Virtual ads on Ravens telecast just might make you look twice

Media Watch

August 04, 1998|By Milton Kent

Normally, when you start seeing things that aren't really there, there can be repercussions, but viewers who tune into Saturday's Ravens-Chicago Bears telecast, or any Ravens exhibition telecast for that matter, will see things that aren't in the stadium.

That's because the team has joined forces with a New Jersey firm for "virtual ads" that will pop up on the screen from selected spots in the ballpark that won't be present in the stadium itself.

Lisa Bercu, the Ravens' director of broadcasting, said the team and Princeton Video Image, a Lawrenceville, N.J., company, will superimpose logos and ads that will look like they are really a part of the stadium, but aren't.

The reason: to give advertisers who don't have actual game commercials a chance to get their message out.

"This is inventory that we don't have the chance to sell during the regular season, because the networks control it," said Bercu.

Here's how it works: The game's broadcast signal is fed to a refrigerator-sized computer, which is programmed to spot a unique pattern and place an ad in that place whenever it appears.

For Ravens games, Bercu said, the ads will appear between the goal posts and over a wall below where fans are sitting, not on the field or in an obtrusive place.

"We've taken very natural positions. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel and we're not going to bastardize the telecast. It will all be tastefully done," said Bercu.

Virtual ads are already being used in baseball by the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies. This summer, the Bears, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers will be using the technology on their games, and ESPN is reportedly set to use it for Sunday night's Giants-Atlanta Braves game, after having used it on a Yankees-Mets game in June.

The Ravens, who buy time from Channel 13 for games, control the exhibition broadcasts themselves, so all the revenue stays with the team. No monetary figures were released, but the Phillies are said to charge $125,000 per season for a half-inning spot behind home plate.

Meanwhile, Bercu announced that Tom Davis, the morning sports guy on WQSR (105.7 FM) and roving reporter on Orioles telecasts on Home Team Sports, will do play-by-play for Saturday's game, filling in for Gus Johnson, who will be rehearsing for CBS.

More to come?

The buzz around these parts within radio circles was that the former Infinity Radio was going to bring all-sports radio to Baltimore, what with its various holdings and the rights to the Ravens, not to mention the company's track record of success with New York's WFAN and Philadelphia's WIP.

Infinity's 1996 merger with CBS just seemed to add fuel to the fire that Charm City would join the rest of America's big cities and get its own all jock station, but the combined behemoth got scared off.

Name the reason (perceived indifference within the market, the wrong combination of events, bad timing), but when the first station came to Baltimore, it was Nestor Aparicio's WKDB (1570 AM), which signed on yesterday, and not a CBS outlet.

Still, Ken Stevens, general manager of CBS' WJFK (1300 AM), which carries Ravens games and a sizable weekend sports menu, says the station's daily lineup of Howard Stern, G. Gordon Liddy and Don Geronimo and Mike O'Meara are strong enough that "we sort of don't need to change."

Nonetheless, Stevens said the company is deeply committed to sports, even if it doesn't have an all-sports station.

"I did want to be the one that got it going, but that doesn't mean that we don't want to innovate. Sports attracts a great audience and a solid demographic and we think we can tap into it," said Stevens.

Too close for comfort

It's certainly understandable that as you spend time around a group of people, you become more comfortable with them.

But as professional radio announcers, it's incumbent on Jim Hunter and Fred Manfra not to get so comfortable with the Orioles that they sound on the air as if they are old friends.

Toward that end, it would be nice to hear the radio duo refer to Eric Davis, Mike Bordick, Rafael Palmeiro, Lenny Webster and Jeff Reboulet by their given names, rather than by "E.D.", "Bordy," "Raffy," "Web" and "Reb."

Weekend ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore last weekend:

Event .. .. .. .. .. ..Day .. ..Ch. .. .. ..R/S

Orioles-Royals .. .. ..Fri. . ..13 .. .. . 10.0/19

Orioles-Royals .. .. ..Sun. . ..13 .. .. .. 9.4/23

Orioles-Royals .. .. ..Sat. . ..54 .. .. .. 7.4/15

Golf .. .. .. .. .. ...Sun. . ..13 .. .. .. 4.4/10

Orioles-Detroit .. .. .Thu. . ..54 .. .. .. 4.1/12

Triathlon .. .. .. .. .Sun. .. .11 .. .. .. 3.1/7

Yanks-Seattle .. .. ...Sat. .. .45 .. .. .. 2.6/7

Brickyard 400 .. .. ...Sat. .. ..2 .. .. .. 2.3/8

IROC .. .. .. .. .. ...Sat. .. ..2 .. .. .. 2.2/7

Tour de France . .. ...Sat. .. ..2 .. .. .. 2.2/6

R-Rating. S-Share

Pub Date: 8/04/98

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