Baseball catches up in ratings

ON THE AIR

April 26, 1995|By MILTON KENT

What a difference a week makes, especially in the world of television ratings.

On Easter Sunday, an Orioles exhibition game ran third in the local ratings behind two NBA regular-season contests, and there was great concern and fear in the land (OK, just in this office) that perhaps the Birds might lay a ratings egg this season.

But this week's numbers, provided by Channel 13's Andre "Dr. Dre" DeVerneil, show the Orioles roaring back, a welcome development up on Television Hill, what with WJZ carrying 65 games this year.

Sunday's Orioles-Philadelphia game from Camden Yards was the big ratings winner for the weekend, posting a 9.5 rating and a 21 share of the audience, a full three ratings points, or 30,000 households, ahead of the next most watched sporting event, the last 75 minutes of the Phoenix-Seattle NBA game on Channel 11, which did a 6.2/12.

Viewer levels generally were down last weekend, one of the first spectacular weather weekends of the spring, as only two other contests, Sunday's Orlando-New York NBA game on Channel 11 (5.6/14) and the last 90 minutes of the Liberty golf tournament on Channel 2 (5.1/10), got above a 5 rating.

One other ratings note of interest: Hockey watching continues to lag in Baltimore. Sunday's Philadelphia-Buffalo game on Channel 45 did a 1.7/4, finishing just ahead of the first 15 minutes of the Liberty golf tournament.

Play Ball!

Baseball, not the exhibition stuff and surely not the replacement garbage, returns to the airwaves today with a vengeance, led by the Orioles, who open play at Kansas City on Channel 13, with the pre-game show starting at 2 p.m. TBS airs the first of 108 Atlanta Braves games this season with their opener at San Francisco getting under way at 3:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, ESPN, which officially began the season last night, comes back with a tripleheader, starting with Texas-New York Yankees at 1:30 p.m., the Mets at Colorado at 7:30 p.m. and Houston-San Diego at 10:30 p.m.

Speaking of the Mets, you've gotta love David Letterman's observation the other night that "in an effort to bring a lot of people out to Shea Stadium this year, earlier . . . the Mets held a press conference and announced that all Mets 1995 games would be played on the road."

Conference call

It didn't take long for the newly formed 12-member Conference USA, which takes in schools from the Great Midwest and Metro conferences, to make a deal with ESPN, granting the network and its syndication arm, Creative Sports, exclusive broadcast and cable rights to men's basketball games.

Scheduling conflicts

If you're a fan of the defending champion Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers or Atlanta Hawks, you'd better hope you have cable for this week's NBA playoffs, since none of these teams is on NBC's broadcast schedule this weekend, and wouldn't appear on the network unless their series go to a fifth and deciding game.

And while you ponder how the defending champions' first playoff series could not be on national television, ask yourself why the league and the network are forcing Phoenix and Portland to play game two of their first-round series at noon local time Sunday in the Pacific time zone, while Chicago and Charlotte are tipping off at 5:30 Eastern.

The answer is a simple one: All hands involved have decided that inconveniencing Suns fans is eminently more preferable than risking the chance that just one person in the known universe misses a chance to see Michael Jordan.

Mum's the word

ESPN led its early "SportsCenter" last night with a story that former Bulls coach and current TNT analyst Doug Collins would be taking over coaching duties of the Detroit Pistons next season.

Oddly enough, Collins was a participant on a TNT-sponsored conference call earlier yesterday, in which a Detroit writer asked former Pistons coach Chuck Daly if he had any comments on the team's situation and if he would be interested in returning to coaching. Daly answered no to both, and Collins remained quiet.

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