Radio on the TV

logo.homeThis week, WGCL announced a partnership with WQXI / 790 “The Zone” to provide sports coverage for the television station.  WGCL news director Steve Schwaid answered some e-mailed questions about it below.  First, this excerpt from a WGCL news release:

“This is a successful partnership for Atlanta sports fans and WGCL-TV,” said Kirk Black, Senior Vice President and General Manager of WGCL-TV.   “The experience and personality of Atlanta’s premiere sports talk radio station will add valuable resources to CBS Atlanta News.”

“For the last 13 years, 790 The Zone has been the brand for sports in Atlanta and we could not be more excited about this partnership with CBS Atlanta and their core sports properties including the NFL, S.E.C Football, March Madness and the Masters. This dynamic alliance will only stengthen our ability to connect to the Atlanta sports fan”, said Andrew Saltzman, President of Sports Radio 790 The Zone.

“This new relationship will make CBS Atlanta and Sports Radio 790 “The Zone” Atlanta’s best source for sports information,” said Steve Schwaid, News Director of WGCL-TV.  “It will allow CBS Atlanta to answer our viewers’ Tough Questions and deliver on our promise of providing the very latest news and information every night.”

-1In an e-mail to LAF, Schwaid adds the following:

We have NOT gotten rid of our sports department. We still have people who will shoot sports and we still have our sports producer who produces our specials, weekly shows and sports programming.

I started looking at this option months ago. It’s an issue of resources. If I can give  viewers a strong sports source, take the resources I put into sports and repurpose them for our news gathering then it’s truly a win-win.  Personally this was hard because I really like working with Mark [Harmon] and Gil [Tyree] and have great respect for them. But we’ve seen a decreased appetite for local sports. In fact, [that’s] the reason stations place sports where they do in their newscasts, [which] is after the click.

13501366_240X180Much like ABC got rid of their sports department and now buys services from ESPN, this allows us to take a sports organization that reports on sports 24/7/365 and now have them as a resource for us. In effect we now have more folks working on sports than any TV station in the market.

And this realignment of resources means we’re adding jobs:  two reporters, two photogs, one producer, one assignment editor.

Unlike stations that have to cut people or furlough people, Meredith has given us the ok to shift the resources so we can focus on our mission: Tonight’s Top Stories, Tomorrow Morning’s Forecast in the First 5 minutes and pursuing the Tough Questions.

Speaking of questions:

LAF: How many WGCL sports employees were released?  Any thoughts about their departure?

Steve Schwaid: Mark and Gil will be leaving us. Personally this was a tough decision because I have enjoyed working with them and truly respect them.14217500_240X180

LAF: Does WGCL lose any significant identity by parting with them?

SS: Sorry to say no. Unfortunately TV stations are really not defined by their sports folks, no matter what we like to think. Every bit of research shows that local sports coverage is NOT a high priority to local viewers. ESPN, Fox Sports, the web and mobile have radically changed how people get their sports info. The majority of weekday newscasts are nothing more than locker-room sound bites or highlights – the same stuff you will see on ESPN, but with much more context and analysis.

LAF: Does this signal a diminished commitment to sports on the part of WGCL?

SS: I think this shows actually a larger commitment. We have the resources of the entire Sports Zone, 790 Team. The station lives and breathes sports. And they have been part of our Saturday Sports Line shows for years and also part of our Friday SEC show.

LAF: Does this market (or local news generally) demand local sports like it once did?

SS: Unfortunately not. There are so many places for sports fans to get their info in real time. Why wait till 11 pm for the scores when I can get it right now on the web, on sports channels and my iPhone.

LAF: Is there anything counterintuitive about using radio guys to produce TV sports?

SS: I would say it’s innovative, especially since they program for sports 24/7/365.

LAF: How will this “dynamic alliance” work on a day-to-day basis?  If you get a sports scoop, do you simply call those guys and tell them to cover it for you?  Or do they tell you what’s getting covered?

SS: We’ve worked with 790 for years. Nick has done stories for us, he appears weekly in our sports line and dawg shows and he has also filled in for Mark and Gil during vacations. I think it will be seamless to the viewer.

Honestly, I will lay odds that the sports radio guys break more stories than any of the TV sports guys in the market. They’re at more games, more events, more stories and have more contacts – they talk sports on the radio for hours and hours a day instead of the two or three minutes TV stations do on a daily basis.

LAF: Is there another major market TV station in America that’s using a sports radio station to handle its TV sports?

SS: I believe Kansas City. But more importantly there are more and more stations dropping or cutting back sports.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

15 thoughts on “Radio on the TV

  1. Josh R.

    “I believe Kansas City.”

    Sorry, Steve, but I have to call possible BS on this — your GM has worked at a Meredith station in KC, and they did the same thing at that station…

    That said… while I love the sports guys and girls I’ve worked with, I understand WGCL’s position. I may be a little biased here, but I think the future of local sports is what Randy Waters (and to a lesser extent Sam Crenshaw) do — turn local sports stories into general features that happen to be about sports or athletes. I get most of my sports news from RSS feeds from Yahoo, USAToday, NFL.com, and a few sports blogs I happen to enjoy. And one really, REALLY good podcast for my football news.

    Having worked in broadcasting for 10 years, I know how much it sucks to see your friends lose their jobs because of economic concerns, but sometimes the stations really do have to make some hard choices.

    Reply
  2. jiller

    This is a no brainer.

    Give up two bodies that while they are nice guys have no impact on ratings for 6 people who can gather news?

    what’s the question?

    Reply
  3. Bob in Decatur

    Well, Schwaid is a genius. Research is always right. Right? Right…

    I suppose he new WGCL bilboards will tell us that “Steak and Dagmar ask the tough questions.” 790’s lineup will give them just what they needed, even bigger boobs.

    Reply
  4. arky

    Maybe I’m wrong, but does ABC really “buy” their sports coverage from ESPN? ABC owns the vast majority of ESPN, and you still see most of the same people on ABC you did before. I thought it was just rebranding.

    Reply
  5. sporter

    Those of us sitting on the corner of the anchor desk and doing our 3 minutes each night except when the producer cuts our time becayse the weather person or the lead reporter went long have been watching the writing on the wall.

    We’re now part of the little kids table.

    That’s why you’re seeing so many sports folks jump ship to do news. It’s happening in all markets.

    Reply
  6. Josh R.

    sporter: when I worked in TV news, I used to joke with the sports folks, around 5pm each day… “Let’s spin the Wheel of Killing Sports! *tickatickatickatickatickaticka… tick… tick… tiiiick* You’ve landed on… HOLY SHIT WEATHER!!!!!”

    I have to be honest… I don’t remember any of the sports guys from WPLG in Miami (where I grew up), but I do remember the weatherman. And I was huge into football even then.

    Reply
  7. Dellraiser

    Most really good television stations in America have good sports anchors and good sports departments. WSB and Cox outlets have moved beyond sports. And to be honest, they have been rewarded with high ratings and terrific news revenue. WGCL is a different story. They have never had an identifiable sports anchor. I’m sure both of their men are nice human beings, however, both have had ample time to carve a niche and neither have. I do think WGCL has a chance to be successful in Atlanta. WXIA is searching and their anchor team doesn’t work in this market. From weather to sports to news- – Channel 11 has lost it’s window in Atlanta. The 790 partnership doesn’t matter. WQXI has a very small audience. Their talent is obscure amidst a poor broadcast signal. But the current sports team has added little or nothing to the WGCL brand,Therefore,change is good. I like Steve Schwaid’s view of local tv. Give him time and some resources and he will make noise here.

    Reply
  8. JeremyK

    My personal experience with local sports coverage is that sports departments are valued when they 1.) break major sports stories and 2.) produce revenue-generating programming outside of regular newscasts.

    I’m in Birmingham, and it’s not uncommon for our sports guys to lead the A-Block when they’ve got a big scoop. They have great connections, and they don’t follow the lead of the paper or sports radio. I was stunned when I first stared working here and saw that a local 6:30 pm sports special dominated its slot in the ratings.

    Admittedly, though, the appetite for local (and college) sports here seems to be higher than other markets. TV stations in a major market dominated by pro franchies with constant national-outlet coverage would have a harder time, I presume, keeping their local sports departments relevant.

    I have noticed this… Roughly 60% of viewers who see us at news scenes comment on our weather guy. The other 40% talk about our sports director.

    Reply
  9. jsb

    WGCL knows that now is the time to make a move in this market. No doubt where #1 is, but that leaves a lot of viewers and ad dollars to still get. No one watches local news for sports coverage anymore. With WXIA having sunk to an all-time low in the ratings and becoming more of an embarassing mess with each passing day, WGCL has an opportunity to become the solid #3 in the market and occasionally challenge for #2 and they know it. So why not save money on least important part of your news operation and funnel that money where you can get more bang for your buck?

    Reply
  10. Element

    I don’t totally disagree with GCL’s decision but my heart goes out to Gil and Mark. They are both very passionate about what they do and even better human beings.

    However those clowns over at 790 are just that- C L O W N S! Already irrelevant in this market. Far behind 680 even. And Nick ‘the prick’ Cellini? Come on! This guy is nothing but a blow hard first class a-hole and there is a damn good reason radio folks don’t get in front of cameras and he is THE case in point! I also don’t imagine he or anyone else at 790 should expect a warm welcome from the rank and file journalists working at GCL either. Much like Better Mornings they will probably be viewed as outsiders and treated as such.

    Reply
  11. Tom

    Do you really want guys who do their broadcasts from strip clubs anchoring your sports stories?

    Enjoyed watching Gil welcome Steak into the WGCL family at the Falcons game. How embarrassing.

    Reply

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