Local TV viewers losing interest in O's: Ratings hit six-year low


July 30, 1999|By Milton Kent

The Orioles' broadcast television ratings slump continues, with the lowest numbers since 1993.

Through 42 telecasts on channels 13 and 54, not including yesterday's game against Texas, Orioles' games are averaging a 7.8 rating and 16 share of the audience on the two stations. The rating is off 8 percent from last year's 8.5, and the share is off 6 percent from last year's 17 share.

The rating measures the percentage of total households that have television sets watching a particular program, while the share is the measure of television sets that are on at a given time watching a show.

Individually, the drop-off is larger on games on Channel 13, where, through 25 telecasts, the Orioles are averaging a 9.4 rating, off 10 percent from last year, and a 19 share, off 5 percent from 1998. On 17 telecasts on Channel 54, Orioles games are averaging a 5.5 rating, down 8 percent from last year's 6.0 rating. The 12 share is the same as in 1998.

A big farce

What to do with Monday night's Tiger Woods-David Duval match play tournament?

Here's a suggestion: Turn your eyes away from it, ignore it and hope that we never see anything of its ilk again.

Look, it's not as if the sports landscape hasn't been littered by this kind of made-for-TV schlock before. Ever heard of "The Superstars" or the "World's Strongest Men"? They are certainly forerunners of the "Showdown at Sherwood."

It's just that few events have so totally perverted the concept of competition as this little set-to, arranged by IMG, the management firm that represents Woods and Duval. If these two guys are the best golfers in the world, shouldn't they prove it on the course on Sunday afternoons against other non-IMG golfers?

Of course, ABC officials and announcers, lambasted for arranging this tripe, have gone into full defense mode.

"I think there's a tendency among some of us to micro-analyze things. Maybe those of us who cover sports have forgotten what we got into this for. It's fun," said Mike Tirico, ABC's lead golf commentator.

Tirico, who will yield hosting duties to Al Michaels, went on to analogize the Duval-Woods match to a showdown between, say, Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire.

That conveniently ignores the notion that a baseball face-off of that type is an honest competition borne of that moment, not some contrived claptrap.

"[Golfer] Peter Jacobson said this is like the World Wrestling Federation. I'll gladly be Vince McMahon for a night," Tirico said.

Case closed.

The new recruit

Home Team Sports has added one of the Washington area's most respected producers and directors, Ernie Baur, to its team, as its executive producer and director of production.

Baur, a 14-time local Emmy award winner, is a 32-year television veteran and comes to HTS from Washington's Channel 5, where he was executive director. He has also produced and directed network telecasts for CBS and Fox.

Baur succeeds Tim Walbert, who left earlier this month for a spot with Titan Sports, the Connecticut-based telecast arm of the WWF. Baur becomes the fourth production chief at HTS since 1996.

Moving ahead

Tucked inside Northeastern University's voluminous racial and gender sports report card for 1997-98 was data that the number of minorities in sports broadcasting is growing, however incrementally.

Among the four major U.S. sports leagues, basketball had the highest percentage of minority broadcasters (23 percent), with blacks holding 18 percent of positions around the NBA and Latinos holding 5 percent, followed closely by baseball, where 3 percent of announcers are black and 19 percent are Latinos for a total of 22 percent.

Both baseball and basketball showed slight increases from the previous year, while football, where 18 percent of its announcers were either black or Latino, saw its percentage of minorities drop 2 percent from 1996-97. The announcing make-up for NHL games was completely white, the survey showed.

Three percent of NFL announcers last year were women, while only 1 percent of baseball broadcasters was female. An exclusively male broadcasting composition was found on both the NBA and NHL.

Around the dial

ESPN doubles up on its profiles of the century's greatest athletes this week, with a half-hour special on former San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana, the 25th-ranked athlete, at 7: 30 tonight, followed by 30 minutes on boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson, ranked 24th, at 10: 30.

Baltimore's own Nestor Aparicio, whose WNST (1570 AM) is marking its first anniversary this weekend, heads to Chicago this weekend to fill in on the One-on-One sports radio network at 9 a.m. both tomorrow and Sunday.

Fox (Channel 45) makes its maiden voyage into auto racing with Sunday's tape-delayed telecast of the Mid-Atlantic 200 IRL race from Dover, Del., at 3 p.m., followed by the Whitney Handicap horse race from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. NBC (Channel 11) will have coverage of a Le Mans style race from Portland, Ore., at 4 p.m. Sunday.

From the studios, ESPN has announced that it will expand "Monday Night Countdown" to two hours this season, and the show's 30-minute season premiere comes, well, at 7: 30 p.m. Monday. Finally, at 10 a.m. Sunday, CNN's "Page One" will explore the issue of female athletes posing nude.

Week's ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore during the past week (R-Rating; S-Share):

Event Day Ch. R/S

Orioles-Angels Fri. 13 11.5/20

Orioles-Angels Sun. 13 10.1/22

Liberty-Sparks Sat. 11 3.1/8

Olympic Tourn. Sat. 11 3.1/8

NBA Inside Stuff Sat. 11 2.7/7

Tour de France Sun. 2 2.7/6

NBC Special Sun. 11 2.4/5

Cubs-Mets Sat. 45 2.3/6

Golf Sun. 13 2.3/5

Golf Sat. 13 2.0/5

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