Race not charismatic enough: Preakness TV ratings tumble


May 18, 1999|By Milton Kent

Saturday turned out to be not such a great day at the races for ABC or Channel 2, as Preakness viewership was off from last year.

Nationally, the race did a 3.8 Nielsen overnight rating from a sampling taken of the country's largest television markets. That figure is off 7 percent from the 4.1 rating of 1998, and the race was badly beaten by the two NBA playoff games that ran during the 90 minutes that race coverage aired.

The good news for ABC is that with Charismatic going for a Triple Crown in three weeks, the numbers for the Belmont should spike higher, if the past two years, when Triple Crowns were on the line, are any indication.

The news was bad for Channel 2, as the ratings for its daylong race coverage were down more than 20 percent from last year.

The station's 8 1/2-hour program averaged a 3.2 rating and 10 share of the audience, off 22 percent from 1998 (4.1/14), while the first half-hour of ABC's Preakness coverage did an 8.4/23, off 23 percent from the corresponding time last year. The final hour of the race garnered a 12.8/32 here, down 22 percent from the 16.5/36 last year.

The 15 minutes in which the race took place, the 5: 30-5: 45 quarter-hour, did an impressive 14.9/36, but that was down 27 percent from last year, when the race scored a 20.4/42.

That certain spin

When listening to Orioles games on the radio, one should never forget that the announcers, Jim Hunter and Fred Manfra, are either club employees or are selected with the club's approval.

If you needed a reminder of the above, Hunter provided it Saturday night during the Orioles-Texas broadcast while recounting the particulars of Rafael Palmeiro's departure. Not surprisingly, Hunter's take seemed a page right out of the club's playbook.

Certainly, people can view situations differently, and Hunter is entitled to his opinion, provided, of course, that it's his opinion. The distressing thing about Saturday's and Orioles broadcasts in general, in recent seasons, is that listeners are rarely given the chance to hear opinions that run counter to the club's vantage point.

But smart listeners have probably already figured that out.

Flip's card

One of the best baseball producers in the business, John "Flip" Filippelli, has left Fox to become vice president of production for ABC Sports, effective immediately.

Filippelli had headed up Fox's baseball coverage since the network got the regular-season and postseason packages in 1996, and he is considered by many to be the successor to the late Harry Coyle among baseball producers. In 20 years, with Fox, NBC and the Baseball Network, Filippelli received 38 Emmy nominations and six Emmy Awards, including one last month for his production of the game telecast of the night last September when Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record.

Veteran producer Michael Weisman, formerly executive producer at NBC, will take over as lead baseball producer at Fox.

Filippelli's presence at ABC may portend the network's interest in getting back into baseball when the rights become available after next season.

Lax coverage

OK, so we'll grant that lacrosse fever hasn't exactly swept the nation, but it shouldn't have been so difficult to get results from either the men's or women's college tournaments from the national outlets as it was this weekend.

If you held your breath waiting for scores or highlights from the weekend highlight shows, well, here's hoping for expanded lung capacity on your part. And a check of the Big Five network-connected Web sites (CBS.Sportsline.com, CNNSI.com, ESPN.com, Fox Sports.com, MSNBC.com) showed that only ESPN and CBS bothered to carry an Associated Press game story of the Maryland women's national championship victory.

Maybe things will get better for the coming men's quarterfinal and Final Four rounds, but we'll hope for greater lung capacity for everyone.

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