Channel 2 has decided that it will carry Orioles telecasts next Thursday and Friday, rather than the sixth games of the NBA's Eastern and Western Conference championship series.
Emily Barr, WMAR's director of broadcast operations, said the station will carry previously scheduled Orioles broadcasts against the Red Sox in Boston at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday and Friday, but will join the NBA playoff games in progress. The NBA games will start at 9 p.m.
"The Oriole games were scheduled some time ago," said Barr. "Plus, these are conference finals, not the final series, and these are the sixth games and not the final games."
Barr acknowledged that the decision to join the basketball games in progress was a "tough call, because no matter how you go, someone's going to be upset."
Although there are seven Orioles games in September that are not now scheduled for telecast by either Channel 2 or Home Team Sports, Barr said the station did not consider dropping next week's games in place of later broadcasts, because the station, which is an NBC affiliate, did not want to interrupt the network's new fall programming.
"To drop two games at this late date would be tough, and I don't know where we could pick up games to replace them," said Barr.
The decision to delay the NBA broadcasts is almost certainly a financial one as well. Revenues from commercials sold during Orioles broadcasts go to Channel 2. But during network broadcasts, the revenues from national ads are kept by the network. The local affiliate then collects for any local commercials sold.
NBC is in its first year of a four-year contract with the NBA. On two successive Sundays in April, Channel 2 elected to carry Orioles games instead of NBA playoff games, including the fifth and deciding contest of the De
troit-Atlanta Eastern Conference first-round series.
Barr said the station "struggled" with that decision as well. It decided to carry the first game of NBA doubleheaders on those Sundays, and then fill time with other programming until the Orioles games started. She said Channel 2 had not received many complaints about its decision.
A check of ratings during comparable periods last year would appear to validate Channel 2's decision.
On May 22, 1990, the station carried an Orioles-Minnesota game that drew a 13.1 rating, meaning that 13.1 percent of all the households in the Baltimore area with television sets watched that game, which fell on a Tuesday night.
By contrast, Sandy Genelius, a spokeswoman for CBS, supplied the following figures for NBA games last season, when CBS had the contract. During the last week of May, the national rating was 8.8 on a Tuesday for Game Five of the Western Conference finals matching Phoenix and Portland, 9.2 on Thursday for the sixth game of that series, and 10.5 for the sixth game of the Eastern series between Chicago and Detroit.
Nationally, each rating point translates to 931,000 households, meaning that between 8.1 and 9.8 million homes watched the Eastern and Western Conference series during that week.
Local ratings for the NBA playoffs last season, as well as the numerical correlation between ratings points and actual numbers households, were not available.
Ed Markey, an NBC spokesman, said the network is aware of Channel 2's scheduling conflicts. He suggested that NBA fans tune into Washington's WRC-TV, Channel 4, to watch the games in their entirety.
However, Channel 4's reception is not strong in all parts of the Baltimore area and cable viewers in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, the two largest jurisdictions in the region, don't receive WRC as a part of their service.