Friday, June 4, 2010

Sports on The Air: Ch.4 Waits to Fill Sports Job

It was about a year ago that Channel 4’s sports department was down to a two-man on-air team in sports director John Murphy and backup Paul Peck.

That’s when Robin Adams went on maternity leave. She was supposed to return in mid-December but decided to concentrate on raising her child.

At the time, Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth said he would be seeking a replacement for Adams “fairly quickly.”

I was suspicious of how long it would take to hire someone, suggesting Murphy and Peck would be fortunate if the new staffer is in place by the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Here it is six months later, the Stanley Cup playoffs are about to end and Channel 4 is still seeking a replacement – and undoubtedly saving some money in the process.

But you’d think something has to give shortly with the Buffalo Bills training camp on the horizon. That’s when stations concentrate on covering the biggest sports story in Buffalo any season.

Of course, Murphy and Peck aren’t the only two-man sports team in town. Channel 7 has been going with Jeff Russo and Shawn Stepner for awhile now and there’s no indication that is ever going to change. Channel 2 has four on-air staffers -- sports director Ed Kilgore, Adam Benigni, Stu Boyar and Ben Hayes (who anchored Friday night).

The two-man teams on Channel 4 and Channel 7 can mean some seven-day weeks for on-air personnel during important local sports events, like when the Buffalo Sabres were in the NHL playoffs. When there aren’t important events and one of the sports staffers is off, Channel 4 has used anchor-reporter Jericka Duncan as the sports anchor.

In an interview, Murphy said he recently asked Schlaerth if a third person is going to be hired and was told that it is going to happen.

The two-man, on-air sports teams at Channel 4 and Channel 7 are a reflection of the decreased attention that national sports gets locally because so much is available on the internet and even on teams’ websites.

It also can have an impact on the coverage of local sports – since a two person on-air staff in a town with the Bills and the Sabres and a Division 1 program at the University at Buffalo can only do so many other local sports features.

* Danny Briere, Brian Campbell, Patrick Kane and the other Buffalo connections to the Stanley Cup Finals are adding up to big local ratings that illustrate the power of network television.

Buffalo is the third-rated market in the finals, behind only Chicago and Philadelphia, who have teams playing for the title.

The Black Hawks’ 6-5 win in Game 1 a week ago on Memorial Day weekend had a 7.3 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. The Hawks’ 2-1 win in game two had a 10.2 rating last Monday on Channel 2. The two games averaged an 8.8 rating, up about 40 percent from the 6.3 rating last year for the first two games of the Pittsburgh-Detroit finals.

Nationally, the games were averaging ratings in the 3's and breaking records previously held by Sabres games in the finals against the Dallas Stars (1999) and Flyers (1975).

The Flyers’ 4-3 overtime win Wednesday in Game 3 on cable’s Versus had a 3.7 rating locally, less than half of the rating on Channel 2. That illustrates the power of network TV. However, the 3.7 was up from a 3.6 rating a year ago. Nationally, the game had a 2.0 rating and was the most viewed telecast in the 15-year history of Versus. It would have been higher, too, if Versus covered more than just about 60 percent of households in the Chicago market.

The Flyers' 5-3 win Friday was the last game in the series on Versus, with NBC getting the next two and perhaps a game seven. As a rule, ratings go up the longer the series lasts, which means Channel 2 can expect ratings in the teens for Games 5 (Sunday) and Game 6 (Wednesday).

Buffalo is a rare television market that often gets higher ratings for the NHL championship series than it does for NBA playoffs.

The Stanley Cup opener a week ago had three times the local audience that night for the Los Angeles Lakers’ game six clinching win over the Phoenix Suns (2.4 rating) in the Western Conference finals on TNT.

The Lakers’ Game 1 win Thursday over the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals had an 8.7 rating on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate. That was close to the national overnight rating of 10.4 and it’s an indication that ratings here for the NBA finals featuring two of the league’s marquee teams could be competitive with ratings for the NHL finals.

The broadcast team of Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and especially Jeff Van Gundy also adds to the enjoyment of the games when they bicker about foul calls and just about everything else.

* What’s up with Terrell Owens, the one-year wonder for the Buffalo Bills?

VH-1 provided the answer before Owens was scheduled to appear on The NFL Network on Friday.

According to a release announcing the second season premiere of ‘The T.O. Show” at 10:30 p.m. Sunday, July 11, Owens is asking himself “Do I even want to play football next season?”

Of course, it isn’t exactly his call. NFL teams haven't been lining up to sign him.

Owens has found a therapist “who puts him face to face with his greatest challenge – himself.”

The release added that Owens is making Los Angeles his home base in the off season after being let go by the Bills to be with “his publicists and best friends Monique and Kita as they strive to help him sort out the next phase of his life.”

“He also knows that in the process he might just have a shot at reconnecting with Kari – who has since moved to Los Angeles after he broke up with her during the football season, while also carving out more time with his kids.”

* Play-by-play man Marv Albert won't be back doing the Monday Night Football games on national radio next season. Boomer Esiason, the analyst on the Westwood broadcasts carried locally on WGR-AM, made that announcement. He said Albert told him he couldn't do the travel anymore.

1 comment:

  1. Allen,
    Thanks for continuing Sports on The Air, it was the only reason I got the Buffalo paper on Saturday!