Seattle, Boston Stations: Deflate-Gate a Bunch of Hot Air

Station leadership in Boston and Seattle may have very different ideas as to who will win the Super Bowl, but they seem to agree on one thing: Deflate-gate is pretty much a non-story at this point. It’s not surprising that residents of New England would dismiss the controversy around under-inflated Patriot footballs during the AFC championship game; the commonly held sentiment up that way is that people have it in for the Patriots and their long run of success, and look for reasons—fair or other—to take them down.

“It’s been interesting,” says Mark Lund, WBZ president and general manager. He says the story was “all consuming” in Boston the previous week, but had “definitely dissipated” in the week leading up to the Bowl.

“In Boston, it really is about the game right now,” adds Lund.

With Mother Nature dropping some 27 inches of snow on Boston Jan. 26, that shifted the news cycle a bit, as did the start of the trial of Aaron Hernandez, the former Patriots star charged with murder.

Somewhat surprisingly, Deflate-gate (and how I despise the cliché of slapping a “-gate” suffix on to any controversy, though I admit it works OK in this case) is similarly not that big a deal these days in Seattle news. “People just kind of shake their heads,” says Janene Drafs, VP and general manager of Sinclair’s Seattle stations, including KOMO.

Both Boston and Seattle are extraordinarily passionate football markets. Drafs says that factored into minimizing the deflated balls issue. “There’s so much hubris here that people think we’ll beat them either way,” she says.

Seahawks fans of course pride themselves as the 12th Man. So perhaps it’s fitting that last year’s Super Bowl put up—at least for a quarter hour—a 101 share in Seattle, says Drafs. Stunned, she contacted Nielsen for an explanation, the nuances of which I admittedly don’t grasp well enough to detail here.

“Clearly it’s the top story in the news [of] pretty much every newscast,” says Drafs. “You have to.”

KOMO had a unique way of voyaging to Glendale for the Super Bowl. It hired an RV for 39 bucks a day—one of those deals where someone in Phoenix needs an RV, and someone in Seattle has one—and set off for Arizona, around 1,400 miles away. Social media detailed the vehicle’s progress (hashtag: #KOMOHawkFlock), and created all sorts of opportunities for fans along the way to meet the four KOMO staffers making the trek. One tweet about a minor breakdown resulted in a ‘hawks fan coming out and fixing the RV.

A GoPro camera mounted on the dashboard gave users back home a peek at the RV’s progress.

Sinclair sibling KSNV Las Vegas drove its satellite truck to help out with the broadcast. “It gives us another home base,” says Drafs.

WBZ’s 17 staffers took a more conventional approach to travelling to Glendale, where they teamed with another 25 CBS Boston radio staffers. The combined WBZ presence in Glendale is commensurate to the market’s passion for the big game. The AFC championship game, Pats versus Colts, did a 69 share, says Lund. The story “Tom Brady Has A Cold” (not to be confused with Gay Talese’s 1966 masterpiece “Frank Sinatra has a Cold”) was clicked on 750,000 times and counting.

“People can’t get enough of their Patriots,” Lund says. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.