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Here’s a Switch: Some Answers on Local Media News

It’s time to catch up on the news that quickly hit after being out of town for a week.

Melissa Holmes

The big local media news includes the Buffalo Bills switching radio stations, 103.3 talkers Ted Shredd and Tom Ragan switching time slots, anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes switching TV stations and MSG asking Buffalo Sabres fans to switch providers.

With all this news come some questions that I will try and give some opinionated answers.

Let’s start with Shredd and Ragan, who have traded places with Rich (The Bull) Gaenzler and are back to mornings after spending five years in the afternoon on 103.3 The Edge.

Station management says they are moving to mornings because that’s the most prestigious radio time slot and it drives listenership throughout the day. In other words, it is all about making money.

Which begs the questions, why didn’t Shredd and Ragan move back to morning years ago?

It is management’s position that the five years in the afternoon drove awareness to a new audience that might join the morning audience they used to have.

I used to listen to them in the morning but barely heard them in the afternoon because of my sleep and work habits. So I am glad they are back in the morning even if I’m not completely buying the reason for taking five years to make the switch.

Rich Gaenzler had his own morning show?

I hadn’t realized that, either. Never heard it. I only heard him before and after Bills games.

Does the Shredd and Ragan move have anything to do with the loss of the Bills?

Management says no, that the timing is coincidental. But the station was wise to take focus away of what it is losing (the Bills) to what it still has.

Why did the Shredd and Ragan move get so much newspaper coverage since they aren’t going anywhere?

Beats me. Since they are just talking switching time slots, it probably deserved a short story of several paragraphs and not a story full of self-serving station quotes. But it is tough to understand The Buffalo News philosophy on local media these days. As of Wednesday, it still hadn’t mentioned that Marissa Bailey was leaving Channel 2, which at least deserved some press. And it didn’t run a story today about Melissa Holmes leaving Channel 4 for Channel 2, as reported here Wednesday.

Now let’s move on to Holmes move from Channel 4 to Channel 2.

Why did Channel 4 let that happen?

It doesn’t seem to value anyone at the station these days except for its main anchors. Holmes should have been a significant part of the station’s future. Its bench has been severely depleted in the last few years. My guess is that she wasn’t happy and not just because Channel 4 didn’t start talking to her about a new deal until just before her contract expired. She looked elsewhere and Channel 2 is happy to have her.

I was told more than a year ago that Holmes wasn’t happy when she wasn’t offered the 5:30 p.m. weekday anchor job when Lisa Flynn left. She was smart to leave and Channel 2 is smart to hire her.

Who will take Holmes’ place on the 7 a.m. hour of “Wake Up” that airs on CW 23?

The best guess is Joe Arena will just add the extra hour to his 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. shift. After all, Arena appears to have exited “Wingin’ It,” Channel 23’s program with paid segments.

Now let’s move on to WGR getting the rights to Bills games. It is a perfectly logical move to join an all-sports station that is part of a radio group, Entercom, that has several local stations with different demographics. But there are still questions.

Does that mean WGR talkers have to make nice to the Bills?

Have to? Of course not. But many of them probably will be softer on the Bills than they have been. After all, it’s only natural to be gentler on people you get to know through hosting talk shows like the ones planned with Bills coaches and executives to get the team point of view across. Mike Schopp and Chris (The Bulldog) Parker vowed Wednesday on their show the deal wouldn’t impact them, then went off and did a very soft interview with Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. I can’t see the deal influencing Jerry Sullivan, the opinionated Buffalo News sports columnist who is one of the Bills’ chief critics. If being softer on the Bills is the price WGR has to pay, it is too high.

Why did the owner of 97 Rock and 103.3 walk away?

It is really tough to make money on the Bills in a radio deal. The Sunday games serve as loss leader in the hope it will drive listenership during the week. With most of the games on TV, the Bills having another losing season and listeners able to get the Bills feed on Sirius satellite radio,  the economics didn’t work as well as they even have in the past.

Did WGR pay a rights fee or did the Bills buy the time on the station to control the advertising inventory? Can Entercom make money on the deal?

The Bills release didn’t address the rights fee question. But a rights fee has always been awarded in the past and the former rights-holder walked away after giving a final rights fee offer. We just never find out what the rights fee is. But in a small market like Buffalo, the Bills probably can’t pay more than a player or two with it. It most likely  woouldn’t be easy for Entercom to make money on a rights fee deal.

What does having the Bills on WGR do to the Buffalo Sabres?

It makes them a second class citizen on the station. Interest in the Bills dwarfs interest in the Sabres in this town. If Bills games were off of TWC for any length of time and people couldn’t get Channel 4 with an antenna, there would be a stampede to DirecTV.

Which brings us to our final issue, the Sabres coverage on MSG being off of TWC.

Whose fault is it?

Both sides have blame and both are making misleading claims.

What can WNYers do to protest?

Not much, since TWC and MSG have much more at stake in New York City. You can call TWC to complain and threaten to move to satellite or FiOS if it serves your community. But it won’t really matter much. This is a battle between two cable companies, one of which (Cablevision) owns MSG and the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. TWC won’t make a separate deal for WNY. It’s really all about New York, New York.

Can you watch the Buffalo Sabres games via internet streaming legally?

MSG won’t allow the Sabres to stream the games on their website. They are being streamed by some sites, which the Sabres say is illegal. But they add they aren’t doing anything about it.

When will this end?

Who knows? If it goes more than the month of January, we may be looking at the playoffs. That’s if the Knicks, Rangers and Sabres make it.

How are the broadcast TV stations dealing with the story?

By playing up the controversy big time, leading its newscasts Tuesday with the story. Channel 2 even plans to run Sabres highlights early in the newscasts on game nights. The funny thing Tuesday night was the stations’ suggesting the Sabres’ 4-3 win over Edmonton Tuesday was so exciting that it shouldn’t have been missed. I had great seats at the game and wondered which game the anchors were talking about. As the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington cracked in his lead Wednesday morning, TWC and MSG did the area a“ favor most of Tuesday night” by not telecasting  “an often-dreary display of hockey.”


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4 responses to "Here’s a Switch: Some Answers on Local Media News"

  1. Dave says:

    I was a news intern at WGR in 1995 when their contract expired with the Bills. I remember the program director and news director saying that it was a big money loss to be the broadcast rights holder to the Bills. That was when they re-christened themselves “The Voice of the Bills Fan” and had just recently hired Chuck Dickerson. The attitude seemed to be that they didn’t need to lose money for 3 hours of programming on a Sunday.

    But now, I guess when you’re purporting to be the “sports source” of WNY, and you don’t carry the games, or have a substantial presence, that, perhaps, hurts your claim. Now they will have access to coaches, play-by-play man, players, etc. That is certainly a coup. But, I agree, Alan, hopefully they don’t become too soft on the team. This is a bad team, with a bad owner, with a bad track record of drafting & signing players. They need their feet held to the fire, whether they are the rights holder or not.

  2. Gman says:

    New motto for WGR 550; Your ” shills for the Buffalo Bills. ” Talk about soft interviews, they fall all over Stevie Johnson. It’s pathetic to listen to now,and it’s only going o get worse. They continually excuse the Sabres for their inept play. Then when someone calls Schopp on it, he shows his know it all attitude and hangs up on the caller. The station needs to hire better sports personell. Even Howard Simon is digressing. It was really funny hearing their interviews with Russ Brandon. What a ” lovefest”

  3. Tom says:

    It didn’t take long for WIVB to find an anchor. The replacement for Lisa Flynn who left the station in 2010 is Diana Fairbanks. Another difference- she is not exactly “kiddie corps”, having 11 years at her now former small market station in Michigan and 2 years before that in Montana.

    Not exactly sure what to make of this. Although, according to her now former station, she was well liked by a lot of the viewers. Only time will tell on how well she does here at 4.

  4. “If Bills games were off of TWC for any length of time and people couldn’t get Channel 4 with an antenna, there would be a stampede to DirecTV.” If people couldn’t get channel 4 with an antenna, they wouldn’t be carrying Bills games. The Bills were off TWC for a month, three years ago, and it didn’t cause a stampede to Dish Network (even though they advertised heavily for them) or DirecTV. In fact, the only people hurt were the people at channel 4, where the ratings went kaput.

    People will complain, but in the end, little will be done. MSG will be hurt the most by this when the end eventually comes. If the Sabres weren’t locked into a contract through 2016, MSG might have lost the rights already. TWC will get bad PR, but they’ve had that pretty much from the get-go. The best option is for local communities to start opening up their cable franchises to companies other than TWC, which holds a near-monopoly on cable in upstate NY.

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