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ESPN's telecast of Cal Ripken's record-breaking 2131st consecutive game played drew a "whopping" 7.5 cable rating, the highest mark for an ESPN baseball game. ESPN's Mike Soltys: "Our initial expectations weren't quite that high. ... [But] Ripken's streak had crossed over the sports line and got to be a wider story. That's where the audience kicked in" (Prentis Rogers, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/8). In Baltimore, Milton Kent notes that WJZ-Channel 13 got a 30.1 local rating and HTS did a 14.2/20 in the Baltimore area. Between 9:30 and 9:45, nearly 80% of all Baltimore TV homes were tuned to coverage of the game (Baltimore SUN, 9/8). The previous high ratings for non-NFL ESPN telecasts were Georgetown-St. John's basketball in February '85 (8.0) and last year's Florida State-Miami football game (7.7). The 9:30-9:45 portion of the program (when the game was made official) drew an 11.3, and the 11:30-12:30 postgame show drew a 7.3. ESPN's 7.5 rating includes over-the-air coverage on Baltimore's WJZ and DC's WFTY. Without those areas, it was 7.0 rating in the cable-only universe (ESPN). SILENCE IS GOLDEN: In Philadelphia, Mike Bruton writes, "For baseball junkies it was nirvana, and ESPN, the network charged with recording this piece of history, was up to the task" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/8). In Washington, Leonard Shapiro notes both Chris Berman and Buck Martinez "allowed ESPN's pictures to do the talking, the perfect approach to one of the greatest moments in sports history" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/8). NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol said ESPN did an "incredible, classy and effective job. It was TV sports for the ages" (USA TODAY, 9/8). In Orlando, Jerry Greene writes, "I'm told Berman first suggested turning off his mike and played a large role in the final decision. You're more than just a pretty face, Chris" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/8). In Houston, Carlton Thompson writes, "Berman forever will be known for his clever wit and nicknames. But when the moment dictates, he can be serious and compassionate. He proved that Wednesday night by saying nothing" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/8). ANOTHER LANDMARK: ESPN celebrated its 16th anniversary by announcing that it is the first cable network to hit 70% penetration of U.S. homes. That 70% represents 66,805,000 homes (ESPN). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Frederick Klein writes, "For my money, the most important date in the modern world of Sportsbiz was Sept. 7, 1979" -- ESPN's first day of cablecasting (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8).
America Online announced that it has exceeded 3.5 million subscribers, making it the largest online service. CompuServe currently claims about 3.4 million subscribers, and Prodigy more than 2 million. Delphi/MCI and The Microsoft Network have less than 500,000 each (AD AGE ONLINE, 9/8)....CompuServe is sponsoring CompuServe Day at the Ballpark for the Indians' September 9 game at Jacobs Field. The promotion includes a CompuServe display, distribution of free software and membership kits and prizes for fans (CompuServe)....Despite SportsChannel Florida's acquisition of U/Miami football rights, TCI and Continental Cablevision "say they have no plans to bring back the channel." Barry Jackson writes that SportsChannel "probably needs to acquire one of the local pro teams to get back on every cable system in South Florida." SportsChannel is expected to pursue the Marlins and Panthers, whose contracts are up next year, but getting the Lightning or Devil Rays would boost SportsChannel upstate where the Sunshine Network "dominates" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/8)....Still no word on Astros radio rights. Incumbent KPRC-AM is "intent on keeping the games," but KILT-AM is making a "big push." KTRH-AM is the "surprise contender" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/8)....The Center for Media Education and the United Church of Christ will protest the proposed sale of CBS to Westinghouse with the FCC (WASHINGTON POST, 9/8)....Merger talks between US West and Cablevision have reportedly broken off (NEWSDAY, 9/7). ....MSG Network is expected to announce Monday the signing of Kenny Albert, the 27-year-old son of Marv Albert, to handle Rangers games and other assignments. Albert, who has been doing Capitals play-by-play on HTS, will be replaced by Al Koken. The Capitals also announced that radio voice Ron Weber will continue for two more years and then be replaced when the team moves to a new arena (WASHINGTON POST, 9/8). ....In L.A., Larry Stewart reports that, for now, NFL ratings in the area are up over last year, when they actually had teams. Ratings for '95 Week 1 topped last year, 29.8 to 25.3 (L.A. TIMES, 9/8).
The following NFL games failed to sellout for this weekend and will be blacked out in their home markets. NOTE: The Lions-Vikings game was to have been blacked out in the Twin Cities, but TCF Bank and Channel 29 teamed up to buy the remaining 7,000 tickets. In past years, a fund established by General Mills had bought up remaining tickets for any game within 10% of a sellout, but that fund dried up last year. Five other Vikings home games this year remain non-sellouts (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/8). San Diego's opener also sold out just before the deadline. GAME LOCAL TIME NETWORK Tampa Bay at Cleveland 1:00 Fox Pittsburgh at Houston 12:00 NBC Jacksonville at Cincinnati 4:00 NBC Philadelphia at Arizona 7:00 TNT