Breeders' Cup telecast hasn't been big winner

RADIO-TV

October 26, 1990|By RAY FRAGER

At racetracks, it's called a simulcast -- live television coverage of horse races that patrons can bet on. NBC is presenting a 4 1/2 -hour simulcast tomorrow (1:30 p.m., Channel 2), the Breeders' Cup from Belmont Park, which certainly will be popular in about 200 locations across the country where viewers also can gamble on the races.

Most viewers, however, don't have pari-mutuel windows in their living rooms, which may explain the low ratings Breeders' Cup telecasts have received.

The highest mark was a 5.1 in the first year (1984), and ratings have averaged 3.8 since then. A rating measures the percentage of all television households watching a program.

"I just suspect this is a tough challenge for us," Dick Enberg, host of the telecast, said in a news conference this week. "Much of our audience [those watching simulcasts] won't be measureable."

The event itself may be a hard sell among those who aren't avid race fans.

"One of our problems is that it's a 4 1/2 -hour broadcast with 12 minutes of racing -- great racing though it may be," Enberg said. "I suspect the rating will be much the same as last year [3.7]. We'll have the hard-core racing fans watching."

Getting beyond the hard core may be harder, because some of the top horses -- Sunday Silence, Summer Squall and Housebuster among them -- have been injured and won't be running.

"You could look at the horses you wish would be running," Enberg said. "Our problem is we're coming at the end of the racing season."

Tom Hammond, NBC's co-host, said: "The thoroughbred horse has always been a very fragile animal. It just seems like it's more [injuries] this year because it's happened to some of the headliners."

But Hammond said he's still high on the seven-race event, because the Breeders' Cup delivers on its promise.

"The event itself has never failed to live up to advance billing, like the Super Bowl, even without the top stars," he said.

Enberg and Hammond will be joined on the broadcast by race caller Tom Durkin and feature reporters Trevor Denman (who has called races in Maryland), Gregg McCarron (a jockey who has ridden at state tracks) and Jenny Ornsteen.

One might think all that help is desperately needed to fill all that time. After all, it's just those 12 minutes of racing in 4 1/2 hours of broadcast. But no, Enberg said.

"When we began, we wondered, 'What in the world are we going to do with 4 1/2 hours?' " he said. "But we found we didn't have enough time to cover the races."

*

Every other week on Channel 11 through the rest of the National Football League season, it's a pick-'em game. When it's CBS' doubleheader week, the station is giving viewers an opportunity to choose one of the NFL games it televises.

This was the first week that viewers were invited to call in and state their preference, and the winner was the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game over the Green Bay Packers-Minnesota Vikings, with 73 percent of the vote.

Channel 11 sports anchor Vince Bagli said the station received about 1,200 calls from 11:30 p.m. Sunday -- after the choice was given during Channel 11's expanded sports report -- through all day Monday until midnight.

Bagli said CBS gives the station two games for viewers to choose from. But don't you Washington Redskins haters start thinking you can get that burgundy and gold off your television sets. Channel 11 is contractually bound to carry Redskins games, so all anyone can vote on is what game will be seen in addition to Washington's.

Phil Wood's sports talk show on WYST (1010 AM) moves from 6 to 4 p.m. Monday, because his station's signal is too young to be allowed out after dark. Starting Nov. 5, Wood's morning sports report, already on WYST-AM, also will be heard on WYST-FM (92.3).

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