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Analyzing Ch.2 "history"; Bills' Brandon has "Draft Day" cameo

By Alan Pergament

Call it the Tale of Two Releases.

While I was gone for a week, I received two different takes on the news demographics during the recent February sweeps.

Not surprisingly, Channel 2 and Channel 4 had very different outlooks on what occurred in February in the so-called "money" age groups.

By that, I mean stations sell demographics to advertisers, not overall household ratings.

In some cases, what the stations didn't include in their takes was as interesting as what they did include.

Continue reading "Analyzing Ch.2 "history"; Bills' Brandon has "Draft Day" cameo" »

Media skepticism is wise in Trump interest in Bills

By Alan Pergament

Pardon my skepticism, but some elements of the local radio and TV media went way overboard Tuesday over the speculation that Donald Trump might buy or invest in the Buffalo Bills after the death of owner Ralph Wilson.

Of course, regular readers known I am skeptical of just about everything involving the billionaire blowhard.

I would gladly cheer if Trump saved Bills fans a lot of angst, bought the team and kept it here.

I just wish Channel 4 and Channel 2 had watched ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday before they carried their stories on Trump's interest based on his remarks on WBEN radio earlier in the day.

"PTI" co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon both agreed that Trump's purchase of the Bills would be "great" for the National Football League and for Buffalo. But they added the chances of it happening are minimal because he would need approval from other NFL owners who still hold a grudge against him for being a strong voice when he owned a team in the USFL and sued the NFL.

The local stations also would have been wise to have read a post by the Buffalo News' Tim Graham Tuesday that noted the USFL lawsuit and added that Trump's ownership of casinos would prohibit him from owning a team.

Those two nuggets belonged in any Trump story related to the Bills Tuesday because they added much needed perspective. The chance that Trump would give up a sure money-winner like owning casinos to take a financial risk and own the Bills is about equal to the chance -- well -- that he would run for governor of New York State.

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Bills hire multi-media journalist with local ties

By Alan Pergament

The Buffalo Bills have added a new member to its team of reporters covering the National Football team for its website and other media ventures.

Alexandra Vitale, who most recently was a sports multi-media journalist and weekend anchor at a Columbus, Ga. station, is joining the team's marketing and broadcasting department as a multi-media reporter.

Vitale, who was an accomplished swimmer at Canisius College before she eventually graduated from Saint Leo University in Florida, joins Chris Brown and John Murphy for the Bills' internal coverage of the team.

She replaces Hannah Buehler, who left the Bills to become a reporter at Channel 7.

According to the Bills, Vitale will cover the team and report on community, marketing and business intitatives and off-the-field endeavors for buffalo bills.com and other Bills media properties.

She previously was a production assistant and in-studio host of Patriots This Week for the New England Patriots'  Kraft Productions. The Patriots are owned by Robert Kraft.

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TV, social network reflections highlight Wilson coverage

By Alan Pergament

ST. MARTIN - Traditionally when I go away big news happens.

I can not imagine any bigger than the news I got via text from my older son as I sat on a beach in the Caribbean: "Ralph Wilson died." I headed to the Internet on my phone and saw that the Buffalo Bills confirmed it.

It was time to reflect on Wilson's well-lived 95 years and all the things that have changed in pro football and in life over that time.

The text I received on my iPhone was one small example. I am also writing this on an iPad. I immediately wished I could see the local television coverage of Wilson's legacy and life in what will be one of the biggest stories of the year in WNY. And then I remembered I could because all the local TV stations stream their newscasts and I have WiFi at my hotel.

I was able to watch Channel 4 anchor Don Postles tell viewers that the news was not unexpected because of Wilson's age but it was still a bit of a shock.

A short time later, Channel 4 was carrying a live news conference in which former Bill Steve Tasker told a wonderful, moving story about how Wilson welcomed him to the team and wished him well before his second game. Tasker thought it was a nice gesture and didn't realize he was talking to the owner.

Tasker appeared ready to tell another moving story when Channel 4 inexplicably cut to comments made by County Executive Mark Poloncarz. Bad move. A little later, I saw Channel 2 sports anchor Adam Benigni's report on Wilson's death that was aided by file footage from an exceptional special on the owner that at the time seemed preparation for an obituary. Good stuff.

I also headed to Facebook to see a post by Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon that told a sweet story about Wilson joining her for a meal and trying to make her feel comfortable in her role as a reporter back then.

There were several sweet Facebook posts that illustrated how much many Western New Yorkers appreciated Wilson and his kind gestures. But I couldn't help but think that people who aren't Buffalo natives appreciate what Wilson has done for the community more than those who have lived here all their lives.

I am one of them. I came here when I was 21 and 20 years later watched my first Bills Super Bowl not knowing if I would root for the Bills or the team I grew up with -- the New York Giants. (At kickoff, I learned I was a Bills fan.)

Since I am not a Buffalo native, I think I understand how fortunate the area has been to have had Wilson as an owner more than natives.

The world has dramatically changed since Wilson bought the team in 1960. At the time, Buffalo might have been a top 30 TV market or close to it. Now it is outside the top 50.

The community has lost population and Wilson hasn't been able to charge as much for tickets as owners in bigger markets. I have a friend who is a Giants season ticket-holder who pays three times as much as I do for a Bills game and he also has to pay a license fee. I couldn't afford to go to one Giants game a season, even if I could get ahold of a ticket.

The disparity in ticket prices and market sizes is one of the reasons I have supported the Bills in their position against lifting the NFL blackout rule. I think lifting the rule could hurt attendance here and attendance is one of the ways this area can show it belongs in the NFL despite its market size.

Some people have criticized Wilson for a variety of things, including unfairly suggesting he didn't spend enough money on players. There were few such complaints when the Bills made four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s.

The NFL rules have changed and there is no way today a team could afford to keep all the Hall of Famers on the same team. Wilson is a Hall of Famer, too, which would seem to say how big his legacy is in Buffalo.

However, there is some sentiment that his legacy here would be tarnished if the Bills don't stay here forever. To the contrary, Wilson did everything he could to keep the team here in a world changed by TV money, technology and population shifts in the 54 years he's owned the team. If the Bills ever move, it is on WNY, not Ralph Wilson.

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Jolls' puppets searching for Museum; "Walking Dead" revived on WNYO

By Alan Pergament

Cleaning out my notebook before I take a week off.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have spent more time in my Sunday piece on Channel 7 weatherman Tom Jolls talking about his second career launched in 1965 hosting a children's program as Commander Tom.

I've come to that conclusion because since the story ran there have been as many comments about his work as the Commander as there were for his sunny (and not so sunny) forecasts.

I wrote much more about the Commander Tom phase of his life when he retired 15 years ago.

Here are some excerpts from that article:

"After showing some classic television shows, he did segments with puppets between commercials. Jolls wrote the sketches on a program that lasted until 1991... Jolls created a variety of characters: Dustmop, named after a dog he knew growing up; Mattie, an alligator-giraffe combination; Sorcella, a bad witch; Cecily, the witch's good twin sister, and Furryburry, which consisted of a furry head and eyes that juggled atop a pencil body. Furryburry was around to annoy the Commander.”

 "His fame as the Commander is international, as evidenced by a signed photograph in his TV room from hockey great Wayne Gretzky to the Commander. Young Wayne grew up near Toronto watching the program, along with most of Western New York.

"Jolls and his wife made the puppets from scratch and he created all the voices. He believes his experience as an only child helped him develop those characters, as he often had to use his imagination growing up."

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Sweet 16 comments about NCAA tourney and announcers

By Alan Pergament

One of the additional reasons I like the invention of On Demand viewing so much is that it enables me to watch so much college basketball.

If a game is on, I always figure I can catch up with "Blacklist" or "Scandal" later On Demand.

That's especially true if Syracuse is playing and driving me crazy. Not that I overrated the Orange this season. Even when Syracuse was 25-0, I told friends and family that "they are not very good."

But I added: "No one else is, either."

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Yankee games moving from WBBZ to WNYO

By Alan Pergament

The New York Yankees are on the move on local television.

The package of 21 non-cable games that had been carried on WBBZ-TV for the past two seasons is moving to Sinclair's WNYO-TV this season.

Nick Magnini, the general manager of WNYO and sister station WUTV, confirmed the deal this afternoon. He said that Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns the local stations, will be carrying the Yankee package in all of its upstate markets -- Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

Magnini said all the exclusive broadcast station telecasts of games that aren't carried on the YES Network cable package will be in prime time and air on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

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"30 for 30" on rise and fall of Big East is instant classic

By Alan Pergament

"What if I told you" that I forgot that Creighton and Xavier are in the Big East now until I saw "Today" host Matt Lauer having fun with their fans Thursday as the conference tournament was about to get underway in Madison Square Garden?

"What if I told you" I didn't realize that the Big East Tournament was now being televised by Fox Sports 1 instead of ESPN until I ran into analyst Bill Rafterry calling a game by accident Thursday night during breaks in the University at Buffalo upset loss in the Mid-American Conference tournament?

"What if I told you" that I had a special interest in watching Sunday's "30 for 30" program, "Requiem for the Big East" because I was covering college basketball when the conference was being started?

If you're a regular viewer of the tremendous "30 for 30" series, you undoubtedly know that I'm playing with the "what if I told you" promos for each episode.

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Azar right on the money about Bills raising ticket prices

By Alan Pergament

I received my season ticket renewal information from the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday and immediately reflected on my conversation last week with former Channel 7 Sports Director Rick Azar.

If you missed Sunday's newspaper, Azar reminisced about a commentary he did decades ago when the Bills raised their ticket prices.

"Hey, the Buffalo Bills can charge anything they want," said Azar, "and if you don't want to pay it, nobody is holding a gun to your head to pay it. Don't buy a ticket."

The commentary, which didn't please the Bills public relations staff at the time because of the suggestion fans not buy tickets, certainly has relevance this year as well.

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Ranney leaving WBFO, WNED to work for State Sen. Gallivan

By Alan Pergament

WNED-TV will soon be looking to hire someone new to moderate the political debates it carries and to run the news department at sister radio station WBFO-FM.

Jim Ranney, who has spent almost 20 years with the local public broadcaster during two different terms, is leaving on March 28 to become the communications director for State Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

About to turn 48, Ranney said he was approached about the job with Gallivan recently and decided it was time for an "exciting new opportunity."

"Now is the time," said Ranney in a telephone interview. "If I didn't do it now, I probably wouldn't do it."

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