Orioles not scoring with outlets as struggles pull down ratings


From the department of things that make sense comes today's tidbit that Orioles television ratings, like the team's performance, are off from last year.

Well, duhhh. It only stands to reason that when the hometown team's play is below expectations, fans won't tune in with the same frequency.

The only surprise is the level of tune-out. Between the two over-the-air carriers, channels 13 (WJZ) and 54 (WNUV), Orioles game ratings are off 29 percent from last year, and the share of the audience is down 23 percent.

By the way, the team's winning percentage is down 31 percent from the same point last year. Coincidence?

"There probably is some correlation," said Marcellus Alexander, Channel 13's vice president and general manager.

The two stations combined last year for an 11.9 rating and 22 share for the year, but are gathering only an 8.5/17 through the first 20 telecasts.

Channel 13, which is the official rights holder, has received an average 11.1 rating and 21 share for its 10 telecasts this year, down 20 percent from 1997's 13.9 rating and 19 percent from the 26 share of last season.

The drop is even greater for Channel 54, whose air time is leased to Channel 13 for game telecasts. This year's 10-game slate is averaging a 6 rating and 12 share, off 35 percent in ratings from last year's 9.3 and off 29 percent from 1997's 17 share.

Ratings for Home Team Sports could not be obtained yesterday.

What does it all mean? As with the ballclub, it's probably a little early for panic. If the team's performance improves, viewership will likely return to normal.

"While the ratings are off, the games still win their time slot and, in some cases, by a wide margin," said Alexander. "It's not as good as I'd like, but in the universe we're in and against the programming it goes up against, it's doing fine. Do I want the Orioles to win? Yes."

Alexander said the demand for commercial time on Orioles games remains high, and other key factors, including the average ad rate, are also in the station's favor.

However, if the ratings stay flat or take a further downturn, the prospect of "make-goods," which are free or discounted commercials on other shows, are a possibility.

Vecsey's troubles

There were, no doubt, more than a few NBA players sitting at home Wednesday night getting a terrific chuckle at the on-camera meltdown suffered by NBC analyst Peter Vecsey.

Vecsey, who writes a caustic NBA column in the New York Post, was delivering a halftime report during which he was supposedly providing the inside dope on the off-season doings of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Instead, he stumbled and bumbled, losing his place, looking as exposed as a guard who had been stripped of the ball by Michael Jordan. Maybe it was some sort of cosmic payback for the nastiness Vecsey has delivered on camera, in print and in person.

Meanwhile, NBC reports that Wednesday's Game 4 of the Jazz-Bulls series was the second-highest-rated Game 4 ever, pulling in a 19.1/33 in the Nielsen overnights. Through four games of the series, the average rating of 17.5 is the highest of all time, coming just ahead of the 17.1 for the first four games of the 1993 championships.

Around the dial

After weeks of an almost interminable buildup, the WNBA has launched its second season, and returns to the airwaves this weekend with a vengeance, beginning with two NBC (Channel 11) games. Tomorrow at 4 p.m., the Houston Comets and the New York Liberty, the teams that met for the title last year, go at it, with Phoenix and Los Angeles locking horns Sunday, same time, same station.

ESPN will have the Houston-Charlotte game Monday night at 7: 30, and if you haven't seen the WNBA promo spots, featuring a pseudo-1970s soul group, check them out. They are a scream.

It's a busy weekend for Fox (Channel 45), starting with tomorrow's "In the Zone," which features an interview with Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar and his brother, Sandy, at 12: 30. Sandy and his Cleveland teammates will meet the New York Yankees in the "Game of the Week" at 1 p.m.

On Sunday, Fox marks the end of the NFL Europe season with the World Bowl championship game from Frankfurt, Germany, matching that city's Galaxy against the Rhein Fire at 1 p.m. The network promises to place microphones on coaches, nTC quarterbacks and centers.

Former CBS announcer Tim Ryan makes his Fox debut and will join Bill Maas and Ronnie Lott, who leaves the pre-game show for the booth.

Pub Date: 6/12/98

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