network or the Fox broadcast network.  The absence of the Blue Jays from an American Broadcasting network can be rationalized, of course, and the Astros and Rockies expect to be various shades of awful and anonymous.  But the White Sox?  Even if they end up being a poor team, a complete whitewash of a #3 DMA major league ballclub is something of a surprise.  And both Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez will make no impact on the baseball ratings of national Fox telecasting entities at any point this season, as well.

Of course, in this world of baseball broadcast ubiquity via streaming and subscription packages, it’s not as though practically every game any of these five shut out teams play won’t be available in those forms anyway.  But what kind of statement does it make for so many teams to be unrepresented in this way?  It means either Fox puts so little stock in these franchises that they can’t risk broadcasting them at any point on their national networks, or perhaps it means that national or regional exposure on these networks means not much if not nothing anyway.