On the Air with Bob Smizik: Pirates nearing radio deal
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The Pirates are close to making a deal with Clear Channel or KDKA to carry the radio broadcast of their games next season. The current contract with KDKA expires at the end of this season.
"Both are good deals," said Tim Schuldt, the team's vice president for marketing and broadcasting. "One has strength in one area, the other strength in another. It will come down to which strength is most important to us."
The Pirates have been carried by KDKA-AM (1020) for more than 50 years, but Clear Channel, which operates six stations in the Pittsburgh region, is making a hard pitch to obtain the rights.
Clear Channel has the rights to the Steelers and Pitt football and basketball and is close to renewing its deal with the Penguins. It appears to be optimistic about its chances of securing the Pirates' rights because it is clearing the way to fit the baseball team into its lineup.
The Steelers will remain rooted on WDVE-FM (102.5), the top-rated station in the market. But the Penguins and Pitt will be moved, presumably to make room for the Pirates. The Penguins, who had been heard on WWSW-FM (94.5) are tentatively set to be moved to WXDX-FM (105.9). After the upcoming football season, Pitt will move from WPGB-FM (104.7) to WWSW. That opens up WPGB, a news-talk format that does sports from 6 to 8 p.m., to take on the Pirates.
Schuldt is expected to make a presentation and recommendation to ownership some time in the next week.
Like KDKA, WPGB is a powerful 50,000-watt station. Clear Channel also carries all of its games on the AM dial at Fox Sports Radio 970.
Not only are the broadcasting rights up for the Pirates after this season, so are the contracts of all five of the team's announcers. The Pirates employ their announcers but its radio partner, particularly if it is a new partner, might have some influence in who does the games.
WTAE-TV news director Bob Longo isn't returning calls about the search for a successor to Andrew Stockey, who stepped down as sports director about seven weeks ago to anchor the morning news. But Jon Burton, who had been the weekend anchor, is handling Stockey's duties and industry sources indicate he will be promoted.
WTAE is in the process of looking for a replacement for Burton and could name a woman to the position. A woman hasn't worked in sports on a full-time basis on one of Pittsburgh's major network stations since Lee Arthur was employed at KDKA in the 1970s.
Krista Voda, who previously worked at the Speed Channel, is said to be one of the candidates.
When it was written in this column last week that Ellis Cannon of WPGB is "competing hard" against Mark Madden of ESPN Radio 1250, it didn't sit well with Jay Bohannon, the program director at WPGB.
Bohannon wrote to say he was "disappointed that Ellis Cannon is depicted as competing strongly with Madden. It misleads your readers by implying that Madden is actually a competitor. The fact is, Ellis Cannon commands a larger audience than any sports commentator on the radio.
"When Ellis hits the air at 6, WEAE [ESPN], KDKA and WBGG [Fox Sports Radio 970] are removed from the game. At 6 p.m. WPGB is the only talk station ranked in Pittsburgh's top 10, not to mention top 5."
Cannon is on from 6 to 8 p.m. and goes up against only the final hour of Madden's 3 to 7 p.m. show.
In that hour, Bohannon said, Cannon is second overall in the ratings with men 25 to 54 with a 9.1 share. Madden is eighth with a 3.5 share.
Based on those numbers it would appear that Cannon has a substantial lead and is doing considerably more than "competing hard" against Madden.
FSN's new nightly sports wrap-up show is worth a watch if you don't mind staying up to 11:30 p.m. It's called "The Final Score," and it's the anti-"SportsCenter."
On "The Final Score," the highlights and news are the stars, not the announcers, who mainly stay out of the way and provide little of the "wise-guy" attitude that is the calling card of "SportsCenter."
The look of the show, though, is a bit outrageous. Only about two-thirds of the screen is devoted to the show. There is news being flashed across the top of the screen, results crawling along the bottom and down the right side -- way too big -- are a listing of what's coming up.
Alexander full time
After working part time for about six months, Paul Alexander will go full time at FSN Pittsburgh and become the outlet's primary Steelers correspondent. As part of an agreement with the Steelers, three exhibition games will be carried on FSN. When the season begins the station will continue to cover the Bill Cowher news conferences Tuesday afternoons and the "Bill Cowher Show" at 6 p.m. Thursdays.
First Published July 28, 2006 12:00 am