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Miami’s Sports Media Difficulties

Jason Barrett

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South Florida’s broadcast sports landscape is filled with peculiarities and curiosities.

We’re considered a football town, but our Super Bowl rating this year was the worst of any major city in the country.

The Dolphins are perceived to be our first love, but no market with only one NFL franchise watched its team on TV less than South Florida has in recent years.

LeBron James left town, but our Heat TV ratings remain strong.

Several major media companies believe South Florida has enough sports fans to support four all-sports radio stations. Yet none of the three based in Miami-Dade or Broward rank in the top 12 in audience share for their targeted male demographic group.

Examining notable evolutions in South Florida sports media and what sports fans here are watching:

LOCAL TV RATINGS TRENDS

▪ Dolphins ratings keep declining: Among markets with only one NFL team, Dolphins ratings in Miami-Fort Lauderdale were the lowest of any NFL market last season, which was also the case in 2013.

Overall, Dolphins games averaged a 16.9 rating in 2014, down from 17.7 in 2012 and 17.1 in 2013 and a drop from the team’s halcyon years.

That means 16.9 percent of Miami-Dade/Broward homes with TV sets tuned into a Dolphins game, on average, in 2014, with one ratings point equaling 16,327 homes.

In the Dolphins’ defense, their ratings are higher than local regular-season ratings for the Heat or University of Miami football, and they always rank at or near the top of most-watched programs on local TV during any particular week during the season, according to Nielsen Media Research.

But Dolphins’ ratings pale in comparison to ratings in many other NFL markets. For perspective, the average rating for the home team’s games in 2014 was 45.5 in Denver, 42.8 in New Orleans, 38.2 in Pittsburgh and 36.1 in Kansas City.

Last season, Dolphins’ ratings were higher than local ratings for only other three teams: the Jets, Giants and Raiders — all of which play in markets with two NFL franchises and divided loyalties.

And here’s another way of looking at this: The Dolphins’ highest rating last season was a 22.0 for the Denver game. That means, coincidentally, that 22 NFL teams averaged a higher rating than Miami’s highest Dolphins rating all year.

Executives at NBC-6 and WFOR-CBS 4 declined to discuss why this is the case, but at least two factors appear to contribute:

The large number of transplants living in South Florida who have no allegiance to the Dolphins; and the fact a sizable portion of South Florida’s population, and Nielsen-metered homes, primarily watch Spanish TV.

“In many of the Hispanic homes here, football was not their No. 1 sport. That hurts the ratings,” said Bernie Rosen, who ran WTVJ NBC-6’s sports department from 1960 to 1985 and worked there for 65 years before retiring in 2013.

“But the thing that hurts the Dolphins’ ratings most is just losing.”

But neither the Dolphins’ sustained mediocrity nor the transplant factor explains why South Florida’s 38.7 Super Bowl TV rating this year was the lowest of 56 metered markets.

▪ South Florida’s college football ratings are pretty pedestrian, too: Among those 56 major markets, Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s 12.3 rating ranked 51st for the Ohio State-Oregon national championship game in January. West Palm Beach was 21st with a 20.4.

The 10 UM football games that aired on ABC or one of the ESPN networks averaged a 7.3 rating in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, decent but hardly extraordinary.

▪ Heat ratings are holding up well post-LeBron: Dolphins games still draw more than three times as many viewers as Heat games, as they should, considering there are far fewer games in the NFL than the NBA.

But whereas Dolphins ratings in South Florida rank among the NFL’s lowest, Heat ratings rank among the NBA’s highest.

Heat games on Sun Sports (excluding ABC, ESPN and TNT games) averaged a 5.0 rating this past season, down from a 6.8 the previous season but still good enough for fourth in the NBA, trailing only San Antonio (8.4), Cleveland (7.9) and Oklahoma City (7.2).

“Ratings, like attendance, retail sales, social media following and pretty much every other indicator of the health of a franchise were very strong this year because Miami Heat fans have, over time, become the most engaged, loyal and rabid fans in all of professional sports,” Heat president/business operations Eric Woolworth said.

What’s more, the Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals averaged an impressive 17.7 rating in Dade/Broward, higher than Dolphins ratings locally and ranking sixth among 56 major markets.

▪ Marlins ratings are on the upswing: Despite the team’s disappointing first half, Marlins ratings are somewhat on the rise, up 19 percent compared with Marlins cablecasts before last year’s All-Star break.

Marlins games on Fox Sports Florida are being viewed on average, by 31,511 people in this market, compared with a 27,000 per-game final average last season. That 27,000 ranked ahead of only Houston’s 8,000 in 2014, according to Sports Business Daily.

▪ Panthers ratings continue to lag: Games this past season on Fox Sports Florida averaged a 0.17 rating, equal to fewer than 3,500 viewers per telecast, and the lowest for any NHL team in four years, since Panthers games averaged a 0.16 rating in 2010-11.

Panthers ratings dropped 19 percent from 2013-14, surprising considering the team remained in playoff contention until late in the season this year.

LOCAL RADIO TRENDS

There are two ways of looking at sports talk radio in this market, both accurate:

A. South Florida sports fans are fortunate to have so many options, with four English stations airing sports around the clock. The fourth, WMEN-640, is based in Palm Beach but has listeners south of it. A fifth station primarily serves the West Palm Beach market.

B. The market is oversaturated, lacking enough fans to justify so many all-sports stations.

Argument B is supported by this: Among men 25 to 54, the target demographic group for sports talk radio, none of the sports stations ranked in the top half among the market’s 35 radio stations in May or June.

For the May Nielsen ratings book, 104.3 The Ticket ranked 18th with a 2.5 share in that target demographic group, WQAM-560 was 21st with a 1.7 share and WINZ-940 was 28th with a 0.3.

In the June book, The Ticket climbed to 15th among men 25 to 54 and extended its lead over WQAM among all listeners (1.9 share to 1.0).

Palm Beach-based WMEN-640 isn’t included in Nielsen’s Dade/Broward ratings book. Its shares are substantially higher in Palm Beach, where its signal is much stronger.

So does South Florida have too many all-sports stations?

“Four is a lot,” said longtime South Florida talk-show host Hank Goldberg, who now hosts an afternoon-drive time show for WMEN. “I can’t think of another market that has that many. Sales have become more important than ratings; that’s a bigger priority for these stations.”

Steve Lapa, former general manager for WMEN, said there are enough sports fans in the tri-county region to support four, or five if including the ESPN station in West Palm Beach.

“But you have to break out of the constraints of sports radio” and appeal to a broader audience, Lapa said.

Nielsen ratings, which are shared with only those willing to purchase them, combine the audience of sister stations 790 AM and 104.3 FM – without specifying the audience size on each station — which gives The Ticket an inherent advantage in comparisons with one-signal stations such as WQAM.

So it’s no surprise The Ticket consistently beats WQAM in the afternoon and evening and also beats WINZ in every day part. The Ticket, which has a marketing partnership with the Miami Herald, also has the market’s only locally-based talk show that airs nationally: Dan Le Batard’s show, which produces strong local ratings.

But in the 6-10 a.m. slot, WQAM’s Joe Rose drew a higher share than The Ticket’s Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor in three of the past five ratings books, with The Ticket winning in June. That’s the most competitive battle between the two stations.

Entercom, which is awaiting approval of its acquisition of The Ticket from Lincoln Financial, hasn’t said what it plans to do with the two sports stations.

The company is searching for a new general manager to replace Maureen Lesourd, who said months ago that her vision was to have different programming on each signal.

WQAM also has a new owner, CBS Radio, and a new program director (Ryan Maguire). The station made a major lineup change this week when it decided to drop Adam Kuperstein and Channing Crowder and instead air four four-hour talk shows (Rose, Orlando Alzugaray, Marc Hochman with Zach Krantz, and Alex Donno).

“Would we like to do better? Sure,” WQAM general manager Joe Bell said. “But we’re not going anywhere.”

Meanwhile, despite owning radio rights to the Dolphins and Marlins, WINZ’s ratings remain low.

The Dolphins moved their games there in 2010, in a six-year contract, partly because parent company Clear Channel (now called IHeartMedia) was willing to simulcast the games on one of its FM stations (WBGG-105.9) and also because of WINZ’s willingness to air considerable ancillary programming, including a Dolphins show from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays.

To read the rest of the article visit the Miami Herald where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

Chick Hearn Headlines Radio Hall of Fame Legends Inductees

Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.

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Chick Hearn

The Museum of Broadcast Communications announced today the selection of 10 new Legends inductees into the Radio Hall of Fame for 2022. This distinction honors those in the industry who have contributed greatly to it and have since passed away.

Chick Hearn, the longtime voice of the Los Angeles Lakers, will be amongst those inducted in Chicago next month. Hearn was the voice of the Lakers for 41 years (1961-2002). Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.  

The full list of those to be inducted as part of the Legends class are:

  • MrDoug Banks– Nationally syndicated on-air personality;
  • MrJames Brown– Legendary singer, to be inducted as a radio station owner of WJBE Knoxville, TN;
  • MrBob Coburn– Host of the syndicated Rockline show;
  • Mr. Chick Hearn– Play-by-play announcer/voice of the Los Angeles Lakers;
  • MsBernice Judis– Owner and General Manager, WNEW-AM, 1930’s–1950’s;
  • MrSid Mark– Host of syndicated program, Sounds of Sinatra show for 60+ years;
  • Mr. Bobby O’Jay– On-air personality, WDIA-AM/Memphis;
  • MrPervis Spann– On-air personality, WVON-AM/Chicago;
  • Mr. James Thompson– Group W Broadcasting President and President of the Broadcasters Foundation;
  • Ms. Rosalie Trombley– Music Director of CKLW-AM/Detroit in the 1960’s–1970’s.

“The Radio Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing the individuals who have made the greatest impact on our 100+ year old industry,” Kraig T. Kitchin, Co-Chairman, Radio Hall of Fame said. “I’m thrilled to see the Nominating Committee confirm the induction of these 10 individuals who each made such an impact on our industry in their time.”    

The Radio Hall of Fame will recognize its 2022 class of inductees, including the class announced in July, during a ceremony on Tuesday, November 1st.

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Sports Radio News

Tobin and Leroy Debut on WQAM Middays

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tobin and Leroy

After a brief hiatus and the closure of 790 The Ticket, Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard officially returned to the Miami airwaves on Monday on 560 WQAM.

Tobin and Leroy debuted in its new midday timeslot of 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the station.

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Tobin added that the timing between when they made their exit from The Ticket and returned on WQAM was a bit off.

“It was a very weird week for us to take off last week. Because they were like, ‘Hey, you’re change times, you’re gonna change stations, and also it’s gonna be the busiest sports week of the year,'” he said. “So now we’re back, and nothing will happen this week.”

“There has been less action on days we thought we had to be here than what happened last week,” Hoard added.

Hoard actually arrived to the show late, citing traffic issues getting to the station. That was something even Tobin noted is an adjustment they have to make from when they were doing morning drive.

“We’ve all discovered here today is traffic is not the same at 8 a.m. as it is at 4 a.m.,” he said. “Very different.”

Tobin made sure WQAM listeners knew that even though they switched stations, the show isn’t changing. They continued with all the usual segments that fans know and love on Monday.

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Sports Radio News

Mike Rhyner Introduces Dallas to 97.1 The Freak

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

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Ben Torres / Special Contributor Dallas Morning News

There’s a new radio station in Dallas which features a number of personalities familiar to local sports radio listeners. 97.1 The Freak made its much anticipated debut and the first voice to be heard belonged to the ”Old Grey Wolf” Mike Rhyner.

97.1 The Eagle stopped regular programming late Monday morning and began stunting, a technique radio stations use to separate listeners from old programming and prepare them for new content. The station began by playing songs with the word “freak” in them before transitioning into a continuous loop of “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” by Tom Petty until 3p CT. Then, a voiceover detailing the Eagle’s history switched into the voice that Dallas-Forth Worth residents have gotten to know so well, Mike Rhyner.

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

Rhyner went on to relive his final moments at The Ticket in Dallas. He said he was getting his “head around being a Paw Paw” before getting a call from Ben Rogers of the Ben and Skin Show and thus an idea for The Freak began to take shape.

After that, the show’s intro music played and Rhyner welcomed in Mike Sirois and before you knew it, the guys were wondering about a quarterback controversy in Dallas.

97.1 The Freak is off and running with a lineup that includes “The Speakeasy,” with Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin “KT’ Turner, Julie Dobbs, and Matt Cather in mornings (7-11am), “Ben & Skin Show” in middays (11am-3pm) and “The Downbeat” in afternoons (3p-7p) featuring Mike Rhyner alongside Mike Sirois and Michael “Grubes” Gruber.

The station is positioning itself as a lifestyle brand but given its talent connection to local sports radio and the strong interest in Dallas sports, it’s likely the talent will weave sports talk into their on-air discussions. Sports Radio 1310/96.7 The Ticket and 105.3 The Fan have enjoyed good ratings with the male 25-54 demographic and The Freak is expected to challenge them and every other brand that produces spoken word content.

“We’re beyond excited to introduce 97-1 the Freak – the level of talent is insurmountable, and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to further connect with Dallas Fort Worth,” Patrick Davis, Regional Senior Vice President of Programming Dallas, shared in an announcement.

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