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WUTV Gets Christmas Bonus from Bills Game

This blog is an early Christmas present for those readers who miss the old Saturday feature Sports on the Air in the Buffalo News.

WUTV owes local restaurateur Russell Salvatore a bigger thank you than Buffalo Bills fans do.

By stepping up to the plate and buying enough tickets to Sunday’s Bills-game with St. Louis to prevent it from being blacked out, Salvatore has assured the local Fox affiliate a big payday that it shouldn’t have expected to get. WUTV carries Bills home games played against NFC opponents if they are sold out 72 hours in advance.

By conservative estimates, Channel 4 and Channel 29 make between $100,000 and $150,000 a game in advertising for every Bills game they televise because they always are the highest rated TV programs of the week and get more than 30 percent of area households tuned in.

I wasn’t sure if WUTV could get that amount of money because its sales team might be scrambling to get ad buyers since the game wasn’t expected to be sold out. In fact, as late as Friday Time Warner Cable’s guide has Channel 29 carrying a variety of what appear to be paid programs in the 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. time slot Sunday.

But since this is the Christmas season, I wouldn’t think that Channel 29 would have too much of a problem finding buyers even on such a short notice.

Reached late Friday, Channel 29 General Manager Nick Magnini conceded that the station had to scramble to sell a few spots and it would have had to give some make goods (free ads) to earlier ad buyers if the Bills game hadn’t been televised.

Asked if he thought he owed Salvatore some free advertising for his gesture, Magnini said: “You might see an ad for his restaurant during the game. Let’s just say we worked something out with Russ and the Bills. He’s a wonderful man and he’s got great food.”

BTW, before Salvatore bought the tickets, TWC was offering subscribers tickets for the game at $20 apiece.

Channel 29 also gets next week’s game with Seattle (another NFC opponent) in Toronto, which is expected to be called a sellout even if there are empty seats in the Rogers Center.

Don’t expect Fox analyst Mike Martz to be overly critical of Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick if he has a poor game against the Rams. The former St. Louis coach drafted Fitzpatrick in the seventh round of the 2005 draft and spoke glowingly of the quarterback while being interviewed by John Murphy on his nightly WGR radio show. Martz also disputed the contention among many Bills fans that Fitzpatrick doesn’t have a strong arm.

Ed Kilgore

Bills fans wondering what is up with Vince Young should tune in at 10 a.m. Sunday to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” It is preparing a feature on Young, who was cut by the Bills in preseason and is out of the league at age 29. The release of Young especially looks strange now that the QB the Bills signed after they cut Young, Tarvaris Jackson, hasn’t even dressed for a game.

I thoroughly enjoyed Buffalo News sportswriter Tim Graham’s piece last Sunday about the unwritten NFL rules against airing a team’s dirty laundry outside the locker room. However, sportswriters should thank heaven that there are guys like Stevie Johnson, Terrell Owens and other characters who don’t abide by those rules. After all, if every player played it as safely as Steve Tasker, the NFL would be the No Fun League for sportswriters.

You might have missed this, but ex Bill Marcellus Wiley has been named to co-host of ESPN’s “SportsNation” with Charissa Thompson starting in January when the show shifts to Los Angeles. Wiley replaces Colin Cowherd, who will concentrate on his nationally-syndicated radio show. Of course, Cowherd is no longer heard on WGR because the station has a year-round weekday hockey show even though the NHL may not play a game this season.

There are a lot of silly things concerning the college football bowl schedule, but I’m not sure if the inclusion of a team that didn’t even win half of its games isn’t the silliest. The Dec. 31 Sun Bowl features Georgia Tech, which has a 6-7 record, against 7-5 USC. There also are a bunch of 6-6 teams in bowls, which means they can end up with losing records, too.

Here’s why I laughed when Channel 2’s Ed Kilgore identified former Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy as an ESPN analyst Tuesday: During the Canisius Cage Club luncheon and a later press conference with the media, Van Gundy talked about NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoing his hiring by ESPN. And Channel 2 was at the press conference. Thankfully by the 11 p.m. sports Tuesday, Stu Boyar dropped the ESPN identification.

The NBC Sports Network, which used to be Versus, is riding Notre Dame’s football success big time. It plans to re-air Notre Dame’s wins over Michigan, Stanford, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest in two-hour blocks on New Year’s Day and conclude the 10 hours of coverage with an hour show reviewing the season. The undefeated Irish don’t play Alabama for the national title until Jan.7.

I had to laugh Thursday night when ESPN ran a graphic comparing some of Syracuse University’s basketball stars of the past with SU players of today. At one point, it tried to make a comparison of Carmelo Anthony with a current player who is a slasher to the basket. I think they were comparing C.J. Fair to Anthony. Poor Fair. No SU player can compare to Melo, who led SU to a national title in 2003. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve seen a Syracuse team with more talent and more depth than this one. That isn’t good news for Canisius, which plays SU in a week.

Finally, I’m really looking forward to the “30 for 30” ESPN documentary “You Don’t Know Bo,” which premieres at 9 tonight. The title has double meaning. It plays off a celebrated Nike ad campaign featuring Bo Jackson. It also symbolizes the fact that many younger pro football and major league baseball fans probably don’t know about what a tremendous two-sport athlete Jackson was before his career was cut short by a severe hip injury.

I covered the 1991 NFL playoff game between the Los Angeles Raiders and Cincinnati in which Jackson injured his hip. I had no idea how devastating it would turn out to be. I was in L.A. at the time for the semi-annual meetings in which television critics previewed new shows and volunteered to do double duty as a football writer. The Raiders won, 20-10. A week later, the Bills embarrassed L.A., 51-3, to make their first Super Bowl against the New York Giants. You know what happened after that.


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5 responses to "WUTV Gets Christmas Bonus from Bills Game"

  1. Doug says:

    I appreciate your sports coverage Alan. Did you hear Sully accuse Jeremy of being a shill for the NHL owners on 550 the other day? That’s a very serious accusation

  2. Ray says:

    I’d rather listen to a two-hour Emergency Broadcast System tone than be subjected to Cowpatty and his EEElite teams and It’s All About the Ratings and him suddenly liking soccer now that the World Wide Leader is covering it.

  3. gary b says:

    I never cared too much for Collin Cowherd and his program on WGR. But I really miss his show now, in my opinion, the hockey show SUCKS !!!! Andrew Peters is about as bad on the show as he was a hockey player in the NHL. How are they doing as far as ratings go? I would have to believe they lost allot of listeners, especially because of the lockout. Do you think the show will last much longer if the season gets canceled?

    • alanp says:

      Dont have any ratings. I imagine the show’s future is in the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. They will decide whether it should stay on or not if there is no hockey.

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