Early numbers indicate a mismatch seen by few


If Baltimore and a few of the nation's key markets are any indicator, Sunday's Super Bowl ratings may turn out not to be so super.

According to Peter Leimbach, Channel 2's ace numbers cruncher and this week's sole and official "On the Air" ratings supplier, Sunday's Super massacre between San Francisco and San Diego did a 36.6 rating and 53 share locally.

Framed against any other televised event, those are boffo numbers, except that they're down 14 percent from last year's game, which got a 42.6/59 and also was carried by Channel 2, when it was an NBC affiliate.

Nationally, an overnight check of 32 metered markets shows that the game did a 41.2/61, down 6 percent from the 44.0/65 of last year's second Dallas-Buffalo encounter.

Sources tell "On the Air" that ABC researchers are projecting that when the final numbers from all the nation's markets are tabulated and released later today, the game will come out with a 40.3 rating, which would tie it with the 1992 Washington-Buffalo game for 22nd on the all-time Super Bowl list.

That number would just barely make the projection ABC Sports executive producer Jack O'Hara quoted during a pre-Super Bowl teleconference. It would also continue a trend of reduced Super Bowl audiences. None of the past nine championship games has drawn a 46 rating or attracted more than a 67 share of the available audience.

Baltimore's numbers were lower than those in the five largest markets, New York (38.8/57), Los Angeles (41.2/69), Chicago (43.0/62), Philadelphia (44.2/60) and San Francisco (50.5/77), but higher than West Palm Beach, Fla., where the game did a 32.2/50, the lowest of the 32 metered markets.

Even as the 49ers were laying waste to the Chargers, 49-26, in a game that was largely decided when San Diego lost the coin flip, local and national audience levels stayed fairly consistent throughout the evening, making second-half advertisers, who ponied up $1 million for 30 seconds of national time, reasonably happy. More ratings later this week.

Big Apple savings

The New York Times is reporting that SportsChannel New York, one of two Home Team Sports-like networks that serves the nation's largest market, will become a basic channel on the Time Warner system, effective March 1.

SportsChannel New York, which carries the Mets and Islanders as well as the New Jersey Devils and Nets, will now cost subscribers $1.24 per month, as it will be packaged with the Sci-Fi Channel, as opposed to the current $12-$14 monthly fee.

"It's to meet demand," said Robert Jacobs, general counsel of the Time Warner New York City Cable Group, which has 1 million subscribers. "For a significant number of fans, $12 to $14 has been more than they could afford."

One hopes that our friends at United Artists and Comcast, who hold the franchises for the city and most of the suburbs, respectively, are paying attention, and will take similar action here regarding HTS, for which local subscribers are frankly being gouged.

By the way, City Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi has promised to try to turn up the heat on United Artists to get ESPN2 into city homes. You'll remember that UA officials said the channel could be available by December or January.

Stay tuned.

Fox on ice

John Madden can rest easy now, as his new network, Fox, has officially added another sport besides pro football with the release of its 29-game NHL schedule yesterday.

As originally planned, Fox will begin its slate April 2, but thanks to the lengthy lockout, the network has added three weeks of regular-season coverage to the two games it had scheduled.

Each week's slate will feature regionalized coverage, and all of the major markets will be taken care of.

The Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues will appear each week, and the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and four other teams get three appearances each. The Washington Capitals will make two cracks at the big time.

No word on times or on personnel for the games or any pre-game program.

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