Big Ten Network set standard for others to follow

My latest column for the Chicago Tribune is on the Big Ten Network preparing for its eighth season.

From the column:

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If you watch ESPN, you have seen the million or so (estimate might be on low side) promos hyping the new SEC Network, which made its debut last week.

It’s been there, done that for the Big Ten Network (BTN). The network has been around for light years in terms of the new media landscape.

Consider that when the BTN launched in 2007, Twitter barely existed and the idea of watching television on your mobile phone still sounded like a crazy idea.

“Back then, one of our big decisions was whether we would spend the extra money to broadcast in HD,” said BTN president Mark Silverman, laughing at the idea of even asking that question now.

The BTN … Continue Reading

Q/A with Paul Finebaum: New book and unexpected national role at ESPN

My latest entry for Awful Announcing is my Q/A with Paul Finebaum.

Here is an excerpt.

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It’s good to be Paul Finebaum these days.

He has a daily ESPN radio show that is simulcast on the new SEC Network. He will be featured prominently on the SEC Network’s pregame coverage on Saturdays and on ESPN’s College GameDay.

And Finebaum has a new best-selling book, “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why The SEC Still Rules College Football.” It is co-written by his old University of Tennessee classmate and current ESPNer, Gene Wojciechowski.

It all comes as a surprise to Finebaum, who reveals in a Q/A that as late as two years ago he was told to forget about working for ESPN. He thought he was just going to be regional personality in Birmingham.

He also discusses his … Continue Reading

Whitlock reflects on his career: Amid bluster and bravado, some valuable journalism advice

As readers of this blog know, Jason Whitlock and I haven’t been the best of friends.

So I wasn’t expecting much when I saw the latest entry in Still No Cheering in the Press Box, the sportswriter interview project by the Povich Center for Sports Journalism at Maryland. The subject was none other than my old pal Jason.

You could be sure there was plenty of Whitlock’s bravado in there. Such as:

I’m sure I’ve said many things I regret, but what you need to keep in mind about me that’s different than most is that I’m 47, I’m not married and I don’t have kids.

I can be more provocative and fearless than many of my peers, who are married with kids. The repercussions that they suffer affect other people. Here, it’s just me.

That’s a somewhat ridiculous … Continue Reading

Sunday’s games show why NY Times says first task for new commissioner is quicken the pace

There are many challenges facing new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. One, though, stands out above the others.

Tyler Kepner in the New York Times zeroes in on the main issue plaguing baseball in his lede:

The fundamental problem facing Major League Baseball and its next commissioner, Rob Manfred, is that attention spans are getting shorter while games are getting longer. Confronting these clashing realities may be Manfred’s top priority when he takes office in January. It will be the first transition at the top of baseball’s hierarchy since Bud Selig replaced Fay Vincent in 1992.

“The job is much more complicated,” said Larry Baer, the chief executive of the San Francisco Giants. “You’re dealing with a 20- or 25-channel world, maybe, in 1992. Now you’re in a 500-channel universe and the Internet. You’re communicating with people that are walking down

Continue Reading

If local baseball TV ratings are so strong, why are World Series, All-Star Game numbers so low?

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center is on local and national TV ratings for baseball. Something doesn’t add up.

From the column:

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You’ve heard the familiar storyline: Sports fans are losing interest in baseball. The game moves too slowly, young viewers are tuning out, even old viewers are drifting elsewhere.

Well, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Last week, Maury Brown did a piece for Forbes.com on local TV ratings for baseball. It suggests that reports of the game’s demise have been grossly exaggerated.

Brown wrote:

Major League Baseball is king during prime time at the regional level thus far this season for regional sports networks (RSNs) winning the key prime time slot in the US markets that Nielsen Media Company tracks.

The data bolsters the position that baseball continues to be

Continue Reading

Chicago news: Cubs, White Sox TV ratings long way from 2008; Cubs down 72%

My latest Chicago Tribune column is on the local TV ratings for the Cubs and White Sox for 2014 compared to 2008, when both teams made the playoffs and baseball was king in Chicago.

You also can access a link to the full column via my Twitter feed at @Sherman_Report.

From the column:

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On May 28, 2008, Alfonso Soriano’s game-winning single in the 10th inning gave the Cubs a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers. While a crowd of 39,945 jammed Wrigley Field, many more fans throughout the Chicago area were sitting in front of their televisions to watch WGN-9′s telecast.

WGN averaged an 11.3 local rating for the game, peaking at 16.6. That means nearly 600,000 homes were tuned in. Those are astounding numbers for a regular-season game in May.

In 2014, the Cubs don’t even average 50,000 … Continue Reading

PGA Tour deserves to be hammered for lack of transparency

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center is on the PGA Tour’s veil of secrecy in the wake of the Dustin Johnson situation.

From the column:

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We live in a society where transparency rules. Sports leagues have been far more open about their activities and the way they interact with players and coaches.

It really can’t be any other way with the modern media landscape. The spotlight always is turned on high with so many different platforms peering in these days. It seems silly to try to hide.

Then there’s the PGA Tour.

Last week, the Tour went behind its usual veil of secrecy when the news about Dustin Johnson broke. After the golfer initially announced he was taking time off for “personal reasons,” Golf.com broke the story that he had been suspended for six months after … Continue Reading

Note to ESPN, Fox, MLB Network, TBS: Enough with Yankees-Red Sox for 2014

After going out to dinner, I tuned into the Yankees-Red Sox game last night at 9:45 p.m. Central (10:45 in the East for those who can’t figure it out).

And the game only was in the sixth inning!

Yep, ESPN aired another version of the Boston Marathon on its Sunday night showcase. I bailed quickly, not wanting to get sucked in to another slog at Fenway. Looked at the box score this morning and saw the Yankees won 8-7 in a brisk 3 hours, 42 minutes.

I’m sure the game did a strong rating, because Yankees-Red Sox always performs for the networks. But as a baseball fan, I’ve had enough. The Red Sox are dead and the Yankees are barely treading water. So let’s suspend the mandate that requires one of the national TV partners to air every pitch of … Continue Reading

Chicago news: Dan McNeil talks about being in limbo; contract impasse with WSCR

My latest Chicago Tribune column is on Dan McNeil and his uncertain future at WSCR.

You also can access the column via my Twitter feed at @Sherman_Report.

From the column:

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Dan McNeil has been on the radio host sidelines since the end of June and might remain there for a long time.

That’s OK with him.

He says the time off would allow him to work on his short game in golf, and more importantly, pursue writing a book about his son Patrick’s struggle with autism.

“I’ve been thinking about this for five years,” McNeil said Thursday. “I want to write about how autism has affected the journey through life for a family in Northwest Indiana. I’d like to leave a greater footprint in my career than just talking about point spreads and pucks.”

McNeil should get … Continue Reading

Not far enough: ‘Le Batard Rule’ goes into effect for Hall voters; Still need public disclosure of all votes

Well, Dan Le Batard accomplished one thing: He got the Hall of Fame and Baseball Writers Association of America to enact a new rule because of the stunt he pulled last year after handing over his ballot to Deadspin.

From Barry Bloom at MLB.com:

The Hall will now require an Internet registration of the approximately 625 eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and those voters will be notified about a specific code of conduct regarding the handling of that ballot. Voters will be asked to formally agree to a stipulation that their ballot is non-transferable with a penalty of permanently losing that vote.

Not sure that rule would have stopped Le Batard last year. He knew he was going to lose his vote by breaking the unwritten code. But at least now it is in writing.… Continue Reading