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Ch.7 changes weekend morning plans, a local radio trade and Buffalo is No. 1 in NHL All-Star viewing

This is what I’m thinking:

Another day, another change in Channel 7’s weekend morning news plans.

Channel 7 General Manager Michael Nurse said late Monday that the station is pushing back the launch of its weekend morning newscasts from late February to later in the spring.

He said the delay is the result of focusing resources elsewhere.

There has been a trade of sorts in local radio. Tiffany Bentley is moving from Entercom’s WLKK-FM to Cumulus’ WEDG-FM, 103.3 The Edge to do afternoon drive and become the station’s music director. Bentley, which is her on-air name, had been the morning host at WLKK. Rich Gaenzler, who had worked afternoons at The Edge for 18 years, has replaced Larry Norton as the station’s morning man.

Before joining WLKK, Bentley was a freelance journalist in New York City. Prior to that, she programmed and hosted a free-form music show on an NPR affiliate in Lehigh Valley, Pa. She holds a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications in Arts Journalism with a music concentration.

The political debates apparently don’t mean as much as so-called experts think they do. After Thursday’s Trump-less debate, the main narrative was that Ted Cruz bombed. On Monday, Cruz won the Iowa caucuses over second place Donald Trump, with Marco Rubio coming in a close third. However, you also could make the case that the debates do matter and Trump’s refusal to be in the Fox News debate may have backfired.

There is no debating that Western New York loves its hockey. The NBC Sports Network reported late Monday that Buffalo and Pittsburgh tied for first place as the highest-rated markets for the NHL All-Star game with a 3.7 household rating. That was four times higher than the 0.9 rating the game had nationally. As I have frequently pointed out, some WNYers also watch CBC’s coverage. That likely would have made Buffalo No.1 but not by much. Since the CBC affiliate isn’t carried in high definition on cable here, arguably not as many hockey fans watch CBC as they used to do. It is impossible to know how many do since Nielsen no longer measures CBC’s audience in Buffalo.

The National Football League is increasing the broadcast portion of its Thursday Night Football schedule, which had received  criticism from some players that scheduling those games four days after a Sunday game contradicts the league claim that it is concerned about player safety.

On Monday, the NFL announced that it is expanding the broadcast network portion of the Thursday night schedule is expanding from eight games to 10 games, with the games being split equally between CBS and NBC. Those 10 games also will be simulcast on The NFL Network, which carries an additional schedule of TNF games so all NFL teams have one game each season on that night.

During the recent television critics press tour, I asked CBS analyst Phil Simms about player complaints about the Thursday games and the suggestion that the players hated the games.

He claimed that the complaints stopped this year.

“First, that’s totally not true at all,” said Simms, who worked most of the CBS schedule this past season with Jim Nantz. “I did not encounter one single player or coach this year that said one thing complaining about ‘Thursday Night Football,’ and they talked to me very openly about everything. And they, in fact most coaches and most players were ... like, ‘This is great,’ because they knew they had three days off afterwards. And they only had to do it one time a year. So that’s why they love it. The coaches overall said this: ‘Boy, do you know what it shows us? Maybe we spend too much time trying to create things. We can get along in two days, but we take all week and confuse ourselves.’ I must have heard that 10 times from coaches this year. So the whole perception that the players hate ‘Thursday Night Football’ is completely turned around because they know it’s once a year. They see it on the calendar. They look forward to it for that little couple days off afterwards, and that’s universal.”

When I responded that there have been numerous articles dealing with player complaints about the Thursday games, Simms replied: “Not this year? Last year … they were crying a little bit about it, and this year, I did not get any of that at all. I talked openly about it many times in broadcasts and to many writers through the years. And I think even the people who covered it kind of backed off and realized, ‘Hey, one game a year, you are asking them to go,' and the players’ again, when you are a player, you are always looking at the schedule. 'When do I play on grass? When’s it going to be warm?’ stuff like that, especially where we played in New York. And they look at this Thursday night game going, ‘That’s going to be tough, but, man, is that going to be great, those three days after.’”

“Just to back up his remarks, here’s what happened,” said Nantz. “That story angle I understand where you are coming from with that, it got a lot of momentum because, when the league went to ‘Thursday Night Football’ 10 years ago, it was a partial schedule of Thursday games, and the teams and the players playing on Thursday felt like it was unfair they were having to go through this. Well, now, everybody has to play a Thursday game. So that has quieted things down more than anything, is that everyone has to do it once, and it has been, I truly believe, a transition from a dread to ‘Hey, I’m kind of looking forward to having an extra weekend off.’ That’s what we hear more than anything out here... They call it a mini bye. They get the bye week at one point during the season, and they get this mini bye. And because they are doing it, everybody else in the league is doing it, it seems to have quieted things down. It’s definitely shifting.”

“Coaches love it more than the players,” concluded Simms.

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