Baltimoreans tune in, but not like rest of U.S.: ATLANTA OLYMPICS

Media Watch

August 01, 1996|By Milton Kent

Never let it be said that Baltimoreans blindly follow the herd.

Olympic ratings so far have been blockbuster across the country, but just a little less so here through the first 11 days of the Games, according to numbers provided by Channel 11's Sharon Walz, the station's ratings researcher.

Through Monday, the Olympics drew a 20.7 household rating and 37 share in prime time, a remarkably healthy number, but just below the 22.7/43 national average through the same date.

Nonetheless, station officials have claimed the gold.

"In 95 percent of our Olympic day parts, we're meeting or exceeding our expectations. We're thrilled with the Olympic delivery on WBAL," said Walz.

Indeed, the Olympic prime-time ratings are at least doubling its competition. For instance, two Orioles-Indians games airing on Channel 13 last week delivered ratings dramatically below their May averages.

The Olympics also have done well for Channel 11 in other time slots. The morning and late-night shows are each drawing at least 20-26 percent of the television sets that are on at the time, and the monster prime-time ratings have given Channel 11 a solid lead over Channel 13 in the late-news race.

One thing to watch for: Saturday's prime-time show, which will include the men's gold-medal basketball match, goes head-to-head with the first Ravens game, albeit an exhibition, on Channel 54.

Michael and Maria

Tonight's big story certainly will be Michael Johnson's quest to add the 200-meter gold medal to the one he collected for the 400-meter on Monday, but he's not the only person trying for that double.

France's Marie-Jose Perec, who won gold Monday night in the women's 400, will try for the 200 a bit before Johnson, but don't expect to see or hear much about her attempt, because foreigners on NBC's coverage are generally harder to spot than Waldo.

(Actually, the network deserves credit for noting the silver medal of Hezekiel Sepeng in the men's 800 meters, making him the first black South African to win an Olympic medal.)

Johnson's story is a powerful one, no doubt, but it isn't as unprecedented as NBC would have you believe. Valerie Brisco-Hooks did the same double in 1984, setting Olympic records in each race, albeit without Eastern-bloc competition, but how often have you heard that?

So, though NBC should marvel at Johnson's achievement, should it happen, it should devote as much energy and time to chronicling Perec's and to noting Brisco-Hooks'.

But let's not hold our breath waiting, eh?

Pub Date: 8/01/96

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