New app aims to be an outlet for student-athletes to pitch themselves to college coaches

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Ahh, the hopes and dreams of the high school student-athlete. While some only play sports as a hobby to pass the time away, many others get involved in prep athletics with the goal of one day advancing to the next level as a college athlete—and for a select few, the glitz and glamour of the professional ranks.

Yet, for many student-athletes, regardless of sport, getting recruited to the next level can be a daunting task since there are so many looking for their big break in either college or the pros. And for some, the possibility of being offered an athletic scholarship at a major college or university is an even bigger challenge since only so many are offered.

The developers of a new app hope to change this and give student-athletes a better chance of being noticed by the schools and the coaches of their choosing.

The SportsConnectU app tags itself as a social communication platform for student-athletes to better enable themselves to have their skills seen by college coaches. It was developed by Britney Morgan and her family in the Atlanta area.

Morgan is the co-founder and handles marketing for Hardwood Sports Academy based in metro-Atlanta. It is an outlet that strives to give back to youth sports. According to Morgan’s LinkedIn page, she has an extensive background in marketing, sales and broadcast media.

“We’re all former educators, players, parents, coaches—we’ve done it all on a youth sports basis. And for years, we’ve just been trying to figure out how to impact youth sports and the youth sports culture in a very impactful way,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s work with children also dates back to 2007, as she started coaching girls youth basketball her senior year in high school. She also served as the Communications Officer for Atlanta Public Schools for roughly a year beginning in 2014.

Hardwood Sports Academy believes that the true principles of youth sports have eroded over time and their organization wants to return to those values—but it hasn’t been easy.

“We knew that in order to develop a large enough platform and make a positive difference we would need to create a product or service to help athletes, parents and coaches achieve their goals and dreams.” Morgan said.

In a promotional video plugging the app’s planned Summer launch, it mentions how high school student-athletes will have the ability to upload game highlights to their profiles and then send them to coaches all over the country in a single click.

Morgan talked about how the app will really be beneficial for parents – who do the lion’s share of the initial marketing for youth sport athletes hoping to reach the next level.

“A lot of times, student-athletes don’t do this stuff. They are worried about playing ball, having fun and being kids. So for the most part they’re not the ones that are sending out their highlights, It’s their parents,” she said.

According to Morgan, as student-athletes progress into their junior and senior years, some may begin reaching out to college coaches on their own. She touts another benefit of the app for parents is the ability to find travel and accommodation information for tournaments across the country as well as being able to stay up-to-date with any possible changes to an event’s time or site.

SportsConnectU will also allow its users to be able to locate premier youth sporting events in their area.

In terms of the app’s functionalities, she says that not all of its features have even been revealed yet – meaning there is more to come as we get closer to the eventual launch date.

On the SportsConnectU website, it quotes Morgan’s father, Co-Founder of Hardwood Sports Academy and long-time high school and AAU basketball coach, Ivory Young, who believes student athletes should not be waiting around for college coaches to notice them.

“You cannot sit around and wait for college coaches to find you. There are so many athletes that college coaches simply cannot see everyone. Contrary to popular belief, lots of quality athletes fail to earn scholarships because they believe coaches will simply find them.”

Morgan says they believe SportsConnectU will indeed better connect prospective student-athletes that may have had a rougher go of things when attending exposure events that can be a challenge to get to and navigate through.

“It’s not always a guaranteed chance that you’ll be seen at these exposure events,” Morgan said. “Me and my sister both played in numerous exposure events. Numerous. I started getting letters from major D1 schools when I was 12. But, I still didn’t go big time. When I was coming up, we didn’t truly understand the process and what it took to really get seen by college coaches.”

Morgan believes the app will be a benefit to student-athletes also because she contends that exposure can be based off not only how talented a prospective recruit is, but because of how much pre-exposure build up there is regarding those athletes. She says it is all marketing—especially in this age of social media where everyone is no longer simply an individual but an entire brand.

“A lot of times, exposure is based off of a name, and it’s based off hype around that name. And so you can create that hype, yourself.” Morgan said. “And in this day and age, moreso than ever, whether it’s sports or just life in general, you are a brand. Whether you want to be or not, because of social media, you are a brand.”

She says the number one directive for their organization is to ensure that this app will create a profound effect in the lives of student-athletes as well as their families. As a whole, the entire HSA team hopes it enables them build a platform to help make youth sports more than just about winning a game, but about teaching valuable life lessons through competition and WINNING IN LIFE.

“Overall, we really want to make sure that we bring those strong principles back to youth sports,” Morgan said. “That we’re all understanding those true foundations of what youth sports is really about. And for our kids, it’s not just learning to playing a game, winning and becoming a better athlete, but to help them grow into successful adults. We want to make sure kids around the nation and around the world are really getting life lessons through sports.”

SportsConnectU plans to launch later this summer and will be available on the Apple Store for iPhones and Google Play for Androids. It can also be downloaded from the Windows Store. Overall, the app subscription for players will cost $1.99 a month or $19.99 for a full year.

More information about SportsConnectU can be found on its various social media platforms.

SportsConnectU Facebook

SportsConnectU Twitter

SportsConnectU Instagram

To get notified when the app is available for launch, visit sportsconnectu.mobi and subscribe.

2015: The year Detroit’s Wheels of sports radio came completely off

  If you are a 90’s kid like myself, you probably fondly remember the end of the Sister, Sister episode where Ray Campbell (played by Tim Reid) was working on a banner that said “Go Lions” for him to bring … Continue reading

The Curious Case of Don Orsillo

orsillo

It is one thing to begin this by saying that all was well in Red Sox Nation when New Englanders were stunned at the Don Orsillo news—except all was not well in Red Sox Nation.

The Boston Red Sox were mired in last place—a team that was going nowhere in 2015.

After winning their first World Series title at home since 1918 (in 2013—the year of the Boston Marathon bombings), it has been all downhill ever since then.

It was bad enough Red Sox fans had to suffer through losing games. It is another thing when you lose a beloved announcer—which is about to happen.

In late August, Red Sox Nation was rocked when NESN (a network which the Red Sox have an 80-percent ownership stake in) announced that beloved play-by-play voice Don Orsillo would not be returning to the broadcast booth at Fenway Park to call games.

Orsillo has been at the mic for the Red Sox since 2001, which means he and the Remdawg (Jerry Remy) witnessed the Red Sox “break the curse” when Boston won its first World Series since 1918 in a 4-0 sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals (after a miraculous 3-0 comeback of the Yankees in the ALCS).

It also means they saw the Sox win titles in 2007 and 2013.

From a business standpoint, Orsillo and Remy also were the Sox announcers when NESN took over the over-the-air broadcasts of Red Sox games that used to go to WSBK-TV and WBZ-TV (the latter of which is a CBS O&O affiliate for Boston).

It also means New Englanders have been treated over the past decade and a half to one of baseball’s most recognizable (also most relatable) voices. One of the things that made New Englanders fall in love with Orsillo and Remy was the bond they hand on air. Also, the stories they would tell to make sure Red Sox games were as entertaining in the booth as they were on the field.

In short, summers in New England over the past decade and a half have been synonymous with Orsillo and the Remdawg.

Personally, I have never lived in Boston. I have never even visited Boston, unfortunately but would like to one day. Maybe I’ll even work in Boston one day—who knows what life has in store.

But, I do remember ordering the MLB Extra Innings package in my younger years. I would tune in to the Red Sox broadcasts featured on MLB Extra Innings just to see if they would pick up the NESN feed—meaning Orsillo and Remy would be at the mic.

At the time I ordered MLB Extra Innings, it was also at a time when NESN’s sound quality was questionable to say the least—based on first-hand experience. Even with the shoddy sound quality, I still wanted to hear Orsillo and Remy call games because of the chemistry they had on air as well as them being two of the best on-air voices in all of professional sports, not just baseball.

It is needless to say that given the rapport Red Sox Nation has developed with Orsillo over the past decade and a half that when NESN and the Red Sox announced the decision, the backlash they received was swift and immediate.

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That immediately prompted someone to create a petition on change.org imploring NESN and the team to reverse their decision and bring back Orsillo.

As of this writing, that petition has obtained over 60,000 signatures.

https://www.change.org/p/john-henry-nesn-petition-to-keep-don-orsillo-at-nesn

The Red Sox later named their replacement—Dave O’Brien who is already the voice of the Red Sox on radio at the WEEI Radio Network. Given now that this leaves the WEEI Network with a void on the radio side, it led some to believe they were shifting Orsillo to radio.

Ever since, Red Sox Nation has simply asked why did NESN make such a decision to can Orsillo—a name that has become synonymous with Red Sox baseball and summers in New England.

According to a Boston Globe report, the source of what is going on seems to be Joseph Maar—the recently hired vice president of programming and production as well as executive producer of NESN. Maar, which has little to no Boston ties, worked previously at ESPN as well as with Fox Sports North in Minneapolis.

Maar, shortly after the outrage for the Orsillo ouster became public, he changed his Twitter profile to private. Way to be transparent with your viewers.

It was suggested Maar was never a fan of Orsillo’s and preferred O’Brien more—probably a connection to when Maar was at ESPN. It was also suggested the Red Sox were merely blaming Orsillo for the low ratings of Red Sox broadcasts this season.

Uh…yeah, right.

If anyone wants to know the real reason why Red Sox television (NESN) and radio (WEEI Network) ratings are down—it is because the Red Sox (as of this writing) are in last place in the American League East with a 64-72 record and 14 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.

If announcers for any sport had any effect on ratings, there would be a lot of announcers in all sports today that would not be calling games.

There was a report out of the Chicago Tribune that mentioned that Cubs ratings in Chicago for radio (WBBM 780/105.9) and television (Comcast SportsNet Chicago, WGN, WLS, etc.) are up this season. There’s one simple reason why the Cubbies’ ratings are high this year—THE TEAM IS WINNING FOR A CHANGE!

The Red Sox wanted to go in a different direction for the team? Have fun with getting rid of one of the only things with the team that was worth anything in 2015. Brilliant public relations, isn’t it?

After the announcement of the upcoming departure from NESN and the Sox, it was later revealed that the network was supposed to keep the thing on the down-low until January. Thankfully, sources got to the WEEI Network’s Dennis & Callahan, putting a monkey wrench in NESN and the Sox’ master plan to skewer Orsillo.

He didn’t talk to the media much after the announcement and hasn’t talked much to the media since—keeping the focus on doing his job as professionally as possible even if the Sox have a target on his back. The same couldn’t be said for Remy, who was noticeably fighting back tears when talking to reporters about the NESN decision.

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/08/26/jerry-remy-chokes-up-talking-about-don-orsillo/

“For the last 15 years, it’s been a pleasure to work with Don. I can remember him sitting in the booth when the job became available. He was asking me if there was any chance he could get it. I said a few things to a few people. He’s been an outstanding partner for 15 years, and I’m truly going to miss him on on a work-related side and I’m also going to miss him on a personal side because he has also become a very, very close friend of mine.” –Jerry Remy per ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes

The shame of it is O’Brien is not a bad announcer, but he’ll be seen in some circles as part of the problem because Maar prefers him to Orsillo—per the reports coming out of Boston.

It appears Bostonians and New Englanders are more opposed to this decision than they were with the NFL’s handling of the DeflateGate controversy or the idea of hosting the 2024 Olympics in Boston!

Also after the news was announced, the obvious question asked was if Orsillo would be hired for a national gig. Of course he would be hired for a national gig because he’s that good of an announcer. He has done work in the past for TBS, so it is only right if he were to be tapped for a national announcing job at TBS, ESPN, or MLB Network.

Plus, Orsillo is only in his 40’s—so he’ll be a signature voice of sports telecasts for probably the next 30 or so years.

When the Red Sox returned home (they were on the road when the reports were confirmed of Orsillo’s impending departure), they were returning home to an angry Dontourage. Fans were protesting outside Fenway Park on Yawkey Way with signs in support of their soon-to-be-silenced voice.

Only one problem—those fans when trying to enter Fenway Park had their pro-Orsillo signs confiscated by Fenway security at the behest of the Red Sox.

Tom Werner, Red Sox chairman, was also involved along with Maar and Sox fans immediately reminded everyone that this was the same guy who gave us Bill Cosby. And if you have been reading the headlines lately, that is not a name you want to be associated with in 2015. Maybe in 1985, but not 2015.

Mediawise, it also comes at an interesting for the Red Sox in terms of who will broadcast their games. The WEEI Network has encountered intense competition from CBS’s 98.5 The Sports Hub ever since the station first debuted in 2009.

They’ve been praised for being more about sports talk than non-sports talk (i.e. that not-so-Boston-like political ramblings of D&C), they’ve inherited some of the audience that was with former legendary Rock station WBCN 104.1 when they moved its morning show of Toucher & Rich to the Sports Hub, and have become the flagship station for New England Revolution soccer, Boston Celtics basketball, Boston Bruins hockey, and New England Patriots football.

All the WEEI Network has is the Red Sox—whose contract with the team expires after next season. The Hub may not have enough room for the Red Sox and the team may not be worth bidding on since it is likely going to be a bad team next year again. So the team may stay with the WEEI Network.

Or they may move. Crazier things have happened in the realm of sports media. Just ask the White Sox who signed a multi-year deal to move to Cumulus Chicago News/Talker WLS 89 (a station with little to no sports history) beginning next year after a long time on CBS Sports talker WSCR 670 the Score (subsequently moving the Cubs to the Score for next year).

So this isn’t the first bit of media business the Sox will be engaged in over the next 16 or so months and if the team eventually signs for a less-than-desirable deal (which they won’t because the WEEI Network has to keep the team somehow, some way), then Red Sox Nation will immediately let the team know how it and the network handled this Orsillo sitch.

How badly was it handled? So horribly the WEEI Network reported NESN asked Orsillo to tweet the decision for him to part was “mutual” when it really wasn’t. It was a decision made entirely by NESN and the Red Sox.

Going back to how much backlash the Red Sox have encountered since the reports first came out, I immediately honed in on this tweet courtesy of Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThe first thought that entered into my big head was 2003.

What happened in 2003? Oh, Atlanta Braves fans remember vividly what happened in 2003.

In the heyday of the Braves, they had a national following on TBS, including its announce team of Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, and Ernie Johnson, Sr. Caray and Van Wieren, later on, as Braves broadcasters were paired in the booth with Joe Simpson and Don Sutton, respectively for TBS on the TV side and News/Talk 750 WSB on the radio end.

This was the case—until a brief period of 2003 that turned things upside down.

In 2003, TBS began experimenting with a concept that made a lot of Braves fans puke—the idea of announcers calling Braves games with a neutral outlook on the baseball without being so explicitly Braves-centric.

The broadcasts were rebranded as “MLB on TBS.” They also figured that Don Sutton and Joe Simpson were the men for the job, so they were at the microphone for the Braves…er…I mean “MLB on TBS” telecasts. Nevermind that Sutton and Simpson were still doing radio work for their flagship radio station, they were the men for the job.

It was also the surest sign that after America Online (AOL, for those keeping score at home) merged with Time Warner that this was no longer the TBS that was the brainchild of Ted Turner—the Braves’ former owner and that TBS was looking into its future sans the Bravos.

They planned to ditch the Braves altogether for a national MLB package that would likely include lots and lots of Yankees and Red Sox games. What happened to Skip and Pete? They were shifted to the radio side at News/Talk 750 WSB—but not entirely. Why? Because Braves games were also being aired on a network called Turner South, a southern sister station to TBS.

What was Turner South? This YouTube video it showed in its five-year anniversary in 2004 explains better than I could…but I’ll try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AknjSXEF-EA

It essentially was a Southern-lifestyle kind of channel that showcased all aspects of living in the South—music, food, heritage, outdoors, history, radio (it simulcasted The Rick & Bubba Show out of Country 104.7 WZZK in Birmingham), and even sports as it aired Atlanta Braves baseball, Atlanta Hawks basketball, and Atlanta Thrashers hockey.

Well, in 2003, Turner South’s baseball broadcasts were still branded as “Braves on Turner South” with guess who calling the games? Ding, ding, ding if you said Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren.

Braves fans were ticked about this given that most games at the time were still on TBS and that Turner South was not a national network like The Superstation was. Turner South was a channel that was only available in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and the western half of North Carolina. It wasn’t even available in Florida which drew the ire of fans there because Floridians that wanted the channel (probably only for the Braves if anything) felt their state was just as “South” as Georgia or South Carolina.

Baseball’s territorial restrictions re: the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Miami (Florida) Marlins may have had something to do with those as well in addition to the perception that Central and South Florida aren’t really “South” so a South-centric network may not sell well in that part of the state. I digress, though.

So unless you were in the South, you likely were not getting you Skip and Pete fix.

Braves fans for two to three months let TBS and the Braves hear it. I remember frequenting the TBS message boards a lot that year. I could find almost no one on those boards that gave TBS praise for the Skip and Pete debacle. Everyone in those boards wanted them back on TBS and for the station to ditch its “MLB on TBS” branding. They lambasted also how out of touch Simpson and Sutton seemed to be with the average fan as opposed to the passion of Skip and Pete.

The backlash was so great that neither the team nor the network could ignore it any longer. Caray and Van Wieren were back with TBS by the midpoint of the 2003 season and in 2004, the “MLB on TBS” branding was dropped in favor of “Braves TBS Baseball.” This included the debuting of new, more interactive elements to TBS/Braves telecasts, including Friday broadcasts which were called “Braves TBS Xtra.”

Of course, TBS only remained with the Braves until 2007 with the number of Braves games on TBS gradually decreasing year by year until the beginning of their new MLB contract. Both Caray and Van Wieren, have since passed away.

So, yes, there have been instances where announcers were returned to a team’s telecasts because of public pressure except in that instance, Caray and Van Wieren’s role was lessened without being entirely jettisoned. Orsillo is being jettisoned by the Red Sox/NESN entirely and all of Red Sox Nation is in a tizzy.

And as you read this, the change.org petition probably just gained another 100 or so signatures.

The Braves scenario may not necessarily have to play out in this case because of a report suggesting Orsillo has an offer from the Angels to join its broadcast team, potentially meaning Victor Rojas (who was once at MLB Network) may be pushed out in favor of the soon-to-be-ex Boston broadcaster.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2015/09/04/nesn-reportedly-asked-don-orsillo-to-lie-bout-his-firing-to-red-sox-fans-he-declined/

The backlash to the Orsillo in Boston isn’t going any time soon because ask any New Englander they would describe his broadcasting skills. They are likely to respond with two words—Wicked Pissah.

Whereas Werner, Maar and the rest of NESN are simply Massho… who they wish they could throw into the Hahbor.

Is this the end for Atlanta’s 790 the Zone?

790

If there was a such thing as a “dead station airing,” channel 79 on the ATL’s radio dial would qualify as just that.

WQXI-AM 790 in Atlanta, once a longtime Top 40 outlet known as “Quixie in Dixie” over the last few years has aired a sports format better known as “790 the Zone.” It was once an affiliate of the Fox Sports Radio network but has since been airing ESPN Radio over the past couple of years.

Recently, 790 the Zone along with its sister station WSTR-FM “Star 94” (Adult CHR) were sold from Atlanta-based Lincoln Financial Media to metro-Philadelphia based Entercom in a deal which saw LFM exit the radio business.

Entercom also bought a number of stations in Denver, San Diego, and Miami.

The stations Lincoln divested included a comedy station on a translator, a Rhythmic CHR KQKS “KS 107.5” and Oldies station KRWZ Cruisin’ 950 in Denver.

Entercom also bought a few Miami stations in the deal. They acquired WAXY-AM/FM 790/104.3 The Ticket, WLYF-FM 101.5 Lite FM, and WMXJ-FM Magic 102.7 (Oldies/Classic Hits).

The San Diego stations they picked up were KBZT-FM 94.9, KSON/KSOQ 97.3/92.1 Country, and KIFM-FM Easy 98.1.

Interestingly, the Justice Department told Entercom and Lincoln Financial that it had to divest a few of its Denver stations in the deal given that they felt Entercom after the deal would have too much of a hold on that market.

As a result Entercom had to offload a few of its well-cherished Rocky Mountain outlets. Among those were KOSI 101 (Adult Contemporary and heritage Christmas station), KYGO 98.5 (Country), and KKFN Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan. Entercom also also agreed to offload KEPN 1600 The Zone which has shows from from the NBC, CBS, Fox, and Yahoo Sports Radio networks on its station.

Entercom didn’t simply give them up for nothing as they called up Bonneville and asked if they could trade their Denver cluster for Classic Rocker KSWD 100.3 The Sound in Los Angeles.

Bonneville agreed. They bought the station a few years ago from Radio One when it was KRBV V-100—an Urban AC. It began as a AAA station before surely evolving into a highly rated Classic Rock station—including luring in Mark Thompson to join their station (yes, that Mark Thompson formerly of 95.5 KLOS “Mark and Brian” fame).

So, thanks to the Entercom-Lincoln Financial-Bonneville pact, the future of 790 WQXI is up in the air.

And that whole thing about this is 790 may not have any programming left unless they act fast.

Ever since Dickey Broadcasting’s WCNN-AM 680 The Fan ditched its ESPN Radio affiliation to become that of CBS Sports Radio (along with a lot of Cumulus and CBS sports stations) it allowed for the ESPN affiliation in Atlanta to be found elsewhere.

It went to 790 the Zone.

But recently, ESPN had announced it was returning to 680—joining a growing list of Cumulus/Dickey sports outlets switching out of their CBS Sports Radio affiliation—which is ironic given Cumulus handles sales for CBS Sports Radio.

Meaning as of August 17, 790 may not have any programming with ESPN going back to 680. This is why the station’s new bosses at Entercom need to act and they need to act fast if they haven’t already acted.

CBS already has a sports talk station in Atlanta—92.9 the Game which is currently the flagship station for Atlanta Falcons football and Atlanta Hawks basketball. With 680 ditching CBS, 92.9 will likely assume that affiliation.

With ESPN, Fox, and presumably CBS all with stations in the ATL, this could mean Entercom would probably affiliate 790 with either NBC Sports Radio or Yahoo Sports Radio if it wants to maintain the sports format.

It has also been speculated Entercom may want to sell its two newly acquired Atlanta outlets to CBS given the market was not exactly as important in the original merger talks with Lincoln as Denver was.

CBS has a small yet sizable presence in Atlanta between WVEE-FM V-103, 92.9 the Game, and WAOK 1380. All three stations draw high numbers among Atlanta’s African-American audience. They’re basically a second Radio One.

If Entercom makes 790 into a CBS Sports Radio station, it could be an indication they plan to offload WQXI to CBS and make it a sister station to 92.9 with 790 airing the CBS Sports Radio network on a 24/7 basis.

It would be another arrangement where CBS has two stations in one market—one of which airs CBS Sports Radio and the other that airs the local sports format. CBS already has this in Baltimore (1300/105.7 the Fan), Washington, D.C. (1580/106.7 the Fan), Detroit (1270/97.1 The Ticket), and Houston (Sports Radio 610/650) among others.

CBS also had this arrangement in Philadelphia with 610 and 94.1 WIP-AM and FM before it sold 610 to Beasley. It had it in Tampa/St. Petersburg before 1010 AM and 98.7 became Beasley properties (1010 became financial talk and 98.7 became WBRN-FM “Bubba (the Love Sponge) 98.7.”)

It is unlikely Salem would want it since they already have a radio station in Atlanta at WGKA 920 The Answer.

Or it could simply take the station silent or flip its format to something else, putting what has been (as of late) a miserable few years for the sports station. But how did it get this bad? How?

At one point in time, 790 The Zone was the biggest competitor to 680 the Fan for sports radio supremacy in Atlanta. While 680 marketed itself more as a station for the college football fan, 790 explicitly branded itself as the go-to station for Georgians who wanted their Falcons fix.

680 and 790 were also locked in this battle of wits for Atlanta sports radio dominance when there were only three major sports radio networks—ESPN, Fox, and Sporting News (which later became Yahoo Sports Radio).

One of the founders of the station was Steak Shapiro—but the 790 founders also had business interests in radio in St. Louis—business interests that did not turn out the way they hoped it would which hurt 790’s books.

But, what set The Zone apart from 680 were two personalities in particular.

2-Live-Stews

The Two Live Stews.

If there was any sports show that fit Atlanta like a glove, it was that of the Stews.

Ryan and Doug Stewart was exactly what one would think of if they were thinking of the prototypical Atlanta sports show. They were hip, they were young, they were in the African-American community, they talked sports as well as urban pop culture, and had a personality about themselves that made them relatable to the Atlanta sports fan.

In fact, the Stews’ star shone so bright at one point in time they were regular guests on ESPN’s First Take (when it still in its infancy as opposed to the Skip Bayless-Stephen A. Smith shoutfest it is today).

The station was also once the flagship station for the Hawks and Georgia Tech athletics.

Then—the Michael Vick dogfighting incident happened and many diehard fans of the Falcons wanted Vick to be thrown off the team.

Some were dog lovers but others simply wanted him off the team because they felt he was overrated and hadn’t delivered a Super Bowl to Atlanta like he was so widely touted to do.

It was said that some of the Stews’ opinions on Vick in the light of the dogfighting scandal alienated a lot of 790’s audience outside of the “Perimeter”—an area of the metro-Atlanta area that seems to separate the liberal/African American area of the region from the more conservative parts of the area.

Ultimately, the Stews were fired and despite their high-profile local and national notoriety have not been hired to a new radio station since.

But, along with the initial financial troubles that occurred in St. Louis, the programming changes that occurred with the Stews happened after Lincoln Financial assumed control of the station in 2010.

Lincoln Financial may have been based in Atlanta, but as evidenced by them trying to make the show sound more appealing to people who live in north Fulton County, Lincoln Financial apparently did not know diddly about Atlanta.

Slowly but surely, prior to their firing, they tried to remove all of the elements that made the show so appealing to an urban audience from the show. The Stews may have been an Atlanta show with syndicates, but it appeared as if Lincoln Financial wanted to make them sound like a show out of Denver instead of Atlanta.

Hint, hint—maybe this is part of the reason why LFM’s out of radio.

The Stews wanted nothing to do with Lincoln Financial tinkering with their show the way they did but they rolled with the punches—and were still released from their station before their contracts had expired.

And up to this day, no station has picked them up even after this had happened. Not even 92.9 the Game has picked them up and the bread and butter of their show is the black male listenership of the ATL.

It has even been something that has puzzled both brothers as they told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but they both at least seem to be financially stable.

Why hasn’t a national outlet like CBS Sports Radio or even NBC Sports Radio picked them up? This is especially the case for these networks like CBS which thrives on personalities and a network like NBC which is seemingly lacking personality.

Sports stations have said nice things about them to the papers, but seem to balk on the idea of actually hiring them. It is unbelievable that such a show with such a following has not been hired by a sports radio (or television) station two years after their non-compete from 790 ended.

That was undoubtedly the beginning of the end for 790. Steak Shapiro and another businessman, Andrew Saltman had business problems in St. Louis which precipitated the sale to Lincoln Financial. But it was obvious the Stews were Shapiro hires. Hiring the Stews was arguably the best move Steak Shapiro ever made.

And it looked to be obvious from the start Lincoln Financial did not know how to run a station Shapiro put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making a powerhouse in Atlanta radio.

Ultimately, they lost the rights to air Georgia Tech athletics to Citadel (which later merged with Cumulus) when it flipped WYAY-FM Eagle 106.7 to Oldies as “True Oldies” 106.7 which later flipped to All-News and then to News/Talk (News Radio 106.7—now the co-flagship of the Braves with 680 the Fan).

They later lost Tech to 680.

In 2011, 790 did get a pick-me up when it was announced they were the official station to air Atlanta Falcons football—along with Star 94. It was a big get for a station that had explicitly branded itself as the station for Falcons coverage. Now they had the games to boot. Included in the coverage would be Chris Dimino and Steak Shapiro.

They assumed the rights from the previous Falcons’ station—WZGC 92.9 Dave FM which had spent eight years as the Dirty Birds’ flagship station.

But a couple of years into their Falcons contract, the unraveling of 790 really went into warpspeed.

In 2012, CBS replaced 92.9 amidst low ratings (and in the midst of a wild year in Atlanta radio that saw WKLS-FM Project 9-6-1 flip to CHR “Power 96.1”), with 92.9 the Game—the first FM sports station in Atlanta. 680 flexed its muscles by buying out a 93.7 translator.

Two of Atlanta’s three primary sports talk stations were on FM. 790 was nowhere to be found on the FM dial, leading to plenty of speculation on the radio message boards (and in the trade publications) on if 94.1 were to be sacrificed to make way for 790 or if Lincoln would buy another station and place 790 on it.

Neither happened. This was the first big mistake 790 made—and they would make plenty.

Ironically, it can be said CBS flipped 92.9 to sports because original speculation had 92.9 going All-News with Dave struggling in the ratings. Eventually, Cumulus did that with 106.7.

Between the controversial firing of the Stews and the fact that Lincoln Financial never invested in an FM for 790, it was not exactly the happiest of radio operations in Atlanta despite grabbing the Falcons’ rights.

gleason

Then, in 2013, an incident happened that would essentially prove the station was hitting rockbottom.

790 had a show called “Mayhem in the AM” which was hosted by Nick Cellini along with Shapiro and Dimino. They mocked the fact that format New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS by turning it into a bit on their show. The hosts themselves later admitted that they were uncomfortable with what went down, but they were prodded into doing it on air and they did it on air.

The hosts were later fired by the radio station for the bit—which did not go unnoticed by a New Orleans radio station—WMTI 106.1 The Ticket.

The three hosts later apologized—an apology that was accepted by Gleason.

They all later regretted doing the bit—a clear indication the bit was not the idea of either of the three hosts. Cellini later called the firing a blessing in disguise and also described 790 as a “sinking ship” because of the debut of 92.9 and Lincoln Financial not investing in an FM stick.

All had other gigs prior to what happened and all are back on the radio today at 680. Cellini later committed himself to donating to the Gleason Foundation.

The Atlanta Falcons also had to issue a statement given that it was their flagship radio station and the PR backlash also affected them. A national Fox Sports personality even planned to boycott the station (and this is while they were a Yahoo Sports affiliate).

But what the incident showed is just how far 790 had fallen since its heyday of the Stews. While 680 had the Braves and 92.9 picked up the Hawks, 790 didn’t have much left and the incident (plus 92.9’s presence) only made it easier for the Falcons to seek greener pastures on another radio station.

In early 2014, Lincoln Financial later pulled the plug on the remainder of 790’s local programming such as a morning show with Alge Crumpler and JP Peterson as well as an afternoon show with Mike Bell and David Archer. 790 was officially nothing more than a 24/7 jukebox for ESPN while still maintaining (for the time being) the Falcons’ flagship rights.

No way the Falcons were going to be on a station that has fallen as far as 790 has, so the writing was on the wall. It became even moreso after Georgia Tech signed a new deal with 680 the Fan. In addition, the Falcons began transitioning to 92.9 as they dumped Star 94 as the FM flagship for the CBS radio station.

The move was completed in early 2015. 790 had lost the Falcons. The only thing that kept the station afloat at that point was ESPN—and they even lost that in lieu of the (at the time) pending Entercom sale as ESPN reunited with the Dickeys at 680 the Fan and 1230 The Fan 2 (which will air the four-letter’s radio network on a 24/7 basis).

The only question remaining is what will Entercom do now that it owns the 790 frequency? Is a sale to CBS possible? Maybe even though it could be surprising given the way CBS has slashed payroll all over the country.

CBS has been in a selling mode as of late which is why the Quixie question has to be the most perplexing one on the minds of Atlanta radio aficionados.

There is one reason as to why CBS would want to buy 790—and that is to use it as a satellite stick for 92.9 in case of anytime Falcons and Hawks coverage overlaps to take any potential load off WAOK or V-103.

But again it may be unlikely given CBS is slashing properties nationwide.

Entercom has a heck of a decision to make as D-Day is August 17 when all ears will be following what (if anything) will be heard on the 7-9-0 in the A-T-L.

How Can You Care–a Poem Written by Tashea Alonzo (https://www.facebook.com/talonzo1)

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How can you care, when the one who claims to love you makes you cry

How can you care, when the one who says he’ll be there for you in reality is really not

How can you care, if the one who supposed to support you does the things of the ones who hate

How can you care, when all you do is judge instead of trying to correlate

Why should I care if a man who says he’s a man isn’t really a man at all

You call her a hoe you call her a bitch, she falls down, but somehow manages to get back up, but how many times will you allow yourself to fall

How can you care?

How can you dare say you love her, and treat her the way that you do?

It’s a lie, its fake, and she refuses to keep drowning in your own twisted selfishness

Your own twisted need to make everything about you

Its time she live for her for once and that’s exactly what she plans to do

Know your worth, I know who I am

I know I will be somebody with or without a boy who claims he’s a man …

Part 2–When Sports Teams Want to Be the Media–CSN Houston, SportsNet LA, and MASN

rsns

There’s no secret at this point as to why sports teams establish regional sports networks. It allows the teams editorial control over content relating to the teams and these RSNs can act as virtual ATMs for the them as well.

When the Yankees launched the YES Network in 2002, it was another revenue stream for Steinbrenner and the Bronx Bombers to invest in the team. Revenue generated through YES goes back into the team. The same applies to NESN—the New England Sports Network that the Boston Red Sox own an 80% stake in. The other 20% is held by the Boston Bruins.

21st Century Fox has since bought out YES and owns an 80% stake in the New York RSN.

The same applies to the New York Mets and SportsNet New York. While the Metropolitans haven’t had the same on-field success as their Gotham rivals from the Bronx, the Mets do own a controlling interest in SNY with the rest held by Comcast and Time Warner.

It once applied to the Cleveland Indians as well, who once launched Sports Time Ohio as a Cleveland-centric RSN, but it was then sold to Fox amidst financial issues. STO and the original Fox Sports Ohio are now virtual partners.

Chicago has Comcast Sports Net with the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks each owning 20% stakes in their channel, but there has been talk as of late that the Cubs may want to sign a new television contract that could include establishing their own RSN as a rival to CSN Chicago.

A similar TV debate over rights also happened in Philadelphia with the Phillies. It was once rumoured that they could also sign their own deal with Fox for a new Phillies-centric RSN, but they instead re-upped with CSN Philadelphia with some games also going to WCAU-TV NBC 10 Philadelphia, which now is a sister channel to CSN Philly thanks to NBC & Comcast now going together like (rotten) peanut butter and jelly.

From the Empire Sports Network, to the various SportsChannels, to Home Team Sports, to the Midwest Sports Channel, to Victory Sports One, to the Sunshine Network, to the Royals Sports Television Network, to C-SET, to the Dallas Cowboys TV Network, to Channel 4 San Diego, regional sports networks have come and gone over the years. And Fox, being the Grand Pubah of RSNs have since split and segmented some of its even more established RSNs.

Example: Fox Sports South was split into several other channels to serve sports fans in Tennessee and the Carolinas that are more into that region’s teams. Fox Sports Tennessee and Fox Sports Carolinas are now regional subfeeds of South, along with co-owned SportsSouth that was once Turner South, the Turner-owned Southern lifestyle channel based out of Atlanta that practically doubled as an RSN airing Braves, Hawks, and Thrashers games.

When RSTN folded, it led to the creation of Fox Sports Kansas City. Now it and Fox Sports Indiana are subfeeds of St. Louis-based Fox Sports Midwest. The same applies to Fox Sports Oklahoma—a subfeed of Fox Sports Southwest.

Fox Sports Houston was also a subfeed of Fox Sports Southwest for a time.

Then, in 2012, a curious thing happened that led to our first case.

Case #1–CSN Houston

CSNHouston

Fox Sports Southwest was perceived as being too much of a Dallas-centric channel even though it also showed events from the Houston area teams. The Astros and Rockets had been angling for a regional sports channel for a while. In 2012, Comcast Sports Net Houston was launched, just in time for Rockets basketball.
NBC even announced that they had secured financial backing from Houston mayor Annise Parker for the building of a state-of-the-art studio for CSN Houston in the Pavilions in Downtown Houston, near the Main Street Square MetroRail station. That area is now called GreenStreet—a commercial development in the downtown area.

Comcast has been the primary cable provider in Houston ever since they and Time Warner swapped the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex markets a few years ago. The list of RSNs Comcast now has reads like a who’s who of channels:

CSN Philadelphia

CSN Washington

CSN Baltimore

CSN Chicago

CSN New England

CSN Bay Area

CSN California

CSN Northwest

CSN Houston

They also once had a CSS Southeast channel that aired collegiate athletics from that region, but has shutdown with the SEC Network on the verge of debuting (on all cable systems, except Time Warner, by the way).

There were plenty of high expectations for carriage of the channel. The Astros were not doing too well, baseball-wise, but the Rockets were on the up-and-up with the addition of James Harden who played a crucial role in helping the Oklahoma City Thunder reach the NBA Finals in 2012. They lost in five games to the Miami Heat.

If anything would drive interest in the channel, it would be the Rockets along with a bevy of Texans, Longhorns, and Aggies coverage.
Only one problem—no one could see it.

Of course, the channel was available on Comcast, but not everyone in Houston has Comcast. Others have AT&T U-Verse, others have DirecTV, others have Dish Network, and others have Suddenlink. Also, the network, while bearing the Comcast name was co-owned by the Astros and Rockets. Meaning the teams were setting a price-per-subscriber tariff on the channel.

$4.30.

That was the price set by CSN Houston to watch a horrible baseball team and a basketball team that has not won an NBA championship since Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon retired. According to Kabletown, a CSN Houston channel should cost half as much as the entire ESPN family of networks at $9 per sub.

They even launched an “iWantCSNHouston” campaign to aim their displeasure at the impasse between the network and the providers at the AT&Ts and DirecTVs when really it was the fault of Comcast.

Turns out, no one wanted CSN Houston.

Ladies and gentlemen, what happens when sports teams want to be the media.

As a result, other would-be-carriers of the CSN Houston channel balked at carrying the channel. It would be one thing if the Astros were perennial World Series contenders like they were in 2004 and 2005 instead of the “DisAstros” they are now outside of George Springer and Jose Altuve.

It got to a point where it was once so bad that the Texas Rangers (who did a big time re-up with Fox Sports Southwest until 2034 (!!!)) were OUTRATING the Astros in Houston.

Why was this? One—because no one outside of Comcast/Xfinity subscribers had CSN Houston, and Two, the Rangers were at least watchable because they were a winning baseball team. The Astros…eh, not so much.

And, if subscriber fees are where these regional sports networks get the bulk of their revenue, then there was no doubt that CSN Houston was bleeding and bleeding cash FAST. Being that deep in the red will eventually lead to your station declaring bankruptcy and having to go through the Chapter 11 proceedings in court.

The Astros clearly wanted to get out of the deal with a network that they co-owned and said that the bankruptcy proceeding was done so they couldn’t back out of the deal. Plus, the Houston Regional Sports Network couldn’t pay rights fees to the Astros. That overpricing of the channel may have had something to do with that, ya think?

Then, this month, it was announced that the Astros and Rockets had announced a deal for a reorganization plan that would sell CSN Houston over to AT&T (based in Dallas, ironically) and DirecTV. AT&T, ironically, is also trying to buyout DirecTV and has had their eyes on the regional sports network business for a while. Comcast is not expected to give up without a fight and may announce its own plan of reorganization, likely one preserving the CSN Houston channel.

Such a deal will also lead to the channel being renamed as “Root Sports Houston”. DirecTV Sports Networks already owns and operates three other regional sports networks, all under the Root Sports name. There’s one in Pittsburgh for the Pirates and Penguins, one in Denver/Rocky Mountains for the Rockies and Utah Jazz, and one in the Northwest for the Seattle Mariners.

Also, the M’s bought a majority stake in the Seattle channel when it appeared that Chris Hansen, Steve Ballmer, Wally Walker had a deal to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle and relaunch the SuperSonics, likely leading to them also having to do a deal for an RSN. The Kings remained in Sacramento because of a scuzzy deal with the NBA, but the Mariners’ Root Deal allowed them to have the money to sign former New York Yankee Robinson Cano to a major 10 year, $240 million contract. That will likely have Cano retiring in Seattle unless something “happens”—as in to his play or to his viewing of the city.

All of the current Root channels were once Fox Sports-branded as well. The Astros and Rockets will likely be in a pretty long fight with Comcast over another $100 million loan related to CSN Houston’s startup costs. DirecTV will own 60% of the channel and AT&T will own the remaining 40%, meaning the Houston Regional Sports Network would be owned and operated by conglomerates instead of a conglomeration consortium with two professional sports franchises.

Oh, yeah, and it will be available to all of the Houston area. Comcast has to carry the channel as part of its carriage agreement with Houston Regional Sports Network and, of course, it’ll be on AT&T and DirecTV since they’ll own it.

October 2nd is the date to wait for. If approved this will likely mean that CSN Houston will be no more and be replaced by Root Sports. Hopefully, none of the on-air talent will be fired & the studios, production staff, and reporters and analysts will stay and nothing will change except the name of the channel and the on-air graphics. But, this is AT&T and DirecTV we are talking about—two companies with histories of screwing over people (like most companies in capitalistic America do).

The culprit here may be Comcast, but a bigger culprit is Major League Baseball. MLB teams are encouraged (instead of doing national deals) to do regional deals because they make more money regionally than they do nationally. Fans in baseball are older and more tribal (and conservative) than NFL and NBA fans who have more of a national, progressive mindset.

So, if MLB did more national deals, these RSNs wouldn’t exist or would have less meaning. It’s part of the reason why the NFL is so successful.

But, while the Houston sitch seems to be reaching its apex, the one in Los Angeles is still very, very hot.

Case #2—SportsNet LA

snla

In the Los Angeles/Southern California market, Fox not only had one sports channel, but two given that the City of Angels is basically the flagship market for Fox. They had Fox Sports West and Fox Sports West 2 (later rebranded as Fox Sports Prime Ticket) that aired games of the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Ducks, USC, UCLA, and other collegiate and high school sports.
So much of Fox Sports’ programming comes out of LA. Then, the Southland’s two biggest teams were nudged in a side a little bit by the largest cable provider in the area—Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner already had lesser known regional sports networks in markets such as Kansas City and Upstate New York. Getting into LA, though, would be their biggest prize.

First it was the Lakers, when there were rumors going back a while over when they would start a regional sports network that would be more Laker centric. They decided to do so in collaboration with Time Warner Cable when they announced a new 20-year agreement for Lakers games to be shown on the network. But only Time Warner was picking it up at the time, given that they owned the channel.

As the 2012-13 NBA season drew closer and closer and closer, more and more cable, satellite, and telco providers were lining up to carry the new Lakers channel. It was also announced that broadcasts of the WNBA’s Sparks and MLS’s LA Galaxy would also be seen on the new Time Warner Cable SportsNet. Plus, it made history when it launched as a sister channel, Time Warner Cable Deportes—the first ever all Spanish regional sports channel.

Talk about a sign of the times. Hint, hint, Fox Sports in Miami.

The channel launched with all sorts of programming related to the three teams, including one that shows the process of becoming one of the “Laker Girls”.

At that time, the Lakers were not a good basketball team and the channel’s on-air graphics looked very similar to those of ESPN, believe it or not. Plus, the team’s coverage looks as if the Lakers are having editorial control over content—a huge no-no for sports journalists, by the way.

The disadvantage of the arrangement was that games that could normally be seen on KCAL-TV Channel 9 (a local independent station owned by CBS) and Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket would no longer be on those channels. So, to get your purple and gold fix, you had to pay extra for the new Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

Or just listen to the games on radio…on ESPN 710, KSPN-AM.

Then, at around the same time that the Lakers channel launched (in time for the basketball season that year), the Dodgers were contemplating a similar option.

They wanted to do their own regional sports channel, but they wanted to own it unlike the Lakers arrangement. The only question was if they would own the channel with Fox as partners or Time Warner Cable as partners.

After an exclusive negotiating period with Fox, in came Time Warner with their own plans for a regional sports channel owned by the Dodgers. It looked as if Fox would indeed re-up with the team, but just as Orange is the New Black, Blue is the New Green.

The Dodgers signed with Time Warner for a second channel instead of simply being lumped into the Laker networks, Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Deportes. This one would be called SportsNet LA, and would feature almost all Dodgers content—similar to the YES Network with the Yankees. It would debut in 2014, and on-air talent would include Alanna Rizzo, a former reporter for MLB Network.

No one (myself included) expected the Dodgers’ channel to have any kind of coverage issues. After all, the Dodgers’ 2013 season where they reached the NLCS practically doubled as an infomercial for the new network. The introduction of Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig to baseball would only help a campaign for a Dodger channel.

In fact, in the first billboards that were seen throughout Southern California advertising SportsNet LA, guess whose likeness was seen? That’s right—Yasiel Puig.

Except for one small issue—the price per subscriber. Uh-oh, here we go again

The price per subscriber for the Dodgers’ channel–$4. Houston, we have a problem.

That can at least be a little bit more justified than for CSN Houston because the Dodgers are a winning baseball team. Plus, given that sports are basically the last things left on TV that we can count on to be live and unscripted, it gives those that want to start regional sports networks some cache in these projects.

But, that doesn’t matter if other providers in your market don’t want to carry it. The other providers in LA include Comcast, Cox, Charter, AT&T, Verizon Fios, DirecTV, and Dish Network.

For the time being, all have balked. Outside of the network’s preseason campaign to advertise the channel which included giving out Dodger Dogs to fans, they have also started a campaign similar to CSN Houston’s called “I Need My Dodgers”, including the Twitter hashtag #INeedMyDodgers. This too is aimed as a PR stunt by Time Warner and the Dodgers at getting Angelenos to direct their attention at the other cable providers in the area and direct them away from the cigarette-like scent of that $4 price per subscriber bit.

Instead, the Dodgers’ channel, again with an impressive on-air product ala CSN Houston, launched only on Time Warner Cable systems, leaving others in the Southland out in the blue cold and feeling blue that they couldn’t see Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, Puig, and the rest of their beloved team.

Demand did not pick up at the onset of the season, primarily because of the cigarette-like scent of the $4 price per subscriber as it did for the Laker channel.

There was even an internet meme that went around when Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw threw no-hitters earlier this year for the Dodgers on the basis of if they were really no-hitters if no one saw them. Because, similar to the Lakers’ arrangements, all Dodgers games that were previously on KCAL and West/Prime Ticket were no longer on those channels. Meaning that one had to have this new channel and pay the $4 if they “needed their Dodgers”.

And, for the time being, even subscribe to Time Warner Cable, since no one else has inked deals for the network. At least the Laker network has the cables, satellites, and telcos on board.

If no one saw those no-hitters, they definitely heard them. KPCC 89.3, the public radio behemoth of Los Angeles and Southern California, reported that the impasse between SportsNet LA and the cables/satellites/telcos has actually produced a spike in radio ratings for KLAC Fox Sports 570—the flagship radio station of the national Fox Sports Radio network. Some shows on Fox originate from KLAC, leading to a running radio joke that FSR was basically “SuperStation KLAC”.

Ironically, KLAC is a Clear Channel station. The first SportsNet billboard with Puig’s likeness that was spotted by a reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News was a Clear Channel billboard advertising the channel’s launch date of February 25th 2014. The Dodgers asked Clear Channel to take down the ad from the billboard.

If the Los Angeles situation is mirroring that of the Houston one, it’s because it is. Sports channel with a major team that no one outside of those with one (or two) cable providers in the region (Bright House) can see. And because of that, it’s cutting into the major source of revenue for regional sports networks—subscriber fees.

While SportsNet LA’s $4 per sub is more justified than that of CSN Houston’s $4.30, it doesn’t mean anything if the other providers do not jump on board because of the cigarette-like smell of the $4. That is cutting into SportsNet LA’s revenue. And while there hasn’t been any report yet on the specific revenue vs. expenses of SportsNet LA, it’s a safe bet to say that it is already bleeding and bleeding cash fast because it’s on a grand total of ZERO providers outside of Time Warner Cable and Bright House.

No subscribers, no revenue. Plus, as with the CSN Houston example, those that even have Time Warner or Bright House probably don’t want to pay the exorbitant cigarette-like smell of the $4 per subscriber for an “All Blue, All the Time” channel.

In addition, there’s the added rub of Time Warner Cable being bought out by Comcast and the deal closing at the end of the year. Such a deal would expand Comcast into Los Angeles (as well as Upstate New York, Milwaukee/Green Bay, the Carolinas, Kansas City, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Oceanic Time Warner Cable—Hawaii). It has even been speculated that DirecTV may be holding out until the deal closes to get a better price per subscriber rate from a “Comcast SportsNet LA”.

Ever since, the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable have taken legal action against DirecTV as a result of the SportsNet LA negotiations. California politicians have even petitioned the FCC to bring an end to the standoff, even though DirecTV has said that they want to mediate and not arbitrate. Time Warner has said they are willing to go through with arbitration. And, DirecTV CEO Michael White has said that the only way to potentially end the standoff with DirecTV is for the Dodgers to directly step in.

In short, this doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon and the sniping only seems to get worse. SportsNet LA claims on its website that DirecTV doesn’t want a deal and wants SportsNet LA to agree to terms that it would never agree to for its Root Sports channels in Pittsburgh, Seattle, Denver, and coming soon to a Houston TV near you.

Of course, a counterclaim can be that Time Warner Cable is intentionally playing hardball with providers to get more people in SoCal to cancel and flock to TWC.

Also, a few days ago, the Angels played the Dodgers on both SportsNet LA and Fox Sports West—a ratings bonanza for Fox Sports West. Plus, the Angels tweeted this prior to their four-game series against the Dodgers this past week.

“FACT—All 4 of the Angels games vs LAD will air on FSW with no blackout restrictions in the Southern California region.”
Shots fired, indeed.

That tweet was a Fox Sports West-induced direct shot at the Dodgers, Time Warner Cable, and SportsNet LA. They knew the ratings they’d get from displaced Dodger fans that didn’t have SportsNet LA. It basically said, “Hey Dodgers fans! Your team doesn’t care if you can see them or not because Blue is the New Green in Chavez Ravine. But you can watch them as they play us on Fox Sports West—a channel that, unlike SportsNet LA, everyone in Southern California actually has! ;-)!”

Maybe they were right about that whole “Los Angeles” Angels of Anaheim, thing…at least all of LA can see the Angels!

Reports said that viewership for that Angels/Dodgers series on Fox Sports West drove up their audience over 200%.

What should make the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable feel even worse is that while they can’t sign a television deal to save their lives right now, ESPN’s new SEC Network is doing quite the opposite. It is on nearly every cable, satellite, and telco provider except Time Warner Cable.

So, while the SEC Network will actually be seen by everyone because ESPN and the SEC know a little bit more about the demand side of economics, SportsNet LA has been unsuccessful because it thought the demand would be so high to justify the cigarette-like scent of the $4 per subscriber.

There has not been that much demand. Not from cable providers, not from fans. And not from those in the region.

C’est la vie.

Case 3—MASN

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The history of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area dates back to 2005 when the Montreal Expos said “Au revoir!” to Canada and hello to the Nation’s Capital and became the Washington Nationals.

When the Nationals moved from Montreal, they didn’t have a television network to broadcast their games. The Baltimore Orioles agreed to share the Mid-Atlantic market with the Nats, and their share in MASN has increased ever since.

There’s also a MASN2 feed as well. Orioles and Nationals games also air on WJZ-TV CBS 13 in Baltimore and WUSA-TV 9 in DC.
When the Nats debuted, the Orioles who owned (and still own) MASN agreed to cede the territory that the O’s claim as exclusive to the Nats in exchange for Washington’s television rights being propped up by Peter Angelos and the Orioles. The new Washington team was owned by MLB at the time. Plus, the Nats’ share in MASN would steadily increase from 5% to 33% with the O’s keeping the remaining 67%.

It was a unique agreement that had to be made in order for the move to DC to be successful. Without it, the Expos would have probably moved to Portland, Oregon instead of the DMV.

By the way, that territory the O’s claim belongs to them extends from southern Pennsylvania into Eastern and Central North Carolina, even though North Carolina is primarily shared territory with the Atlanta Braves.

Prior to the Orioles being on MASN, their games were once shown on Home Team Sports which later became Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic (which is also split into CSN Washington and CSN Baltimore). Angelos claims the Orioles have had the territory since the second incarnation of the Washington Senators moved in the 1970s to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to become the Texas Rangers.

Ever since then, the Nationals have had very successful seasons and interest has surpassed that of the Orioles in the region. It’s safe to say that there’s a lot of Natitude in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania right now.

This debate seems to be all about rights fees. Angelos wanted to oppose the initial move of the Expos to Washington, DC because he felt it was his team’s exclusive property—even if they were one of the worst teams in baseball at the time. The Nationals have been one of the best teams in baseball for a while now thanks to Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg—and they want their fair share.

Washington demanded $120 million in rights fees from MASN and the Orioles. They contend it is in line with their recent success on the field and with television rights for sports increasing as a whole. MASN/Orioles said that they would offer a modest increase of up to $30 million. The fact that the two teams are this far apart on a rights deal has landed this baby in court.

MLB is involved too since it has a vested stake in making sure baseball remains viable in Washington, DC and the one man that is doing all he can to prevent that is Peter Angelos. The Nats’ rights are basically majority owned by another team. This is not like the arrangement in Chicago where the Cubs and White Sox each have 20% of CSN Chicago—a huge portion of Washington’s revenues are due to an arrangement OK’d by the Orioles. They currently have an 85% stake in MASN where the Nationals have 15%.

With the steady rise in the Nats’ stake in the channel, and the rise in their on-field play, the Nats want what they feel is theirs. MLB apparently agreed because a New York court ruled in favor of the Nationals. Since then, the Orioles appealed, and a ruling came down that rights to Nats games on MASN cannot be stripped from the Birds’-owned RSN. The endgame, of course, for Angelos would be for the Nationals to become so fed up with the way they have been treated by the Orioles that they pack up and move someplace else, but that won’t happen because MLB is clearly on the Nats’ side.

Angelos’ shadiness as an owner was also on full display during last year’s NFL opener. Last year, the NFL opened up with a game between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos. The Ravens were the defending Super Bowl champions at the time. The champs usually open up on a Thursday at their home stadium. But, the Ravens couldn’t open their season at M&T Bank Stadium because the Orioles were playing the White Sox on the same night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This forced the Ravens to open on the road in Denver, in a game in which Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes against Baltimore.

The Orioles believe that if the Nationals received a larger television rights fee that some of it would find its way back to Major League Baseball and the Office of the Commissioner since they also receive a share of revenue from rights fees.

This last case has more to do with money over broadcasting games than if anyone can actually see the games. Everyone outside of Time Warner Cable subscribers has access to MASN. But, all three highlight the issues of what can indeed happen when teams want to establish these regional sports networks and basically maintain all of the editorial control and revenue for themselves.

It shows what happens when sports teams want to be the media. Maybe they should stick to sports and leave media to people who actually know how to do media.

When Sports Teams Want to Be the Media

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This one is basically being written because of my reading of a Deadspin article. Yes, I read Deadspin articles.

Many of them are interesting, but this one in particular got my attention. It was one about Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and how he practically got a horde of sports reporters in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to kiss his feet.

And his butt…

And a few other things on his body.

The article basically said that ever since Dan Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, he has tried his damndest to essentially control the flow of information regarding his team. In other words, he wants the entire Washington sports media market to serve as a public relations outfit for his team.

Deadspin mentioned a deal that Snyder just inked with the Washington Times where a weekly Redskins magazine will be distributed via the Times and where its staff will appear on the Redskins’ website.

In other words, don’t expect to see any anti-Redskins stuff (including columns advocating for the changing of the Washington team name) anywhere within the pages of the Washington Times.

This is a newspaper that already is trying to uphold a reputation as one of the most conservative-friendly papers in the nation, rivaling the New York Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for that title. It tries to be a conservative alternative to the supposedly liberal-leaning Washington Post.

But, since you already have stated unabashedly that you’re virtually an advocacy rag that tubthumps for right-leaning causes, why should anyone be surprised that you have linked up with the Redskins and its owner, who also happens to be a Republican and donates money to GOP candidates.

So, what else? An announcement that Snyder is also going to be a Washington Times columnist himself?

Political mess aside, this is more about the idea of sports teams (more like, sports owners) being able to control the narrative about their teams especially when their teams’ on-field play is not exactly the best thing going on.

The New York Yankees (YES Network), New York Mets (SNY), Boston Red Sox (NESN), Chicago Cubs/White Sox (Comcast SportsNet Chicago), Los Angeles Dodgers (SportsNet LA), and Houston Astros (Comcast SportsNet Houston) are among the teams with their own RSNs. Even though in the latter cases in Los Angeles, and Houston, those RSNs are not attracting a lot of cable coverage.

The New York Knicks (MSG Network), Los Angeles Lakers (Time Warner Cable Sports Net), Denver Nuggets (Altitude), and Chicago Bulls (Comcast SportsNet Chicago) are among the NBA teams with regional sports networks that they own. The cases with the Time Warner channels in Los Angeles are also striking because, in both cases, the coverage of the teams is relatively soft—even though the Lakers are one of the NBA’s worst teams at the moment.

Many sports teams now own regional sports networks which are able to make a lot of money for their respective teams. Some even own their own radio stations, like the St. Louis Cardinals did a few years back when they moved off of KMOX 1120 for 550 KTRS. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim own their flagship radio station, 830 KLAA-AM.

All four major sports leagues also own their channels, but much to their credit, the on-air talent does not (for the most part) allow the ownership structure of the networks to dictate favorable coverage to a league commissioner. This was illustrated when MLB Network (especially Bob Costas—a common critic of Commissioner Bud Selig) roundly criticized Selig as part of baseball’s problem with performance enhancing drugs when Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was found to have used PEDs.

So, the Snyder case with the Redskins illustrates just how desperate he is in controlling the media narrative around his team. Instead of trying to earn positive coverage with (gasp!) a winning football team, he wants to be lazy and not help in fielding a winning football team, then control the media so no one will say anything negative about him.

In short, that’s what you call an owner who is only using a team as an ATM and could care less if his team has any on-field success or not. Money talks and BS walks.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the fact that Snyder owns the flagship station of his team’s radio network—ESPN Radio 980 WTEM. It also has two repeater signals on 92.7 FM WWXT and 94.3 FM WWXX. Needless to say, you won’t hear any more anti-Snyder blabbery on 980 AM moreso than you will see in the pages of the Washington Times thanks to that new deal.

That, perhaps explains why even with its extra sticks, 980 is still not up to par in terms of ratings with its rival across the street, WJFK-FM CBS Radio’s 106.7 The Fan—the flagship station for the Nationals, Capitals, and Wizards as well as an affiliate of Virginia Tech athletics and CBS Sports Radio.

Whereas The Fan does not hold The Fans hostage with pro-Snyder and pro-Redskins coverage motivated only by fattening of paychecks, 980 is essentially Dan Snyder’s PR outlet. In the July PPMs, 106.7 The Fan had a 2.3 whereas ESPN Radio 980 only mustered a 1.5.

Some of that 2.3 can be attributed to the Nationals and the fact that they are having a successful season up to this point. Nats radio ratings on 106.7 the Fan are surging this season, mostly because of the clarity of the FM signal and the success of the team.

But, it also has a lot to do with the fact that (especially) in Washington, DC, people will want to listen to any media outlet that does not have any financial stake in protecting any big boys.

Compare Dan Snyder’s idea of blacklisting any media type that dares to publish or utter one bad word about him in the District to that of the Jaguars and their media relations this year.

Even though the Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL (so bad that they were once rumoured to be allowing fans to watch NFL RedZone on its JumboTron during games at Everbank Field), they seem to be pretty savvy in terms of media relations.

This year, the Jaguars ended a partnership with Cox Radio and its Conservative News/Talk radio station 104.5 WOKV that goes back to when the Jaguars became an NFL franchise in the 1990s. They signed with a new station this year to broadcast Jaguars games—WJXL AM/FM 1010 XL 92.5—owned by Seven Bridges Radio.

That station airs a sports format and is affiliated with ESPN Radio. It also includes for games to air WGNE-FM 99.9 Gator Country (owned by Renda Broadcasting).

The station talked all day on the occasion of the announcement that they landed the Jags’ rights about the deal and how big it was for the station to be the flagship of Duval’s only professional sports franchise. One of the guests on the station that day was Mark Lamping, team president. He said this:

“I want you to support us when we’re doing well and challenge us when we’re not doing so well.”

In my opinion, that was an extremely refreshing quote from a team president regarding a relationship that said team has or is about to enter into with a media outlet. Say what you want about the Jaguars on-field misadventures as of late, but there is no doubt about the fact that their media relations department is leaps and bounds better than that of the Redskins’.

He understood the concern that many in the Jacksonville/Duval area had about the possibility that the coverage on J-ville’s largest sports station could begin to get a little more skewed in favor of good coverage for a bad team. Lamping understood this and knew that he had to put out these concerns with one interview.

Granted, if the station actually stays to this promise is yet to be seen and heard and will be seen and heard by many in the area as the season unfolds. But, it was a refreshing first step.

Colin Cowherd on ESPN once remarked about how earlier in his radio career, he was on radio stations that happened to have rights to air team broadcasts. The on-air personalities had to temper their criticism of (or provide favorable coverage altogether of) those teams because of the financial ramifications of the relationship. He did not like being on those particular stations—and for good reason.

There’s no problem with sports teams becoming media. Sports teams, in fact, are already media by the fact that they have their own websites with their own content. But, does that mean that we can call a lot of these outlets, particularly Snyder’s, journalism?

There’s journalism and there’s public relations. What the Washington Times and ESPN Radio 980 are doing is public relations—and it’s not good PR either. We’ve found something else the Redskins are seemingly bad at.

Why Do NBA Franchises Fall for the Trap of Building Super-Teams? (Guest Writer: Jeremy Johnson @Clark_Kent_75)

lebron-james

The champagne had not been cleaned from the San Antonio Spurs’ locker room floors before every NBA fan and most team’s executives started to speculate. Where would LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony be playing basketball next season? Would they pair up together and change the trajectory of an entire league? Would they find a team with a budding young star and join them?

The free agency trend that has been prevalent among teams since back in the summer of 2010 when LeBron James uttered his now iconic phrase telling the world of his decision. LeBron spurned his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and joined the Miami Heat in a team up of stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh that rivals Marvel’s “Avengers.” LeBron joined his Super Friends down on South Beach and proceeded to claim they had just created a dynasty.

Oh come on! We all remember LeBron’s overenthusiastic proclamation at the pep rally following the Big Three’s assembling. Though they did capture two NBA titles and make four straight Finals appearances, the Heat fell short of being a dynasty in my book. They did cement LeBron’s legacy by getting him two rings and locking him into being considered a top 10 player all-time.

But eventually in the fourth season of the Big Three era, James had seemingly become the One Man Army similar to the situation that had him bolting away from Cleveland four years prior. James opted out of his deal possibly bringing an end to the Heat’s Big Three era. What wasn’t known at the time of the big three’s conception is that it was about to change the way teams went about planning their offseasons and started an arms race among NBA franchises.

Along with the arms race came the new notion of the buddy system in the NBA—players collaborating and trying to collect their friends or guys they want to play with in an attempt to join forces to make a run at a title. No other team has been even as successful as the Heat were. No other team has even come close. In fact, the teams that have won titles during the Heat’s era are teams built largely through draft picks and trade positioning.

The 2010 Dallas Mavericks, for example, drafted the one star they had on their roster during their championship season. Dirk Nowitzki has played his entire career in Dallas and owner Mark Cuban has worked to put a team around him.
Emphasis on team.

This past season’s champion San Antonio Spurs drafted its three stars in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli and added pieces around them.

So building super-teams isn’t the only way to win championships. So why has it become so prevalent for teams to try to assemble one? Let’s be honest. The Miami Heat were driven by LeBron James to their success though he had a very above average supporting cast. But there’s only one LeBron James, and outside of Kevin Durant, no player in the NBA will single handedly change a whole league’s expected landscape in one move.

So why have teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, and Houston Rockets grappled with stars to join their teams for the last three summers in what always comes up to ultimately ended up being highly publicized unsuccessful chemistry projects that only yield mixed results and do not ascend those teams to the elites. It only puts them in a group with the up and coming built teams that are cheaper and younger. Examples that fall into that category are the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers. So it’s not who a team signs, or who’s friends with who, but how a team is built to fit a common goal every player has a role and fill that role on a consistent basis.

So, why then every summer is free agency held hostage by one or two super stars trying to team up with a buddy? I blame the age of social media and technology that allows these players to connect with each other.

Back in the 90’s at the peak of the Chicago Bulls dynasty, I have a hard time imagining Michael Jordan tweeting about Patrick Ewing having a big game. Or Michael Jordan smiling and hugging Isaiah Thomas after beating them in the Eastern Conference Finals. As it is we sit as fans and the role players that will truly make an impact on creating the winning formula. We collectively wait as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh make their decisions and are wined and dined by teams and pitched on the futures of prospective franchises as if they are about to make a purchase.

This must happen before the Luol Dengs and Trevor Arizas of the world can find their new homes as every team in the NBA is considering breaking their team apart completely to stack a team of stars together a formula that has mixed results to begin with. But teams are not about to remove themselves from contention of hosting the new big three by signing complimentary players. Ignoring the fact that the formula of stacking stars is only creating a giant gap between the haves and have-nots of the NBA as a result.

The smaller market teams struggle to strike gold in the toss up that is the NBA Draft only to watch that gold run to join another team. The quality of the game is suffering as all the good players play on a handful of teams and the good role players follow and familiarity with teammates is a thing of the past. Leaving the bottom tier with the left overs. Yet the NBA is as popular as ever. I leave with the question are spoiled stars ruining the NBA or is the NBA spoiling the stars and ruining itself?

Fox’s Touchdown Play By The Bay; Are St. Louis and Seattle Next?

ktvu

Fox has called an audible at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. It looks like they caught the defense napping and are about to convert on an 80 yard touchdown bomb.

In a power-play type move from Fox, they have announced a deal to purchase television stations KTVU-TV Channel 2 and KICU-TV Channel 36 from Cox Media Group in exchange for WFXT-TV Channel 25 in Boston and WHBQ-TV Channel 13 in Memphis.

KTVU is already a Fox affiliate, and is well-known by sports fans in the Bay Area as once being the longtime local home (in addition to the old SportsChannel Bay Area) of San Francisco Giants baseball.

Brass at KTVU are already saying that the acquisition by Fox will have no impact on its delivery of news—ignoring, of course, a redesigning of the logo to match the other Fox O&Os, a redesigning of the KTVU studios, and the changing of the graphics to, once again, match those of the other Fox O&Os.

In addition to being a Fox station, KTVU blows the other local television stations in the San Francisco Bay Area away in terms of ratings. KGO-TV (an ABC O&O), KNTV-TV (an NBC O&O) and KPIX-TV (a CBS O&O) play second fiddle to the KTVU calls by the Bay.

That’s one big reason why this is such a big deal. It definitely opens up Cox to new markets in Boston and Memphis—two markets where they have never been before and now may have the opportunity to expand in terms of both TV and radio.

The big deal, of course, is on the Fox side with KTVU. This deal will mean that five of the six English-network affiliated stations in the Bay Area will be owned & operateds. The outlier will be KRON-TV Channel 4, a MyNetwork TV affiliate and one whom according to Rich Lieberman’s 415 Media Blog, Fox initially had its eye on before pursuing KTVU.

It’s also huge news for a television network that recently went through an embarrassing journalistic escapade with its coverage of the Asiana Airlines story and the fake names associated with it. Instead, it’s deals like this that make media observers like yours truly say, “Ho Lee Fuk”.

That’s said to be one reason for why Cox wanted to offload KTVU in addition to some moving and shuffling amongst many of the news staff. But, when it comes down to it, this deal can be summed in with three things.

N.

F.

L.

The power that the NFL has in local television arrangements cannot be ignored. In the mid-1990s when television stations across the country were changing affiliations to Fox (primarily because of its wresting of NFC football from CBS), it caused the other “Big Three” networks scrambling for new stations to carry its programs. Fox was doomed to be a failure as a broadcast network without the NFL.

Oh, and that yellow family from Springfield better known as The Simpsons.

CBS had to air AFC football in response. Fox’s strategy has been to establish owned & operated stations in every single market with an NFC team so they could rake in both the local and national dough that those NFL deals offer. And as we know, there’s no money like football money.

Here’s the list of O&Os Fox currently has in NFC cities:

WNYW-TV Fox 5 New York (Giants)

WTXF-TV Fox 29 Philadelphia (Eagles)

WTTG-TV Fox 5 Washington, D.C. (Redskins)

KDFW-TV Fox 4 Dallas (Cowboys)

WFLD-TV Fox 32 Chicago (Bears)

KMSP-TV Fox 9 Twin Cities (Vikings)

WJBK-TV Fox 2 Detroit (Lions)

WAGA-TV Fox 5 Atlanta (Falcons)

WJZY-TV Fox 46 Charlotte (Panthers) (Deal done last year)

WTVT-TV Fox 13 Tampa/St. Petersburg (Buccaneers)

KSAZ-TV Fox 10 Phoenix (Cardinals)

Stations jumped to Fox after the NFC rights buy. Fox moved in and assumed not only their affiliation, but also locking them up as owned & operateds later on.

Fox is doing this deal because it allows them to have an O&O in another NFC market: the Bay Area with—the San Francisco 49ers who right now are probably the best team in the NFC not named the Seattle Seahawks. Also, having an O&O in market #4 is not something you want to pass up if you are a smart girl or guy in charge of a network.

Fox may not be done either. Variety reported last year that Fox was planning on making buys in Seattle and St. Louis in addition to the San Francisco purchase. The St. Louis Fox affiliate is KTVI-TV, a Tribune station. Tribune, based in Chicago, primarily runs CW affiliates, including the three flagship CW stations in New York City (WPIX-TV 11), Los Angeles (KTLA-TV 5), and Chicago (WGN-TV 9).

The Seattle situation is actually rather intriguing. The station that Fox is said to have its collective eyes on is not KCPQ-TV Q13 Fox, another Fox Tribune station. It’s KIRO-TV Channel 7, another Cox station, but is affiliated with CBS.

I’ve had numerous conversations with SeaTac Media’s Jason Remington about this issue and we both have thrown around ideas. I suggested that if Fox buys KIRO and changes it into a Fox O&O, then it turns the entire Seattle market upside down.

Seattle has already seen a change in its media landscape with Sinclair acquiring locally-based Fisher Communications, owners of stations such as KOMO-TV 4 (ABC), KUNS-TV 51 (Univision), and KATU-TV 2 (ABC) in Portland, Oregon. In addition, the purchase of Belo Broadcasting by Gannett has put the market’s NBC affiliate, KING-TV (and independent station KONG-TV) (get the King Kong reference?) under new management as well.

The idea I suggested to Remington was that Fox will make the buys in St. Louis and Seattle because those are two cities with NFC teams. Fox wants O&Os in both. If KIRO changes, then it raises the possibility that KCPQ and KSTW-TV CW 11 also change network affiliation. KCPQ, being a Tribune station could jump to the CW, and KSTW could become CBS considering that it’s already a CBS-owned station.

That market could see a “Big Switch” similar to what Denver, Phoenix, and Philadelphia all notably experienced in the mid-1990s during the days of the mass realignment of the local affiliations with the networks.

One cannot ignore said ramifications of a deal if it goes through in all three cities. Assuming Fox gets its coveted O&Os in San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis, Fox will have O&Os in every NFC market outside of New Orleans (Saints) and Green Bay/Milwaukee (Packers).

New Orleans’ Fox affiliate, WVUE-TV Channel 8 is owned by Tom Benson’s (Saints owner) Louisiana Media Company in conjunction with Raycom. Green Bay’s Fox station, WLUK-TV Channel 11, is owned by LIN Media while Milwaukee’s at WITI-TV Channel 6 is a Tribune station.

It’s even possible that Cox may have considered exchanging either their San Francisco station or their Seattle station in exchange for the Boston and Memphis stations. But Fox wasn’t getting both on one shot. So, if that’s what Cox was offering, then it was a slam dunk for Fox. A heritage station plus an indie in the largest NFC (and NFL, for that matter) market west of the Mississippi.

And, this could only be the beginning. If the trajectory as to where Fox is going with these deals is any indication, it may not be long before Fox says hello on an O&O basis to the Space Needle & the Gateway Arch as they have just done so to the Golden Gate Bridge on the city by the Bay.

“The Voice of New York” to Find a New Microphone? Angie Martinez Resigns from Hot 97

angiemartinez

This one literally came out of nowhere!

At approximately 3:45 p.m. in the New York City area, Longtime WQHT-FM Hot 97 afternoon DJ Angie Martinez announced via her Twitter and Instagram that after 20-plus years on the Urban station that she was resigning from Hot 97.

“Today I resigned from Hot 97. I am grateful to the Emmis family for my time with the company and the immeasurable way that it has shaped my life. We made history in so many ways and I will cherish those memories and my friendships forever. This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but ultimately it is time to move on, to grow, and to be challenged in new ways. Saying goodbye is always emotional and bitter sweet, but I am extremely excited about the future. Thank you Hot 97 and most importantly…the listeners…for an unimaginable journey. Today will be my last show. Stay tuned….Love, Angie” –Angie Martinez via Instagram, June 18, 2014

Along with her Instagram post was a photo with the words “Life Has to Move Forward. Everything Has Its Time and Everything Ends.”

Such a move could not have come at a worse time for Emmis’ Hot 97. The company is expected to close on its purchase of Urban AC 107.5 WBLS and Gospel 1190 WLIB by the end of the year, but it is coming at a time where Hot 97 is in the throes of a perceived identity crisis inside the Tri-State area, among aficionados of Hip-Hop, and radio listeners.

In the May PPMs, Hot was still leading Power 105.1 by a margin of 3.5 to 3.2, but R&B WBLS (buoyed by the fact that it has had no real competitor since Emmis LMA’ed 98.7 Kiss to ESPN) is near the top of the NYC PPMs at a 5.6—ahead of both Hot and Power.
As far as Hot’s perceived identity crisis among hip-hop heads goes, it is said that while Power caters to more “hardcore” fans of hip-hop & R&B (The Breakfast Club—DJ Envy, Angela Yee, Charlamagne the God probably helps a lot as well), Hot has seemingly become too “Hot” for its own good. Critics contend that Hot has drifted too much into the territory of other stations that typically play the “hits” like WHTZ “Z-100”, WKTU “103.5 KTU”, WPLJ 95.5, and WNOW 92.3 Amp Radio.

Let’s call a spade a spade for just a second—in many ways, Angie Martinez CARRIED Hot 97. She was #1 in afternoons in market numero uno. In radio terms, that is an accomplishment, to say the least. That’s why I wouldn’t want to be an Emmis executive.
There’s no doubt about it that with Martinez leaving Hot 97 that their slim lead they have (per the May PPMs) over Power 105.1 will shrink or even evaporate completely. By how much is anyone’s guess, but I guess we’ll have to wait for the July PPMs in August for a clear picture on how that goes.

Tick…tick…tick…tick…tick

It’s also the second time that a major Gotham radio personality has taken an offer from “across the street”. Radio legend Scott Shannon (formerly from the True Oldies Channel and the “Scott & Todd” Morning show on ‘PLJ) left to become the new morning jock at heritage Oldies/Classic Hits 101.1 WCBS-FM.

Now, “The Voice of New York” will find a new microphone for said voice to be heard all throughout the Tri-State. But where?
Immediately, speculation ran like a flood of subway trains that Angie had also accepted an offer from across the street at Power 105.1. Already with The Breakfast Club and the perception that they’ve unseated Hot 97 as The Big Apple’s Hip-Hop station, for them to be the new home for “The Voice” would be huge…like, the Empire State Building.

In addition, there seems to be another wrinkle to this story that is not even being provided by Emmis or Clear Channel.

Think…Atlanta. More specifically, the Dickey Brothers.

Cumulus Media already were the owners of PLJ and Conservative News/Talk Information station WABC-AM 77. Plus, when Cumulus bought WFME 94.7 from Harold Camping’s Family Radio, they used it as the launching pad for the first of their many “Nash-FM” Country radio stations. Nash has since set up its state-of-the-art studios at its “Nash Campus” in Nashville at WKDF 103.3 and is emphasizing the Country lifestyle as well as the music.

Cumulus also happens to own a radio station in Westchester County at 103.9 WFAS that airs an Adult Contemporary format. There has been plenty of speculation about if Cumulus may move the 103.9 tower from White Plains and into The City.

That looks like it is about to happen as Cumulus seems to want to move the 103.9 out of the pricy NYC suburbs of Westchester and into The Bronx to target more of the Boroughs.

That would seem like it would be a perfect place for a new Alternative or Active Rock station in NYC, wouldn’t it? Especially since Gotham has been starving for a Modern Rocker since 101.9 was bought by (now defunct) Merlin Media and changed into an FM News Radio station—a move that turned out to be one of the biggest failures in New York City radio history.

Exactly.

101.9 is now owned by CBS Radio and is simulcasting 660 WFAN.

A random Twitter account was spotted under the tagline @radio1039NY. Does this mean a stunt, or the actual rebranding of the station? The brand “Radio” is more commonly used for Alternative, Active, and AAA Rock stations as well as CHRs. But given Amp’s struggles vs. Z and the fact that Cumulus already owns ‘PLJ, it is unlikely Cumulus tries a Q-100 (Atlanta) clone in Gotham.

As for the 103.9, the news regarding Angie Martinez broke at the exact same time that many observers and radio pundits remembered in the back of their collective noggins that Cumulus has plans for its 103.9.

And reports say that they do not include amps and electric guitars.

Rumors are running rampant that 103.9 may change its format to some variation of Urban and is a possible landing spot for Angie Martinez. Format wise, it would automatically be an assumption that the best fit for her would be Power 105.1.

Uh….not exactly.

103.9 could also go Mainstream Urban, but Cumulus would seemingly be only flipping said station to a Mainstream Urban outlet solely to market Angie Martinez as the face of the new station. Such an outlet would garner ratings in a New York minute given how popular she is around New York—and around the country.

But the station does not necessarily have to be Mainstream Urban to fit Martinez. Cumulus could change 103.9 into an Urban AC station ala ‘BLS and the old Kiss FM. When Kiss flipped to ESPN Radio, Martinez tweeted about her fandom of Kiss FM.

In addition, Urban radio disc jockeys regularly transition to Urban AC and Urban Oldies stations later in their careers. This is partly because being a 40+ or 50+ year old on a Mainstream Urban station is not exactly a good fit. In addition, they do it themselves for the sole purpose of reconnecting with their audience that listened to them early on in their Mainstream Urban days, that thanks to age and the changes in the music business, were probably no longer listening to Hip-Hop and were transitioning themselves to R&B/Urban AC/Oldies stations.

Rick Party was a popular DJ on Chicago’s WGCI 107.5 (Urban) for many years. Now, he does afternoon on WHQT Hot 105 in Miami—an Urban Oldies outlet owned by Cox.

Ed Lover (of Yo! MTV Raps and “C’mon Son!” fame) had stints on Hot 97 and Power 105 before accepting a weekend DJ gig on 98.7 Kiss FM as the host of “Friday Night Flava”. He now does a show six days a week on Sirius XM’s Old School Hip Hop channel, Backspin.
So it would not be unusual if Martinez went the same path—to an Urban AC on a 103.9, if Cumulus flips 103.9 to Urban AC and if that’s where Martinez ends up.

But such a move would come at an almost unbelievable time for Cumulus. They would flip a 103.9 to Urban AC—a second Urban AC. The Tri-State has not had a second Urban AC since the Kiss flip.

Also, Cumulus seemingly wants one major Urban personality while making life anything but a smooth broadcast for another. They are suing former nationally syndicated afternoon drive-time host Michael Baisden for an estimated $1 million according to reports. The suit alleges that Baisden and his production company were paid for over a year after he left.

There is no market that Baisden coveted more than New York City, even as a native Chicagoan. As time drifted closer and closer to the cancellation of his show by Cumulus Media Networks, Baisden was hemorrhaging affiliates, including a Radio One station in Dallas at 94.5 K-Soul that shifted its format from Urban AC to Urban Oldies “Old School 94.5” (that has since reverted back to the K-Soul name). A Clear Channel outlet in Philadelphia (105.3 WDAS) also stopped airing his show.

When Kiss flipped to ESPN, Baisden began an on-air and social media campaign to get WBLS to pick up his show. Some of Kiss’s hosts were successful in moving over to ‘BLS, including late-night host Lenny Green, but ‘BLS never tapped the syndied Baisden for afternoons.

Baisden was let go without even being allowed to do a week’s worth of shows to say goodbye to his audience. He has since been replaced in afternoons by D.L. Hughley. Baisden has since gone on to put more emphasis on his endeavors as a motivational speaker and author.

There is even talk that perhaps Martinez may link up with Sean “Puffy” Combs and become a host of her own show on his “Revolt TV” channel. The “bossip” site…well, called Bossip has a supposed exclusive on its website saying Martinez already has accepted an offer to go “across the street” to Power 105.1.

But that is a tabloid site, of course, along the lines of Media Take Out. I prefer to be patient and “esperate” (wait) for official word from either a station or from Angie herself.

That remains to be seen, if it is Power, the new Urban at 103.9, Revolt, or someplace else. One thing is for sure—wherever “The Voice of New York” is heard, New York is likely to listen.

Oh, one more thing as an abrupt P.S.: Dare I say that, Angie, your loyal fans “will go, contigo” wherever it is you are. Anyone forget that she also gave us this circa 2002? Around the same time that Power debuted on New York radio after flipping from “Jammin’ Oldies”

Wonder how much Power played it at the time. They ought to now if she’s heading across the street from Hot 97!