Orioles' victories, ratings suffered big decline in 1998

Media Watch

October 02, 1998|By Milton Kent

It's been said that numbers don't lie, and the whopping drop in Orioles' ratings for the 1998 season gives truth to the notion that viewers weren't interested in watching a loser.

The team suffered a 29 percent fall in broadcast ratings from 1997 between its two over-the-air carriers, channels 13 and 54, and a 28 percent drop on Home Team Sports, with the broadcast numbers falling to their lowest levels in the last five seasons.

Overall, the combined rating for the 63 games that appeared on over-the-air television this season was an 8.5 with a 15 share of the audience. Considering that each rating point in Baltimore averages roughly 10,000 households, the fall from last year's 11.9/22 average rating means that approximately 34,000 fewer households watched this year's games than last.

Individually, Channel 13's ratings (10.4/20) were off 25 percent from last year (13.9/26), and were the lowest since the station obtained the rights to the team in 1994. Channel 54, which airs games on a time-buy agreement with Channel 13, saw its ratings fall 35 percent from last year, to its lowest level in five years.

The latest broadcast rights agreement ends following the 1999 season, and a similar drop may affect what the Orioles can expect to receive in a future contract. The team's 10-year deal with HTS extends through the 2006 season.

While we're speaking of ratings, it should be noted that ESPN is reporting a big rise in its third-quarter numbers, both in prime-time and for the entire day. As the calendar advances to the fourth quarter, typically the channel's strongest, what with the launch of the new college basketball season, ESPN is expecting even bigger numbers. We'll see.

High definition football

CBS will wade first into the waters of high definition television when it broadcasts the Nov. 8 Buffalo-New York Jets game in that new format. But unless you live in New York, you won't be able to see it, because the transmission will come from the network's affiliate station there.

The network also will air the Dec. 19 Bills-Jets rematch in the HDTV format, as well as the Kansas City-Oakland game on Dec. 26, and an AFC divisional playoff game on either Jan. 9 or 10. Those three games can be seen at certain retail stores via direct satellite, which dovetails nicely with the fact that Sony, which will make its equipment available to CBS for the telecast, will begin selling an HDTV set in November.

CBS also announced yesterday that former Cleveland and Philadelphia player personnel director Mike Lombardi will make his on-camera debut as the information insider on "The NFL Today" Sunday. Inside information has been largely absent on the NFL pre-game shows, except CNN's, and it will be interesting to see what Lombardi, who has no journalistic training, will come up with.

Around the dial

If the chill in the air didn't indicate the onset of fall, the filled-to-bursting weekend sports calendar surely will.

One of the biggest splashes on the itinerary is tonight's premiere of ESPN2's new "Friday Night Fights" series at 8. Host Brian Kenny, who trained for five years at Cus D'Amato's gym, and 24-year-old analyst Max Kellerman will preside over a studio segment each week, which will include footage from the newly acquired "Big Fights" library.

The ESPN2 card this week will include a super-middleweight bout between champion Thomas Tate and challenger Demetrius Davis, with a same-day tape of the Andrew Golota-Tim Witherspoon heavyweight fight from Poland. HBO, meanwhile, will have a doubleheader tomorrow at 10: 15 p.m., with a live presentation of the Genaro Hernandez-Floyd Mayweather fight followed by a tape of the recent Oscar De La Hoya-Julio Cesar Chavez bout.

It may be a long time before NBC has any NBA games to telecast, so the network has decided to air tomorrow's Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies (Channel 11, 2: 30 p.m.) to be highlighted by the enshrinement of former Celtic Larry Bird, as well as Lenny Wilkens, who will become only the second person to enter the Hall as both player and coach, following John Wooden.

On the football scene, seventh-ranked Penn State travels to Columbus to meet top-ranked Ohio State on ABC (Channel 2, noon) as the ESPN "College GameDay" crew visits the campus just before kickoff at 11 a.m., with a scheduled feature on reaction at Prairie View A&M after the Panthers broke an NCAA-record 80-game losing streak last week. Third-ranked Tennessee goes to Auburn on CBS tomorrow (Channel 13, 3: 30 p.m.) and No. 6 LSU is host to 12th-ranked Georgia during ESPN's prime-time game at 7 p.m. tomorrow.

Finally, ESPN's Solomon Wilcots has a feature on "Sunday NFL Countdown" (11 a.m.) on Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski, who came in for media scrutiny last year after he broke the jaw of one player and spit in the face of another. Romanowski befriended Colorado Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux, of the nasty reputation, and Wilcots chats with both. CBS' Bonnie Bernstein will talk with new Oakland coach Jon Gruden on "The NFL Today" (Channel 13, noon) and the Fox gang will talk live to Green Bay's Brett Favre on their show (Channel 45, noon).

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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