CFLs lose ratings battles but win war should lose Matte as analyst


You need something to take your mind off the potential baseball strike. And there's nothing that can perk up a dreary day like a little ratings news.

Last Saturday's initial Baltimore CFLs telecast on Channel 2 performed well in the ratings. The game drew an 8.5 rating and 17 share, winning prime time for WMAR. Two other individual shows had higher numbers, but no other station's entire prime-time lineup performed better. (Channel 11's "Walker, Texas Ranger" and Channel 13's "The Commish" each drew a 9.0/18. Perhaps "Walker" appealed to those who didn't find the CFL game violent enough.)

In brochures aimed at advertisers, Channel 2 had predicted a 16.0 rating, according to Channel 11's Sharon "The Ratings Maven" Walz, who not only supplies local ratings information, but also now doubles as a TV mole. By comparison, WMAR averaged 14.8 for prime-time Orioles games last season, though it hasn't been unusual for Orioles Opening Day telecasts -- and that Saturday game was a local TV opener -- to draw in the 20s.

(Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. The v-chip would measure how many punches Chuck Norris throws on "Walker.")

The CFL telecast itself was well-done. Channel 2's production might not have been up to network standards, but it was 'D extremely close. The camera angles and replays left little to be desired. WMAR's Scott Garceau was reliably professional on play-by-play.

On the other hand, Tom Matte shouldn't be the analyst. Matte is a Baltimore team official. Regardless of whether his analysis betrays any bias -- and no one is truly objective about anything anyway -- Matte can't be expected to view a game the same way as someone without a stake in the outcome.

It's not that he was an outrageous homer Saturday, but any comment -- say, about the officiating -- could be tinted in a silver-and-blue light.

Speaking 2

ESPN2's "SportsNight" was making light of the Baltimore CFL team's lack of a nickname during the Sunday show. The solution offered by "SportsNight," which noted the shared name for the CFL's Ottawa and Saskatchewan teams, was to call Baltimore the Rough Riders (or Roughriders), too. . . .

On "Talk2" last week, MTV's Chris Connelly filled in for host Jim Rome, who may have been off thinking up girls' names for NFL quarterbacks.

As one might have expected, Connelly sprinkled plenty of rock 'n' roll references into his commentary. He was way off the mark, though, when he tried to be funny by relating how many of the Rolling Stones could have been intoxicated by the amount of alcohol found in NHL player Bob Probert's blood on a drunken-driving arrest. . . .

"SportsNight" (am I watching too much ESPN2 or what?) has featured some amusing bits with Vic Starr, who plays a caricatured sportscasting phony, complete with awful wigs. Wednesday night, Starr offered -- in his best, deep, Columbia School of Broadcasting tones -- the opinion that a major impact of a baseball strike likely would be no games.

Ratings R Us

Say what you will about The Baseball Network -- go ahead, I'll wait -- but the numbers so far bear out the wisdom of putting major-league teams' games into their home markets.

The average for the first three prime-time games on ABC is a 7.7 rating and 15 share. In Baltimore, the two games without the Orioles received a 6.5/11.

When the Orioles appeared, the game got a 14.8/28.

Last year, CBS' afternoon games of the week averaged a 3.8 rating. In 1989, the last season that ABC had carried prime-time, regular-season baseball, the games averaged 6.2. And five years ago, it was a much different TV universe (for one thing, Jupiter wasn't getting whacked by a comet), with fewer viewing alternatives. . . .

In the event of a baseball strike, ABC and NBC likely would replace games with movies, and ESPN might show minor-league games, the Associated Press reported.

Following the famous

ESPN2 will present the Baseball Hall of Fame induction on same-day tape today at 6:30 p.m. . . . ESPN is quite lucky to have legal expert Don Weger helping with its coverage of the O. J. Simpson proceedings. On Friday, Weger said that, should the defense uncover other assailants of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, it would have a crucial impact on the case. That's why Weger is on TV and you're not. . . .

ESPN is entering a partnership to help develop sports programming for Australian television. Here's one suggestion: American rules football. . . . Late-breaking NFL rumor: Chevy Chase is headed back to Fox as a sideline reporter, but will work only Indianapolis Colts games. . . . Two fans of Sun columnist Susan Reimer called her last week to express concern that she would be leaving town because WBAL Radio's Jeff Rimer is going to work for Florida's Sunshine Network. No, they didn't think she was distraught; they thought the two were married. . . . This score just in: Shoemaker-Levy 9, Jupiter 0.

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