It's by no means an ironclad policy, but Steve Marks, Channel 45's general manager, is pretty sure that, whenever possible, he'll pass on carrying Washington Redskins games.
"I really believe in the greater Baltimore area, there is just not that much interest in the Redskins. We're continuing to choose what we believe is the best game," said Marks.
Longtime Baltimoreans may hate to read this, but the Redskins do enjoy a measure of popularity here in Charm City, particularly as ratings go. For example, the Sept. 17 game in Denver did a solid 10.9 rating in Baltimore.
Channel 45's problem is that over half that figure, a 5.7 rating, came from Baltimore-area viewers, mostly in Anne Arundel and Howard counties, who were watching the game on Channel 5 out of Washington.
Because the NFL deems Baltimore a secondary market of Washington (their words, not ours), Channel 45 must carry any Redskins road game, but when the team is at home, the station, in consultation with Fox officials, can pass on those games.
The station went that route Oct. 1, carrying the New York Giants-San Francisco game instead of Redskins-Cowboys, and on Sunday, when it took San Francisco-St. Louis rather than Redskins-Lions, with mixed results.
"Their games have been competitive, but we don't get that many Redskins complaints or letters," Marks said.
The ratings game
The World Series has been big so far for the local carriers, producing some of the best baseball ratings of the year.
According to Sharon Walz, Channel 11's ratings researcher and this week's "Media Watch" numbers source, Game 1 did a 16.9 rating with a 28 share of the audience for Channel 2 on Saturday night. Sunday's second game on Channel 11 did a 19.9/29, and Tuesday's Game 3, also on Channel 11, posted a 20.0/35, beating ABC's popular entertainment lineup.
Saturday's Maryland-Clemson football game on Channel 13 (6.3/16) nudged out Notre Dame-Southern California on Channel 11 (6.0/14), and Channel 11's Sunday NFL doubleheader of Dolphins-Jets (8.5/21) and Denver-Kansas City (16.4/32) outpaced Channel 45's presentation of San Francisco-St. Louis (5.1/13) and Atlanta-Tampa Bay (3.9/9).
Pull the plug on plugs
Big television events, like the World Series, bring the risk of network flag-waving that viewers have come to expect.
But NBC went too far Tuesday night, first with a shot of sports chief Dick Ebersol yukking it up with acting commissioner Bud Selig, then reporter Jim Gray chatting it up with Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and four Miami Dolphins in the Cleveland stands.
Not coincidentally, the feature NFL game Sunday on NBC is Miami-Buffalo. Assuming the network didn't provide the tickets for the football players, NBC should have stifled the urge to shill and let the World Series be.