Quick Heat schedule update before we get to the weekly media column: The Heat will open the Eastern Conference Finals next Wednesday at home against the Knicks or Pacers. Games will be played every other day, with all games starting at 8:30 p.m. TNT gets the Eastern Conference Finals this year. The full schedule:
## Game 1 Wednesday, May 22 at Miami
### Game 3 Sunday, May 26 at NY or Indy
### Game 4 Tuesday, May 28 at NY or Indy
### Game 5 Thursday, May 30 at Miami
### Game 6 Saturday, June 1 at NY or Indy
### Game 7 Monday, June 3 at Miami
FYI:. The NBA Finals will begin June 6, with all games on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday.
FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
Industry leaders gathered at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables this week for the first-ever “Sports Radio Conference,” and the vice president of programming at CBS Radio sat on the dais and said something that should surprise no one:
“Sports radio isn’t journalism,” Chris Oliviero, a former intern on the Howard Stern Show, declared to an audience of a few dozen.
“It’s entertainment. It’s not journalism! Some of the best sports talk shows get their facts wrong,” and as Oliviero suggested, people generally don’t seem to mind. (Well, some listeners – including this one – mind, but that’s another story.)
Sports radio in our market has changed so profoundly in recent years that if erstwhile late-night host Ed Kaplan returned to the genre – with all the pop culture talk and debate about irrelevant issues such as Dwyane Wade’s wardrobe selection – he would feel as out of place as a monk at Club Mansion.
Dan Le Batard, who has the market’s highest sports-talk ratings, says he has taken three listener calls – three! - in the past couple of months, though he reads select e-mails and texts.
Le Batard and Jon Weiner can go days without mentioning the Dolphins, and the audience doesn’t seem to mind in the least. (That would have been unfathomable a decade ago in this market.) Pop culture has become a vital component of most of the market’s sports shows, with Le Batard routinely opining on everything from race to hatchet-wielding hitchhikers.
“Sports-talk radio has evolved from the curmudgeonly God-like radio figure and his subservient radio listeners to creating a community where the host is surrounded by members of his audience,” said WQAM program director Jorge Sedano, noting that WQAM did “very little” pop culture talk when he arrived last year, but “now there’s more of a balance – probably 70 to 80 percent sports, 20 to 30 percent pop culture. Men have other interests, too.”
A dozen notes and thoughts on sports talk radio in our market:
### An executive with one of the local sports stations said there are clearly too many all-sports stations in the market and that it has splintered the audience and hurt all of them, to the point where none of the five (WQAM-560, WMEN-640, WINZ-940 and sister stations 790 The Ticket and 104.3 FM) ranked in the top 10 last month among men 25 to 54, their target audience.
WQAM was 22nd, WINZ 32nd and WMEN 37th. The combined audiences of 790 The Ticket and 104.3 FM – which simulcast most but not all of their programming – would place them 11th, but individually, they are 18th and 26th respectively. So nobody is dominating, though the Ticket --- which has a marketing partnership with The Miami Herald - assuredly would dispute that.
### The difference between the morning shows has been pretty stark recently. In recent months (at least before the NFL draft), WQAM’s Joe Rose offered clearly more Dolphins, draft and UM conversation --- mixed with Heat --- than The Ticket’s Marc Hochman, Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor (Jason’s sister), who have prioritized Heat and pop culture stories recently while also going heavy on the Dolphins stadium story.
So which approach works?
If you combine the simulcast audiences of 790 and 104.3 FM – which the Ticket vehemently insists everyone should do – then the Hochman/Zaslow show handily beat Rose, 3.6 to 1.7, in the last ratings book among men 25 to 54 (March 28-April 24).
If you separate the sister stations – as WQAM insists everyone should do – then Rose (with a 1.7) was very competitive with 790’s 1.6 and 104.3-FM’s 2.0.
The Ticket’s morning numbers, incidentally, have been exceptional among young males age 18 to 34. And Taylor has blended in far better than some of the women hosts injected into morning shows in our market in the past decade.
### Because WMEN’s signal is weak in parts of Dade, Sid Rosenberg’s impact has been modest; his 0.4 share in Miami-Fort Lauderdale was well behind Rose’s and 790’s competing morning shows. Most of his listenership comes from north Broward and Palm Beach. The other morning-drive sports show (on WINZ) has two hosts with long histories in the market: Steve Goldstein and Jeff DeForrest.
### Here’s how the afternoon drive battle has evolved: Le Batard’s combined 4.6 share in April was seventh in the market, beating Sedano. But WQAM would counter that Sedano’s 3.0 (the highest in that time slot on the station in more than three years) beats the individual Le Batard audiences on 790-AM (a 2.8) and 104.3 FM (a 1.9).
### One more ratings note, for those who have either station in their sports radio fantasy league: The Ticket - both on its own, and combined with 104.3 FM -- beat WQAM in the ratings the past four months. WQAM beat the Ticket, on its own, three of the previous four months.
### WQAM made a smart move pairing Adam Kuperstein and Channing Crowder, who have achieved strong chemistry and sustain lively dialogue.
### The Ticket is still mulling what to do in the 1 to 3 p.m. slot; Eric Reed remains the favorite but he must stop interrupting his part-time co-hosts, Ethan Skolnick, Leroy Hoard and Brian London. And he must immediately cease those Stuart Scott-like breathless teases about how we cannot miss, or will not believe, what’s coming up after the break. (Reed, as many of you know, should not be confused with Heat announcer Eric Reid.)
### So what’s the long-term plan with 790-AM and 104.3-FM? Program director Tod Castleberry said the local shows and games that air on both stations will remain on 104.3 permanently.
He isn’t sure what the format ultimately will be on 790. It could be national programming (perhaps ESPN Radio) or possibly non-sports fare. The stations will simulcast programming for at least the next several months.
### The Ticket and 104.3 FM cannot carry ESPN Radio programming at the same time, which is why Colin Cowherd’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekday show continues to air only on 790.
Marlins games are airing only on 104.3 FM, and Heat games only on 790, when there are direct conflicts.
### Why do two shows on The Ticket take either no calls or very few? “Anybody can take phone calls,” Castleberry said.
“If you are going to be all caller-driven, you are turning over the airwaves to incessant calls and what are you really learning? Is it entertaining? [Heavy calls] tend to work in blue-collar sports towns: Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston.”
But Sedano said: “My philosophy is interaction is paramount, whether it’s calls or texts or [any] social media. That’s what the shows should be about.”
### ESPN Radio Group vice president Tim McCarthy said on one of the Biltmore panels this week: “Are we developing enough talent? I worry about that.” That has been a challenge in this market, too.
Some of the young hosts, including Zaslow and WQAM’s bright, level-headed Greg Likens, have proved worthy of a larger forum. WQAM’s Brandon Guzio has cultivated a following by becoming the Voice of The Angry Fan II, a role perfected by WMEN’s Orlando Alzugaray.
But our caution to the young hosts would be this: Keep perspective. Don’t overreact to one game. And offer context, something sorely lacking with some hosts.
### One positive about our market: Talk show hosts on WQAM and 790 generally haven’t curtailed criticism of teams whose games air on their station. The one glaring exception is the team-owned Dolphins radio show on WINZ, where the analysts were not as critical as they could or, in some cases, should have been in previous years.
WINZ’s “Finsiders,” by the way, had a 1.3 share last month among men 25 to 54, compared to a 5.5 for Le Batard and 4.3 for Sedano during those two hours.
CBS' Oliviero said if stations allow teams to control their hosts – and if the hosts curb their candor – then they will be exposed as “phony” and the audience “will turn on the talent, and the ratings will go down.” On his WQAM show, Rose – the team’s color analyst on WINZ – wisely has continued to criticize the Dolphins when appropriate.
The U.S. Open tennis tournament is leaving CBS - which shared the tournament with ESPN - and moving exclusively to ESPN beginning in 2015.... ESPN rolls out a new series of films Oct. 1, with the first chronicling the Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard rivalry.