Media Schotts: The top-10 stories of 2013
The 2013 media year was an interesting one. From rights fees changing networks, to personnel moves to a local interview that made national news, the media year was fun to cover.
Here are my top-10 stories of the year.
1. The Team Turmoil
It was an interesting couple of months this summer for ESPN Radio 104.5 The Team.
It began, innocently enough, the night of Aug. 2, when the station was late in getting the New York Yankees’ broadcast of their game at the San Diego Padres on the air. It wasn’t until 11:30 p.m., nearly 90 minutes after the game started, when the game finally got on. Three days later, WTMM sportstalk show host and my nemesis Bruce Jacobs proceeded to rip me and the paper. I was on vacation when he was going off, even though I never mentioned him in my Tweets.
I mention my vacation because when I got back from it, the station hired Armen Williams as its new brand manager. Williams was replacing Brian Noe, who left the station earlier in the year.
But then the “fun” began.
Aug. 11 proved to be a pivotal day. First, Jacobs announced he was leaving Sept. 6 after the station wouldn’t renew his contract.
Also on that day, Mike Lindsley, who replaced Noe on the midday show, had an interview with former New York Yankees outfielder Shane Spencer, who proceeded to make accusations about several of his ex-teammates taking steroids.
Well, it turned out that it was an imposter. The real Shane Spencer contacted the station to clear his name, and Lindsley conducted the interview. The story received national attention, and things seemed to die down. There was no suspension of Lindsley or show executive producer Brian Cady.
But on Aug. 30, Lindsley and Cady were fired.
“Mike Lindsley and Brian Cady, effective immediately, are longer with the company,” program director Stephen Giuttari said. “In the coming weeks, we’ll unveil our new local sportstalk lineup on WTMM.”
Williams, who was supposed to start his new show Sept. 9, got started the day Lindsley and Cady were let go.
On Sept. 26, former YNN sportscaster Joe Calderone was named co-host of the afternoon drive show with Pierce Brix, who had been hosting the 3-7 p.m. time slot after Jacobs left.
2. Andrew Catalon
After spending 9 1/2 years as a sportscaster and weekend sports anchor at NBC13 (WNYT), Andrew Catalon joined CBS Sports Network full time as a play-by-play announcer for its college football and college basketball coverage. The announcement was made June 6.
This was inevitable for Catalon. He had been doing U.S. Open tennis and college basketball for CBSSN, and was on DirecTV’s Masters coverage. Catalon was also working Olympic games for NBC, and he will do so again in February in Sochi, Russia.
3. WPTR becomes all-sports
On June 5, WPTR-AM (1240) changed formats from oldies music to sportstalk. It became the third Capital Region radio station to have an all-sports format, joining WTMM and WOFX-AM (980).
WPTR aligned itself with CBS Sports Radio. It brought back Jim Rome to the Capital Region. Rome’s show had been on WOFX before moving to CBS Sports Radio.
4. FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 debut
After years of planning, FOX Sports launch FOX Sports 1 to much fanfare, and FOX Sports 2 to lesser publicity.
FS1 is attempting to become a competitor to ESPN. It’s been a mixed bag so far.
5. Keith Olbermann returns
After spending several years commenting on political issues for MSNBC and Current, Keith Olbermann returned to the sports world in a big way. First, he was named studio host for TBS’ Major League Baseball postseason coverage.
Then, in probably the biggest upset since the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics, Olbermann returned to ESPN. His departure from there in the mid-1990s was less than friendly. But maybe age and wisdom and has relaxed Olbermann, His late-night show “Olbermann” has been a smash hit and dead-on. Olbermann seems to be having fun.
6. McCarver retires
After an over 50-year career in Major League Baseball, first as a catcher for St. Louis, Philadelphia, Montreal and Boston, and then as an announcer for Philadelphia, the Mets and Yankees along with ABC, CBS and FOX, Tim McCarver announced last spring that he would retire at the end of the 2013 season.
McCarver was vilified by many baseball fans, especially in the age of social media. But in his prime, there was none better than McCarver.
7. FOX gets U.S. Open golf
In 1993, FOX shocked the sports world when it took way the NFC portion of the NFL package from CBS.
In August, FOX pulled another stunner when it got the rights for the U.S. Open and other USGA events, beating out current rights holders NBC and ESPN. The 12-year deal starts in 2015.
It left NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller stunned.
“It was a big bummer,” Miller told The Associated Press. “For some reason, I told Dan Hicks at the U.S. Open this year, ‘I don’t think we’re going to keep the U.S. Open.’ I just had a hunch it would be ESPN or FOX that stepped in and made a high bid. I know we tried.
“I feel bad for the USGA in a way that money was more important than basically a good golf crew.”
NBC had the rights since 1995. ESPN was the cable home.
8. NBCU gets part of NASCAR
But don’t cry for NBC. In July, the network won the rights to televise the second half of the NASCAR season, beating out ESPN and TNT.
The deal for NBC and NBCSN, which includes the Chase for the Championship, starts in 2015 and runs through 2024.
9. Summerall dies
Pat Summerall, who was the voice of the NFL, PGA and U.S. Open tennis on CBS and later the NFL on Fox, died April 16 at the age of 82.
Summerall’s understated play-by-play style is a model that all sportscasters should follow. The pairing of Summerall and Madden on NFL games made for great TV. Summerall let Madden go through his analysis, and Summerall could sum it up in one or two words.
“Pat was my broadcasting partner for a long time, but more than that, he was my friend for all of these years,” Madden said. “We never had one argument, and that was because of Pat. He was a great broadcaster and a great man. He always had a joke. Pat never complained and we never had an unhappy moment. He was something very special. Pat Summerall is the voice of football, and always will be.”
10. Rogers wins NHL TV rights
It has no affect on American TV, but it was big news in Canada when, on Nov. 26, the NHL and Rogers Communications announced that it agreed to a 12-year broadcast and multimedia agreement that includes all national rights to NHL games on all platforms in all languages. The agreement, the largest media rights deal in NHL history, starts next season and continues through the 2025-26 season.
It marks the first time a premium North American-wide sports league has granted all of its national (Canadian) rights to one company on a long-term basis.
That means Rogers, which runs Sportsnet, will sub-license deals with CBC and TRA to cover the league. CBC will still have English-language of “Hockey Night in Canada.” TRA will have the French-language coverage.
Left out was TSN, the ESPN of Canada, which had the rights. Also out is French-language cable sports channel RDS.