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Local TV Affiliates and Caps Coverage

UPDATED: The Tim Brant quote below was, unintentionally, taken out of context. Brant was saying he's never believed preseason results predict anything about regular season outcomes, and was not talking about media coverage in any way. I apologize for the error; it was entirely my fault.

Devoted readers of Caps PR honcho Nate Ewell's Twitter feed (and aren't we all?) will have noticed his gentle tweaking of the four local TV networks throughout the preseason.

Sept. 13: We had at least 30 media here yesterday as players reported -- but zero from network TV affiliates.

Sept. 17: Network TV affil. visits to training camp: WUSA 1 (on Tues, 'Skins off day); WRC, WTTG, WJLA tied at 0.

Sept. 22: WTTG Fox 5 races to the lead in Caps camp appearances by network affils. WTTG-2, WUSA-1, WRC and WJLA-0.

Sept. 28: Caps made final cuts today and WJLA-7 and WRC-4 made it thru an entire preseason w/o covering one practice.

Now, I'm sure not here to criticize the affiliates networks, and they didn't seem to take offense. ("Do I think that's it's fair that he's doing that? Yeah, absolutely," WUSA's Brett Haber said.) My own preseason appearances were extremely sporadic, and I posted 19 consecutive Redskins blog items at one point. Plus, we're all going through the same rocky economic times, and they're operating with limited staffs, during the first month of the Redskins' regular season. Plus, one appearance doesn't necessarily equate to just one story, and the affiliates can use footage provided by the Caps even when they're not there.

Dave Feldman's WTTG ended up winning the contest with three preseason practice appearances (WUSA had 2), so I'll let Feldman speak for the gang here.

"We didn't go to it a ton, because we never really cover hockey training camp a lot," he said. "It coincided with the beginning of the Redskins' season, and sadly in today's economic times, we just don't have all the resources to cover everything. But we did go to the home games, we did cover their training camp three or four times, I went to their media fantasy camp and made a fool out of myself. We'd like to do it much more, we just can't always get a camera. It's not that the Caps are second to the Redskins, but a [hockey] preseason doesn't match up with a Redskins regular season."

All that said, I figured the mania from last spring would carry over to this fall in every local sports medium, and I'm not really sure that it has. (Ahem, sports talk radio.) (Although the AP just declared that "the Washington Capitals are the it team in the nation's capital.")

So it seemed worthwhile to ask some of the network stars what they expected from this year's Caps coverage. Ted Leonsis has already noted in his blog that this year's Post preview section was an extravaganza of information (my words), and the network stars said they'd be equally aggressive.

"Without a doubt, without a doubt," said WJLA's Tim Brant. "Part of it is this town is becoming more and more a hockey town, as we've seen through the playoffs. They're talking about every game being sold out....And then you add to that the situation that surrounds them in Washington sports right now. Maryland's not doing anything. You look at what the Wizards did last year, they fired Eddie Jordan and won 19 of their 82. You look at the Nationals, 103 losses. The Redskins are struggling, everybody's down on the Redskins; I haven't seen anything like that with the Redskins in my lifetime. So yeah, [the Caps] are top dog right now."

(As for WJLA's training camp coverage, "I've never been a training camp guy," Brant said, adding that he feels that way for every sport.)

"Equal or more," Feldman said, when I asked him to compare this year's Caps coverage to last year's. "I thought we gave it a lot last year. I mean, it's a big story, and they're the only proven winner right now. So yeah, probably more, just because I think they're even gonna be better."

"It's like anything, it's a function of how well they do," Haber agreed. "We started out covering the Nats pretty aggressively this year--I saw you at Spring Training--and we were all over it. As the team began to [slide], our coverage diminished. But I think if you work under the assumption that they're going to be a contender out of the gate, I think yeah, we'll be on them from the beginning."

And if you're not, @nateewell will let the world know about it.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 1, 2009; 10:03 AM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media  
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Comments

None of these people care about hockey.

They care about winning.

That's the difference, and it's why hockey will never really get its fair shake, even in the most obvious instances where it should. Like, say, now.

Posted by: ThisGuy | October 1, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

In a couple weeks when the Deadskins still suck and the Caps are tearing it up, they'll come running.

Posted by: futbolclif | October 1, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Radio coverage here is absolutely non-existent. 980 completely ignores hockey they ignored it last year too. 106.7 only recently started talking about it, mainly because they are broadcasting the first 2 games. Bottom line of all the people on the air no one has clue about hockey. Dukes yesterday said that CAPS have no secondary scoring. I mean obviously he didn't bother to watch last year and notice that we had 5 players score 20+ and 3 30+ goals. He also didn't notice we added Knuble in the offseason. And that is just one example. Al Koken was the only one that you could listen to and get a decent discussion about the Caps.

Posted by: lightshow | October 1, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Well then, I'd expect live standups at Saturday's opener for the "top dog" by 2 of the networks.

/knows it won't happen

Posted by: Section117 | October 1, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Come on Steinberg read between the lines and don't buy the economy BS the networks are selling.

They can afford to send a reporter to Richmond for the opening of Wizards training camp, they can send guys down to Florida to cover Nats training camp, they can send an army out to Ashburn on a dailt basis, but a camera to Ballston is to expensive in this economy. What a joke!

Posted by: freakinandpeakin | October 1, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"As for WJLA's training camp coverage, "I've never been a training camp guy," Brant said, adding that he feels that way for every sport."

I don't watch Channel 7 very often, but I'm sure WJLA completely ignored Redskins training camp. Never did any live reports from there. Probably didn't mention OTAs once, either.

As for Channel 4, they have so many Redskins promotional shows they're working on and broadcasting over there (Redskins Game Plan on Sunday morning, Redskins Showtime on Saturday night, Redskins Lovefest on Saturday morning or whatever it's called), it's amazing they have any time for any other team.

Really, though, it would be nice for the local affiliates to do more Caps coverage, but considering the small amount of time they devote to sports anyway on their newscasts, they're not going to provide much substantive. If you want substantive Caps TV coverage, Comcast SportsNet is far and away the best place to go--they even did feature pieces on Caps rookie camp this summer.

Posted by: TheFingerman | October 1, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

The lack of local coverage for the Capitals is really pathetic. What else can this team do to get more support?

They have a thrilling player and bon vide superstar in Ovechkin. They have plenty other talented and high personality guys. They have a great owner who shunned the notion of all seats going to season ticket sales in favor of leaving some open for non-season ticket holders. Their AHL and ECHL teams both won their respective cups so we know there is quality depth in the organization. Plus, going to a hockey game is probably one of the best experiences you'll have at a professional sporting event.

People in the D.C. region need to get their head out of the Redskins a**es and realize that there is a much more fun alternative actually located in the district of columbia. I'm already sick of the Skins and their run, run, short pass, punt offensive stratgey and I'm sick of the media around here being in love with an organization that has been a failure for a decade and is going nowhere fast.

Instead, try watching the Caps and enjoying the greatness that hockey really is and enjoy seeing a player for the home team that really transcends the game.

Posted by: mtorioles | October 1, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm more than a little confused by the references to networks in this context. The networks had no direct role over whether local affiliates covered the Caps training camp.

Posted by: evwill | October 1, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

How many games have the Washington Capitals arranged to place on local broadcast television? The answer would be none. Only Caps' games picked up by the national NBC carrier will be available to non-cable/satellite households.

A Capitals franchise that doesn't consider local broadcast television to be a priority shouldn't simultaneously demand that local broadcast television consider it a priority.

Posted by: evwill | October 1, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I am admittedly a newcomer to hockey and make no pretensions to being a lifelong Caps fan. But I did jump on a few seasons ago after actually going to a game in person and have been a fan ever since.

But as a lifelong DC sports fan (for better and for worse) living in Baltimore, I get zero coverage of any DC sports. The closest I get is Maryland basketball, which I don't care about in the slightest.

So, I'd take little coverage to no coverage at all. But that being said, Caps coverage will likely pick up around November/December if the Skins are still bad (likely) and the Caps are tearing it up. Just the laws of local news: go where the action is; ignore all else in the meantime. O's coverage around here petered out a month ago when the Ravens hit camp and basically, that's all she wrote for the 2009 season. Just the way it is, I suppose.

Posted by: pwelshans | October 1, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

It obviously costs too much to travel to practices since they are so far away. It's funny listening to The Fan when they're in Fairfax, DC or VCU and nobody can intelligently(arguably) talk about anything other than football and maybe basketball(sorry baseball, hockey, soccer or anything else). I've heard more talk about the Wizards training camps than the Caps season beginning.

Posted by: sitruc | October 1, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

For better or worse, things are different in this region than they are in other markets, evwill. In many other markets, local teams are often on network television(even more now that they can be on digital alternate channels and not disrupt network programming). Local cable sports established itself in this area earlier than many markets so what is now CSN is the giant for local sports with MASN helping to make a mess of baseball coverage. The local networks haven't shown the willingness to put up the money CSN can.

Posted by: sitruc | October 1, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about the local channels. I haven't watched a local sports broadcast in years. If I want news about hockey, I've got XM Home Ice, the NHL Network and great hockey blogs like Japers, CI, On Frozen Blog and the Caps website which has a ton of information daily. Forget about the Habers and the Brandts. There's nothing they can tell you that even the casual hockey fan doesn't already know. If the Caps make it to the Finals, I'm sure they'll find a way to get four camera crews down there despite the economy.

Posted by: billieb | October 2, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Its funny that 106.7 was brought up in terms of radio coverage. I must say that I was kind of excited to get a good "sports radio" channel. What I wasn't expecting (and I guess that makes me a little naive) was a redskins radio channel. That is what 106.7 is. They shouldn't call themselves "the fan" they should call themselves "The Skins Fan". I could only get through a couple days this week till I was just sick to death of hearing the same old thing over and over.

You have a bonafide contender for what is arguably the hardest thing to win in sports. And there is no coverage?!?!?
Even NPR has had more coverage of the caps this preseason than our "Sports Radio" station. Its pathetic.

Posted by: Dizzy1205 | October 2, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

lightshow:

A) Dukes generally doesn't know much about anything. His gift is being able to talk for 6 hours straight and make Lavarr sound intelligent...Not an easy task. Even with Big O their shows were pretty unfocused and lacked even sophomoric value.

B) The Caps did lack secondary scoring for the most part. 80% (unverified) of their goals came from 6 players. Teams like Detroit had a lot of players over 30 goals.

Coverage will be a catch-22 for the most part this season, they will talk for most of the season about how fans want coverage and have meta-debates about said coverage. The end result is everyone is dumber for it. The only sports talker on the radio that knows hockey is Steve Czaban and he's harder to listen to than two pieces of Styrofoam rubbing their nails together on a chalk board.

Posted by: remain | October 2, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

"The Caps did lack secondary scoring for the most part. 80% (unverified) of their goals came from 6 players. Teams like Detroit had a lot of players over 30 goals."
@remain, you're a little off on your facts. Last season, the Caps had three players with more than 30 goals. Detroit had four. The top eight (not six) goal scorers on the Caps combined for 80% of the team's goals. The top nine goal scorers on Detroit accounted for 80% of their goals. And if you look at how many players on both teams scored 20+ goals, its a tie with five each. In other words, not much difference between the two teams in terms of secondary scoring. Lightshow is right, the guy on WJFK doesn't know what he's talking about.

Posted by: billieb | October 2, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Dan's blog entry here shows that there is still a long way to go before the local media, with a few exceptions, recognize and fully act upon the revelation that there is significant local interest in the Caps to be mined with more coverage - and more coverage begets more interest, I've noticed the small steps taken. And one of those small steps is the near death of regular negative sarcasm about hockey in general, by both the local media (e.g., several years ago didn't a Fox-5 weekend sports anchor show her stripes by saying publicly that no one was interested in seeing highlights of a Caps game on the sports segment of the local news) and local sports fans. For example, two years ago if Dan had a blog entry about anything related to hockey, a good proportion of the comments would have been sarcastic negative wisecracks about the irrelevance of hockey. Now my mentioning of those times may bring someone out of the woodwork with a sarcastic comment about hockey, but it is refreshing to not have to put up with, for the most part, those sort of comments anymore (or at least for the time being).

Posted by: Monty2 | October 2, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the poster that says most of these media types don't care about hockey, although I would change it to aren't interested in hockey, and it comes across in their continuing year-after-year lack of any increase in knowledge or interest in becoming more knowledgeable. (One media type (besides Dan) for whom I would say that is not the case is Ivan Carter, who since he has took over WPL has clearly put in the effort to know more about the Caps, their history and hockey in general). But most of the media types have little personal interest and therefore make no effort or the minimum required effort, and so don't follow it or learn more about it unless they absolutely have to.

One recent example was in the Washington Enquirer. One of their regular sports reporters/commentators had an article about Skins' fans increasing delusionment in Synder and the Skins, and if this reached the point of those fans paying less attention to the Skins, what local team would benefit, and the writer stated that of the local teams the Wizards were most likely the only team to benefit (never even mentioning the Caps in the article). While I am somebody that thinks the Wiz will be a playoff team this year (barring more major injuries), I was mystified that this writer would think only the Wiz would benefit - as if the Caps didn't even exist in this writer's galaxy of interest and attention.

But then I open the sports page of the Washington Express (the other Metro rider daily newspaper), and next to a another solid Matt Swenson commentary article about the Caps is the listing of games on local TV this weekend, and the Caps home opener on Comcast isn't even listed but a Washington State football game is. Whoever put that TV listing together - sports editor, copy boy, guy in the mailroom - clearly has no personal interest in the Caps and it shows in his listing. A metaphor as to why the Caps often don't get the coverage on the local sports TV and radio programs.

Until the local sports media themselves actually welcome the Caps into their personal area of interest and become more knowledgeable and aware of the Caps, it will be a slow and arduous climb for the Caps getting more coverage/airtime/print space by the local media.

Posted by: Monty2 | October 2, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

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