In race for television ratings, O's battle Mariners for top spot

THE BALTIMORE SUN

If the standings hold up, the Orioles and the Seattle Mariners may battle for the right to represent the American League in the World Series.

It also appears that the two teams, or more to the point, their fans, will duel each other for ratings supremacy this year.

Through June 29, the average rating for Orioles games that air on Channel 13 is a 14.7, the second-best rating for all of Major League Baseball, and only two-tenths of a rating point behind the Mariners, whose games are pulling a 14.9 rating.

The teams swapped first place in ratings throughout June, with the Orioles leading for two weeks in the middle of the month when they were playing series against high-profile American League East rivals like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and their interleague dustup with the Atlanta Braves.

Toward the end of the month, when the Mariners were playing their AL West rivals, the Oakland Athletics and Anaheim Angels, their ratings shot up, while the Orioles on Channel 13 stayed stable.

The ratings news is also good for the other Orioles television outlets. Channel 54's 10.5 average rating is sixth-best in baseball, and when the numbers for channels 13 and 54 are combined and weighted, the 12.8 figure is third-best, behind only the Mariners and Cleveland Indians.

Home Team Sports, the team's cable carrier, reports that it is averaging a 7.5 Nielsen rating for its telecasts, which is 11th-best in baseball and impressive, because between 30 percent and 40 percent of the area's households with television sets don't have cable.

The weighted average for all three outlets is a 9.5, which would be sixth-best in baseball. But remember that this figure combines the ratings of a VHF station (Channel 13) with those of a UHF station (Channel 54), which are traditionally lower, and with a cable outlet (HTS), whose distribution isn't as great as a television station.

Right about now, countless eyes are fogged over from all this data, but the bottom line is that high ratings means big dollars. Industry sources report that Orioles broadcast television games are garnering between $2,250-$2,500 per 30-second spot, and HTS is getting about $1,500-$1,700 for the same-length commercial.

That should help CBS, the corporate parent of Channel 13 and HTS, recoup some of the more than $20 million the company is rumored to be paying the Orioles this year in rights fees between the two outlets.

Around the dial

Baseball and tennis are the big-ticket items on this holiday weekend's menu.

The dance card for the Wimbledon men's final will be filled with today's semifinals, airing at noon on NBC (Channel 11) and at 5 p.m. on HBO, with the winners meeting Sunday for the title at 9 a.m. The women's title match between the future of the sport, 16-year-old Martina Hingis, and Jana Novotna, whose last Wimbledon final appearance saw her lose a 5-1 third-set lead to Steffi Graf four years ago, airs at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

ESPN presents its traditional Independence Day tripleheader of baseball, with the Pirates meeting the Cardinals at 3 p.m., the Yankees and Blue Jays at 7 p.m., and the Angels as host to the Mariners at 10 p.m. The Orioles wrap up the first half of the season in Detroit, with games airing at 7 p.m. tonight and tomorrow on Channel 54, and Sunday's game at 1 p.m. on HTS.

On the horizon is baseball's "All-Star Monday," the prelude to Tuesday's All-Star Game. ESPN will carry Monday's festivities, beginning with the All-Star Gala and a celebrity softball game at 7: 30 p.m., followed by the Home Run Derby at 9 p.m.

There's more WNBA coverage this weekend. NBC airs a one-hour look at the new league's creation after Wimbledon coverage at 1 p.m. tomorrow, followed by the Charlotte Sting meeting the Los Angeles Sparks. Lifetime continues its telecasts at 9 tonight, with New York traveling to Houston.

Finally, TNT and NBC will share coverage of the Celebrity Golf Championship from Lake Tahoe, Nev., with athletes from other sports and entertainers competing for a $100,000 first prize in a 54-hole tournament. First-round coverage airs at 3 p.m. today on TNT, with the second round going at 4 p.m. tomorrow, and the final round at 3 p.m. Sunday, both on Channel 11.

Milton Kent can be reached via e-mail at MDKENT25 aol.com.

Pub Date: 7/04/97

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