New O's affiliates succeeding (but WHIP isn't one of them)

ON MEDIA

Commentary

The Kickoff

June 08, 2007|By RAY FRAGER

You want some good statistics about the Orioles? I can't pass along anything that shows improvements in RBIs, ERA or WHIP. Then again, I'd have to know what WHIP is.

(You, in the back, with your hand up. Yes? Walks and hits per inning pitched. Thank you.)

The happy numbers in this case have to do with Orioles television and radio broadcasts in their new homes.

Comparing this April with April 2006, Orioles games on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network drew an average 3.8 cable rating as opposed to the 3.0 Comcast SportsNet got. That means 3.8 percent of the Baltimore audience with cable TV was tuning in, an increase of 27 percent.

By simulcasting over-the-air games on WJZ/Channel 13 with MASN, the two channels combined for bigger viewership in the first month of the season. In 2006, Orioles games on WJZ and WNUV/Channel 54 averaged a 5.2 rating for the entire Baltimore TV market. This April, the combined rating for simulcast games on WJZ and MASN was 7.4, a 42 percent boost.

On radio, WHFS (105.7 FM) enjoyed a doubling of its nighttime share in the 25-54 age group in April over last year. During the 7 p.m.-midnight period, which nearly always included Orioles games, WHFS averaged a 6.0 share, meaning 6 percent of the Baltimore 25-54 audience listening to radio had its dial set for the Orioles. Last year, WHFS averaged a 3.0 share. The Orioles' previous radio home, WBAL (1090 AM), averaged 5.1 in April 2006, giving WHFS a nearly 18 percent increase.

Translated to raw numbers in the same age group -- or the "cume" -- WHFS averaged 55,300 listeners compared with WBAL's 33,800. (The cume, as defined at about.com, measures unduplicated people who listen during a time period.) That's almost a 64 percent rise.

All ratings information was provided by MASN and WHFS.

What are we to make of this? You can't chalk up the increases to the fans' sunnier outlook, unless you buy the idea that the Orioles' bullpen overhaul drove all those extra viewers and listeners. After all, one of baseball's verities (fine, call it a cliche) is that hope springs eternal. So hope would have sprung in April 2006, too.

From the time WHFS landed the Orioles, station management has contended that the combination of hearing the games in the clearer FM signal, increased programming and cross-promotional opportunities available on other CBS Radio stations in town -- including all-sports ESPN Radio 1300 -- would give the Orioles more ears. So far, that seems to be the case.

When it comes to TV, MASN has launched the Orioles in the kind of full frontal assault that Comcast SportsNet would not. After all, the Orioles (and the Washington Nationals) own MASN. Where Comcast SportsNet had its general sports news shows -- covering the Orioles, certainly, but other stories as well -- MASN has Orioles pre- and post-game programming, plus a weekly magazine-style show. MASN also has made sure to promote itself as the Orioles' home throughout the market.

In fact, given how there was bound to be some initial viewer confusion about where to find the games, MASN's numbers are even more impressive.

Sorry I can't help with the WHIP, though.

Giving credit

FoxSports.com had the scoop Sunday night, first reporting that, when it came to taking the Orlando Magic job, Billy Donovan was having what we might have called cognitive dissonance back in my college consumer behavior course (though, in those days, there was no Orlando Magic).

FoxSports had the story saying Donovan wanted to back out of his Orlando deal and stay at the University of Florida at least an hour before ESPN.com posted its version. But when ESPN's story appeared on the Web site, it didn't mention that Fox reported the news first. Professional courtesy requires such an acknowledgement, but ESPN does like to pretend nothing has been reported until it says so.

Roger the Great

Should Roger Federer reach Sunday's French Open final (9 a.m., WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4) -- presumably against Rafael Nadal -- he would be playing for more than just the one Grand Slam title he has never won. According to NBC commentator John McEnroe, Federer would be playing for history.

"If he wins the French Open," McEnroe said in a news release, "he'll be the greatest player of all time, ahead of [Rod] Laver, ahead of [Pete] Sampras."

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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