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Volume 25 No. 175

Media

WEEI and Entercom’s consideration to turn its Red Sox baseball broadcast into "more of a talk-show format ... appears to be still in play," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. The Red Sox radio broadcasting job was "sent out Thursday" to subscribers of the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America website. The STAA email states, "WEEI wants to drop the concept of a conventional radio baseball broadcast to make the call of the game sound more like a talk show." However, WEEI Program Dir Joe Zarbano "denied on Twitter that the station is planning a format change." “The idea was "ignited by WEEI’s frequent mockery this summer of the broadcast on its morning show ... and it gained some traction with management." One concept was a "three-person booth that would sound like a sports-radio show." Whether that meant "talking about issues with the team and other Red Sox topics generated by what was happening in the game, or the self-referential discussion that permeates the station now is unclear" (BOSTONGLOBE.com, 12/13). Red Sox VP/Corporate Communications Zineb Curran added the team "doesn’t plan any format changes." WEEI.com's Alex Reimer wrote there is "room for more opinion" during broadcasts. Maybe some discussion around whether Red Sox manager Alex Cora should have "pinch-hit in a specific spot, or if the team is approaching the trade deadline properly." The best broadcasts, whether they are on TV or radio, have a "conversational feel." The game "remains paramount, but there are engaging discussions about league- or team-related issues" (WEEI.com, 12/13).

The Blackhawks have been breaking news this season via Twitter and other various mediums, and the practice "doesn’t sit well with beat reporters who think they’re being cut out so the team can provide its own coverage," according to Jeff Agrest of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. When the Blackhawks fired coach Joel Quenneville and traded C Nick Schmaltz, the team was the "first with the story" on Twitter. But the Blackhawks "don’t see themselves as competitors" for team news -- "only a conduit." It is part of a "full-service, multimedia operation that might be the best content-producing force among Chicago’s pro teams." Blackhawks VP/Digital Content Adam Kempenaar said, "We understand we are sometimes first, but we understand that we’re not always going to be first. It’s not so much trying to one-up anyone else or that kind of agenda. It’s more we’ve recognized that that’s what our fans expect from us, being this one-stop shop for all the news and behind-the-scenes content." When he was hired in '07, one of team President John McDonough's "first priorities was to bring the hockey operations and the business operations together." Part of McDonough’s mantra from the beginning was "making the players accessible." Through Blackhawks TV, there is a "virtual library of videos putting the players in settings fans never would see," and players are "more than willing to participate." Maintaining a connection between fans and the team is "important anytime, but perhaps more so" with the Blackhawks near the bottom of the standings. The abundance of content "gives fans a reason not to tune them out" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 12/14).

Supercross coverage will mostly be on NBCSN for linear TV but will also include two races on NBC
Photo: MONSTER ENERGY SUPERCROSS

NBC Sports Group has signed a multiyear deal with Feld Motor Sports to make NBC the new home of Monster Energy Supercross motorcycle racing and Monster Jam monster truck tour starting in '19. Financial terms are unknown. The deal will see Supercross join NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA as major racing properties on NBC. Supercross coverage will mostly be on NBCSN for linear TV but will also include two races on NBC’s broadcast channel in ’19, with additional coverage on the NBC Sports Gold streaming product. Feld had been with Fox Sports. NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller said, “Being the home of motorsports, you are kind of always on the lookout for great opportunities and properties you think will be a good fit.” Miller noted the Supercross season starts in January, which fits in well with NBC Sports’ NASCAR race coverage not starting until the summer. Feld Entertainment CMO Vicki Silver said, “I would characterize the change as running toward something as opposed to running away from anything. We always acknowledged that NBC Sports was the strongest in the business at promotion, but what supercharged the Motor Sports team here at Feld is NBC Sports’ position as the home of motorsports and what that can mean for our Supercross and Monster Jam brands.”

YAHOO SPORTS' Ben Rohrbach noted despite NBA viewership being down early this season, there is "no season-long concern over dwindling interest in the league." Following Wednesday’s games, ESPN’s viewership is "even to this point last season." TNT is "banking on a back-loaded schedule in terms of high-profile matchups and a Martin Luther King Day slate culminating in another Lakers-Warriors tilt to boost ratings." NBA TV is "roughly even," and a "majority" of RSNs are up (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/13).

OFF THE AIR: In San Jose, Chuck Barney notes NBC Sports Bay Area's "The Happy Hour," an evening TV show "covering the Northern California sports scene, has been canceled." The program, "regularly anchored by Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Ray Ratto, will conclude its run" on Dec. 21. There was "no update on how the cast and crew will be redeployed." Created as a replacement of sorts for “SportsTalk Live” in April '17, the show "struggled to gain ratings traction" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 12/14).

MORE EXPOSURE: In Miami, Greg Cote notes ESPN's Dan Le Batard is launching the Le Batard & Friends Podcast Network, anchored by the “South Beach Sessions” show that will include a "series of weekly in-depth, one-on-one interviews." The full weekly schedule is to "launch on Jan. 8, but there will be a preview episode" on Dec. 18 where Le Batard interviews former Jemele Hill. Guests on subsequent episodes are "expected" to include "Chappelle Show" co-creator Neal Brennan and Fox' Joe Buck (MIAMI HERALD, 12/14).