Ravens also struggle in ratings game, with third-worst figures Baltimoreans are finding other things to do besides watch football on Sundays

December 06, 1998|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

Every Sunday afternoon between 1 and 7, Baltimoreans are into all kinds of activities, perhaps raking leaves into nice neat piles, starting a new novel, taking in the latest flick at the megaplex or shopping at the mall.

What they do not appear to be doing, or at least not in numbers that approach those of other cities, is watching their local NFL team on television.

The Ravens had the third-worst ranking among 30 NFL franchises, with a 13.5 local Nielsen rating and a 29 share of the audience through games of Nov. 22.

That is nearly 11 rating points and 18 share points below the league average of 24.1/47.

Only the Jets (12.8/28) and Giants (12.6/26) attract smaller ratings than the Ravens. But the New York market is nearly seven times the size of Baltimore, so the audiences are dramatically larger.

Even in cities like Houston, Sacramento, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., with no specific team to root for, viewers are watching at higher levels.

The local ratings do not include last Sunday's game with the Indianapolis Colts, the most highly watched contest of the year, with an 18.1 rating and 40 share of the audience. That was the largest share since the team moved here from Cleveland three seasons ago.

With those numbers factored in, the season's average jumps slightly to a 13.9/30, still below the 14.6/30 ratings and share that Ravens broadcasts averaged a year ago.

(Ratings measure the percentage of television sets in a market ++ tuned to a particular show, and the share is the percentage of television sets that are on at a given time and tuned to a given show.)

It should be noted that Ravens games are the most-watched sports programming each weekend in Baltimore. Joe Ferreira, the NFL's director of broadcasting research, said that when the season ends, he expects the Ravens' ratings to come in at about the same level as last year's.

Local media observers say there are a variety of reasons for the seeming indifference to the Ravens on television, but the chief one appears to be the team's won-lost record.

The team has not produced a winning season since its inception in Baltimore, and as was demonstrated this spring and summer when Orioles ratings dropped 29 percent from last year, viewers appear not to be interested in watching a team that isn't producing.

"The hard-core fan will always watch, no matter what, but the casual viewer will find something else to do if the team's not playing well," said Channel 2 vice president and general manager Steve Gigliotti.

The unseasonably warm fall has also apparently driven some fans, who might be inclined to stay indoors and watch the game, out of the house. For instance, the local "households-using-television" index is down slightly from last year at this time, indicating that people are doing other things.

Also, Ravens games have generally aired in the 1 p.m. time slot, when viewing levels are lower, as opposed to the 4 p.m. period, when the sun is setting and outdoor activity slows.

"The ratings reflect a combination of our team's performance, more 1 p.m. games and good weather that has kept people outside rather than inside with their televisions," said Marcellus Alexander, outgoing vice president and general manager at Channel 13, which has carried all but one of the Ravens' games to date this season.

Alexander also notes that with the new Ravens stadium's 69,000-seat capacity, there are about 10,000 more fans -- the size of a Baltimore rating point -- attending games than attended last year.

It's not clear, especially given the poor performance of the Washington Redskins, whether viewers who have access to Washington stations are sometimes tuning in to the NFC game on Fox. For that matter, people in locales south and west of

Baltimore who might be Redskins fans could be sliding over to the Ravens.

Channel 13 does not appear to be suffering for whatever tune-out is going on. Local advertising sources say the station sold local 30-second spots for $8,000-$10,000 each early in the ,, season as part of the Sunday-afternoon package, and is now getting more than $5,000 a spot for available time.

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NFL TV ratings

No. Team ratings ............. share

1. Buffalo ................... 50.0/80

2. Milwaukee ................. 41.4/73

3. Denver .................... 39.0/68

4. Dallas .................... 37.6/65

5. Pittsburgh ................ 37.0/65

6. Kansas City ............... 36.2/63

7. Jacksonville .............. 32.2/53

8. Minneapolis/St. Paul ...... 29.9/65

9. San Francisco ............. 27.8/58

10. New Orleans .............. 25.9/49

11. Tampa Bay ................ 25.8/48

12. Washington ............... 23.3/49

13. Boston ................... 22.1/50

14. Philadelphia ............. 22.1/44

15. San Diego ................ 22.0/44

16. Detroit .................. 21.5/47

17. Miami .................... 21.1/45

18. Seattle .................. 19.9/45

19. Cincinnati ............... 19.0/42

20. Phoenix .................. 17.7/40

21. Chicago .................. 17.3/35

22. Charlotte ................ 16.9/34

23. Indianapolis ............. 16.3/33

24. Atlanta .................. 16.2/32

25. St. Louis ................ 15.9/35

26. Oakland .................. 15.7/38

27. Nashville ................ 13.7/30

28. Baltimore ................ 13.5/29

29. New York (Jets) .......... 12.8/28

30. New York (Giants) ........ 12.6/29

NFL Avg ...................... 24.1/47

Source: Nielsen

Pub Date: 12/06/98

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