Fourteen of the 21 most-watched sports events on Baltimore television in 1996, not including the Olympics, were NFL games -- seven that involved the Ravens -- according to Nielsen ratings.
Ravens officials find those figures encouraging and were more than satisfied that the team averaged a 15 rating and a 31 share going into the final game, against the Houston Oilers, today at Memorial Stadium.
Ratings measure the percentage of all television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage of televisions in use watching a program.
"I am thrilled by the number of people watching Ravens games," said team vice president of marketing David Modell. "To have 14 games in the top 20, seven of them Ravens, are very good numbers when you consider the area has the Orioles, Bullets and Capitals.
"We drew like a 19 rating for the home opener, then went down to 11 several weeks later," Modell said. "But our numbers have gone up consistently every week [since then]. We're making progress. There were six Orioles games in the top 20, which goes to show that Baltimore is neither a football or baseball town as some have concluded, but a sports town."
Phil Stolz, general manager at WBAL-TV, also was content with Ravens ratings, particularly the home game against Pittsburgh on Dec. 1, which drew a 20.0, making it the highest-rated Ravens game this season. Stolz said he believes the ratings would have been better if the team had won a few more games.
"The ratings varied, pending the schedule -- who they played and what time they played," Stolz said. "But this was a highly successful franchise for us. This was our first year in the league and the Ravens, despite some injuries, showed they were a competitive club. We look for the ratings to grow in year two, and by the third year, with the new stadium, we anticipate this taking off, and it's going to be big."
The Ravens' ratings have been comparable to those of other recent first-year teams. The Rams drew a 23 rating and 51 share last year in St. Louis, but this season the numbers have slipped to 18.6 and 39.
The Carolina Panthers had a 16 rating and 33 share on Charlotte, N.C., television for their first year, even though the team played its home games about 100 miles away in Clemson, S.C. This season, with the Panthers playing in their new stadium in Charlotte, the numbers are up to 20.9 and 43.
Stolz warns that it's hard to compare different markets.
"You have to look at the size of stations and viewing audiences," Stolz said. "There are other variables as well. St. Louis wasn't without a team for 13 years, and both Jacksonville [whose ratings were unavailable] and Charlotte never had teams."
Both Modell and Stolz agree that tradition and winning play a big part in the ratings. Modell said it will take time to draw numbers like the Dallas Cowboys and former Cleveland Browns. The Browns drew a 32.4 rating and 57 share in Cleveland in 1995.
"We did look at other markets early, places like Kansas City and Pittsburgh, which draw in the 20s consistently," Modell said. "But those places also have a history. When we were in Cleveland and we got hot, we drew some absurd numbers. That will happen here in Baltimore, but it doesn't take place overnight.
"When we started playing our regular-season games, it marked the first time the Baltimore area had live professional sports being played in October in 13 years," Modell said. "We are now giving an entire generation of Baltimoreans something to do on Sundays in the fall. And the day we have an AFC playoff game played here in Baltimore, I guarantee you we will draw big numbers. It will be huge."
Ratings in Baltimore
Seven Ravens games are among the 21 most watched sporting events of 1996 in Baltimore, not including the Olympics:
Event ....................... Teams involved ............... Rating
1. Super Bowl XXX ........... Dallas vs. Pittsburgh ........ 40.3
2. AL playoffs (Game 3) ..... New York at Orioles .......... 35.9
3. AL playoffs (Game 1) ..... Orioles at New York .......... 31.1
4. AL playoffs (Game 4) ..... Yankees at Orioles ........... 30.4
5. AFC championship ......... Indianapolis at Pittsburgh ... 27.6
6. AL playoffs (Game 2) ..... Orioles at New York .......... 24.9
7. AFC div. playoffs ........ Indianapolis at Kansas City .. 24.6
8. NFC championship ......... Green Bay at Dallas .......... 23.2
9. AL playoffs (Game 5) ..... New York at Orioles .......... 21.6
10. AFC wild card ........... Indianapolis at San Diego .... 20.3
11. AL div. playoffs (Game 4) Orioles at Cleveland ......... 20.2
12. NFL regular season ...... Pittsburgh at Ravens (12/1) .. 20.0
13. NFC div. playoffs ....... Philadelphia at Dallas ....... 19.2
14. NFL regular season ...... Oakland at Ravens (9/1) ...... 19.0
15. NFL regular season .... Ravens at San Francisco (11/17) 18.7
16. NFL regular season ...... Cincinnati at Ravens (11/3) .. 16.7
17. NFL regular season ...... Ravens at Pittsburgh (9/8) ... 16.6
18. NFL regular season ...... Ravens at Carolina (12/15) ... 16.4
19. NFL regular season ...... New England at Ravens (10/6), 16.3
NFL regular season .......... Miami at Indianapolis (9/23), 16.3
NBA Finals (Game 6) ......... Seattle at Chicago ............ 16.3
Pub Date: 12/22/96