The Masters remains an incredible contradiction in American sports culture, it is both the most beautiful event and the most pretentious. It is one of the sports events on the calendar we all go out of our way to watch, even if we (I, for sure) think it is run by elitists who keep most of America at a very long arm’s length for about 360 days a year.

CBS was struggling to make something out of its 2017 Masters broadcast Sunday. Their announcers are vanilla, and the golf was just so-so.  [The biggest problem I see with golf on TV is that the television shows – production, announcers (except Johnny Miller and the Waste Management circus in Phoenix), the players, and the courses – all feel the same week in and week out.]

Then around the 13th hole at The Masters it got interesting, and the production team at CBS took over the show, thanks in part to the drama created by the only two lead actors left on the stage, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. Kuchar, Spieth and others would supply some supporting actor moments.

Garcia miraculously saved par on the 13th and eagled the 15th,  and the show was must-see TV the rest of the way. Both golfers struggled to put it away despite chances on the 17th and the 18th. Garcia grabbed his first green jacket with three nearly perfect shots on the first playoff hole. And even Justin Rose looked and  was happy to see Sergio Garcia finally win a major tournament.

I think Jim Nantz has lost his edge, and I’m not really sure why.  This goes for not only golf, but his football and basketball work as well. He and the stable of golf announcers are subject to the “Augusta” style of TV, which is staid and non-controversial. Like so much in American culture, TV sports needs “YouTube Moments,” and unfortunately at The Masters you don’t get many of those, thanks in part to the 1960s approach to TV and consumer relations. They don’t have aerial shots to see the big picture beauty; they don’t allow the most colorful of the announcers to work (Gary McCord); and they don’t allow cell phones on the course (so forget about any Twitter and Instagram conversations.)

Matt Kuchar aced the 16th, and that was one of the few “YouTube Moments” in that show, until the Garcia / Rose golf took over the show.

You must have these moments to break through to general audiences in the 21st Century media landscape. The back nine (and one playoff hole) provided very good sports television.  But, if there is a basic tenant of broadcasting, it’s their job to overcome what is happening on the field of play. CBS struggled to do that for about two-thirds of the final round.

Garcia and Rose slapped them out of their stupor. From that point on, CBS was just about spot-on.  Good scriptwriting almost always wins the day.



TRUMP’S SOCIAL MEDIA MAYEM – Shrader Storify compilation of Tweets in the first week of May 2016

Fox News finished first among the cable news channels  – as it usually does – in the ratings for their prime time coverage of the New York primary April 19.  According to TV Newser, Fox was tops in overall audience in both the 8 pm to 11 pm slot, and the coverage that went all the way to midnight Eastern Time. Fox had about three million viewers, which is about what they would get if they ran their normal lineup that includes Bill O’Reilly, who has the most popular show on cable news.

CNN finished well ahead in the 25-54 demo, 919,000 to 600,000, in the 8-11 pm slot. CNN had 2.7 million viewers total, ahead of its average nightly audience.  MSNBC had a total audience of 1.7 million, which is well ahead of its nightly average. MSNBC’s demo audience, about 500,000 wasn’t far behind Fox News. And that doesn’t happen all that often.

This has been a very good election cycle – in both ratings and revenue – for all three cable news channels. It has been life-saving for MSNBC (owned by NBC Universal), and has given CNN (a Time Warner company) an opportunity to again be in the same conversation with Fox News.  Fox News, the NewsCorp-owned channel, run since its creation 20 years ago by Roger Ailes, has been the top rated news channel for 15 years. They’ve had monster ratings for debates, but the audience seems to be a bit restive, torn between the GOP mainstream messaging and the Trump insurgence.

The fact that Fox News has only about two-thirds of the 25-54 audience that CNN gets – for any programming – has to be a bit of a concern to the Fox execs.  It’s easy enough to say the Fox News audience is getting old. The numbers seem to confirm that notion.  MSNBC calls itself “The Place for Politics.”  They are still more liberal than conservative, or even moderate. But it appears they’re investing a whole lot of news reporting money in this election cycle and it is paying off.

More viewership for all channels is a good thing.  The fact that CNN and MSNBC are not getting slapped around by Fox News is probably a good thing for the diversity of media messaging.

Way back in 2014 there were plenty of news reports about the news channels and their struggle to find an audience. CNN and MSNBC continued to slip at that time, and Fox News was not growing.  We’ve seen plenty of speculation that Fox News’s Megyn Kelly may leave when her contract is up some time next year.  Fox News can’t afford to let her go, but her ambition might be too great to keep playing second fiddle to the oft-times overbearing and bullying O’Reilly.  There’s also been plenty of speculation in the media reporting circles that Rupert Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, aren’t nearly as happy with Roger Ailes as dad is. The sons are being handed the keys to the NewsCorp kingdom, slowly but apparently surely.

In front of the camera and behind it, this has been fun to watch.  It’s a TV show that is sure to be highly rated all the way through the first Tuesday in November.  For three cable news channels, it’s money in the bank.  Who knows what 2017 brings.






Saved the Last Night for Best

Posted: April 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

As we say in the news biz, you can’t make this stuff up.

The final night of the NBA regular season –  at about 12:45 a.m. Eastern Time Kobe Bryant scored his 60th point of the night, and the final point of a 20-year career.  Just minutes earlier the Warriors had won a record 73rd game this season.

Playing at Staples Center in LA, just south of Tinsel Town, Bryant put together a Hollywood ending. He scored 17 straight fourth quarter points to put the Lakers in the lead, and then assisted on the last basket of the night in a 101-96 win over the Jazz.

400+ miles to the north Steph Curry had a more modest  46 in their 125-104 win over Memphis. 20 years ago, Michael Jordan’s Bulls won 72 games, a record few thought would be broken. This Warriors team had 39 wins at home, 34 on the road. The next challenge starts this weekend.  They begin defense of their NBA title Saturday at home against the Rockets.

Nothing the TV gods could do about the time of day, but would have been nice for more people to see live what happened late Wednesday night.  Less worry about that kind of thing these days. It’s online, on social, on You Tube, on  If you want to find it, you’ll find it.

And people are finding the Warriors like never before.  They had most of the highest-rated games on ESPN this season.

The Warriors are imminently the most watchable team in American sports right now.   But at least for one night – on his very last as a professional – Kobe shared the spotlight.  It was bright and it was beautiful.


October 31, 2015

We’re watching the beginning of the end of the ESPN Empire.

They are still sitting on the throne, and will be until further notice. But they’ve chewed up too much territory and taken over too much property. They’ve invested billions of dollars in NFL, NBA, MLB and college football rights. They’ve not invested nearly enough in talent.

In October they laid off about four percent of the workforce, 300 people.

The Wall Street Journal reported in July that ESPN has lost 3.2 million subscribers in the last year. Cable companies have started moving ESPN to different kinds of tiers to save some money, and that has cost the cable giant some homes as well. They no longer sit in nearly 100 percent of the cable homes as they did for many years. According to Sports Business Daily, they are in 92 million homes. That’s out of the 100 million or so homes that are wired for cable, satellite or some other pay-TV service.

ESPN is the most expensive channel on cable. They get about $6.50 a month from the carriers, who pass along the cost to the subscribers. Do the math. That’s nearly 250 million dollars in lost revenue. CNN reports corporate owner Disney has told ESPN to cut from the budget $100 million in 2016 and $250 million in 2017. Apparently this round of 300 job cuts in October is just the beginning.

ESPN’s problems have been present for years though. They just don’t have the “It” factor any longer. The studio shows are inhabited by a series of nondescript, interchangeable parts.

Their Sportscenter shows – made famous and wildly popular a generation ago by Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann – are hosted by (Fill in the Blank) and (Fill in the Blank.) They don’t want talent to stand out. They don’t want talent to be too opinionated. Examples: Mike and Mike = Vanilla and Bill Simmons works elsewhere.

ESPN is starting to do what happens in the broadcast business when the CEOs and the Boards panic: getting rid of talented people. We’re not talking about the Simmons, Olbermann and Cowherd talent. Those are all unique circumstances. We’re talking about the people who make the ship run, quality executives and producers who have been there a long time. These are people with institutional knowledge. In the broadcast business – with all due respect to the pretty faces – the people who make it happen. They cost money.

If you’re a sports fan you have to get ESPN. They’ve forced you to do that. They own the rights to so much of what you want to see. They’ve not given you much reason to watch the other stuff. Example: First Take is the most inane program on television, and there are lots of candidates on cable TV for that not-so-lofty position.

Late this week ESPN suddenly shut down its web site Grantland, which was Bill Simmons’ baby. That’s a story to be explained at another time. Another sign the empire is crumbling.

I don’t know Lamar Odom but just about anybody and everybody in the sports business in Los Angeles this week is talking about what a fabulous human being he is.  Sadly, Odom is, according to some reports, including the Los Angeles Times, near death in a Las Vegas hospital. Odom, according to the doctors at the hospital, overdosed on a cocaine and apparently erectile enhancement drugs.

Odom’s ex-wife Khloe Kardashian (they are not officially divorced yet) is not happy with the owner of the brothel where Odom was found near death.  Dennis Hof was on the Nancy Grace TV show, and Kardashian says she thinks Hof is using Odom’s near-death to promote his business.

A woman who has spent a decade sharing every bit of her life on reality television, including two years on a show called “Khloe and Lamar,” is asking someone else to back off.  Some people don’t recognize the irony of their own existence.

LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke said this week on his radio show on KFWB The Beast 980 that Odom’s troubles are in part due to the way he was “emasculated” on the various Kardashian TV vehicles. Plaschke says it has haunted Odom for years, and contends it affected his basketball play the last few years of his career.

Sometimes it’s best to just keep it to yourself. But if Khloe Kardashian and her clan did that, they’d be out of work. If the brothel owner did that, he’d be out of business.

Poor Lamar Odom, the former sixth man of the year, the former NBA champion, still being described as a “reality TV star.” What a shame.

Not a Good Couple of Days for Trump

Posted: September 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

Thursday Donald Trump failed to correct a supporter who said Obama is a Muslim – and the supporter spewed more invective. Trump has been criticized by candidates from both parties. Fox News host Megyn Kelly took up the issue Friday night.