The Cardinals are in Milwaukee this weekend, a trip they make multiple times most seasons.
But for some of the team’s traveling party, this visit is something else, because the TV stations are actually on the road. Thursday’s game was the first street competition of the regular season in more than two years that today’s Bally Sports Midwest has filled with local announcers.
When the shortened season finally began in 2020 after a long delay due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, away games were called out from a studio in St. Louis. Ditto for last year, when restrictions were eased and the radio crew went traveling in June – but their TV counterparts did not.
It was annoying that it looked like BSM owner Sinclair Broadcasting was trying to save money by not sending the crew out on the road. But Bally Sports Midwest general manager Jack Donovan said other factors were at play.
“It was always very important,” he said, to have the announcers on site, adding that it was “everyone’s health and safety” as the basis of the travel ban policy. “We could not risk their health and (that of) everyone they are traveling with. … We always wanted our boys on the road.”
People also read…
That’s the plan for the whole season now. And the return to presence should greatly improve productions, as play-by-play announcer Dan McLaughlin can actually see what he’s describing instead of having to rely on television monitors – which, through no fault of his own, has led to some hilarious moments. Perhaps the hardest was a home run call on a ball that bounced over the wall in Kansas City for a ground-rule double that missed the camera.
McLaughlin was so embarrassed that he profusely apologized on air for an error caused by Sinclair’s house ban at the time. Thankfully, that policy has ended.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the road this season,” said McLaughlin. “I think it allows us to develop the best possible product. It’s very difficult to try to copy what happened when you’re not there.”
Still, he says everyone did their best under the circumstances.
“I thought our crew was extraordinary making the games from a studio,” he said. “Some of the games were tougher than others. However, the crew found a way to deliver the best possible product. They were fantastic under very difficult circumstances.”
Being there not only has the obvious benefit of being able to see the entire field, but also allows the announcers – Brad Thompson is the analyst this weekend alongside McLaughlin, and Jim Hayes is reporting – to interact with the players and staff, not only at them ballpark, but also at hotel, restaurants etc.
“We can now communicate much better with those on the team,” McLaughlin said. “The little anecdotes you can pick up along the way can help the TV show tremendously. I think they will improve the games.”
The baseball and hockey seasons are now in overlap mode, giving Bally Sports Midwest some maneuverability as it juggles its Blues television shows with its Cardinals coverage when the teams play simultaneously.
The first instances came this week when the outlet placed Tuesday and Thursday ball games on the main channel and ice hockey on the secondary outlet – Bally Sports Midwest Extra (the name for what used to be BSM Plus). There is one more conflict before the Blues’ regular season ends. On April 29, the Blues will be on the main channel and the Cards on the additional channel.
Additionally, the Blues games will be broadcast on both channels next Sunday and Thursday due to the potential for overlap during long Cardinals games.
BSM also has all of the Blues’ first-round playoff games (no suspensions this year in favor of national TV), and if there is a Cardinals overlap, there are plans to bring hockey to BSM and baseball to BSM Extra.
The Cardinals’ first four games, all televised by BSM, drew an average of 169,000 viewers in the St. Louis market. This is the highest value since 2017 at this point.
It’s 31% better than last season’s first four games and its rating was the best among US-based MLB teams through Tuesday.
Westton in LA
Erica Weston, who worked as a reporter/anchor at BSM for three years before leaving the company at the end of last baseball season, now has a similar job at Bally Sports West covering the Los Angeles Angels.
She has a long history in Southern California, first as a student at Loyola Marymount University, then in numerous broadcasting jobs both on the air and behind the scenes, including working on Dodgers coverage.
Charter-Sinclair deal announced
An agreement has been reached that Charter Communications will retain Sinclair’s regional sports networks, including Bally Sports Midwest, Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reported late Thursday.
The deal expired at the end of March, but some temporary extensions kept the channels going in the meantime. Charter, which markets its services as Spectrum, is the largest provider of pay-TV programming in the St. Louis market and the second-largest nationwide.