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BASEBALL SAYS REGIONALIZED COVERAGE WILL BE ONE- YEAR DEAL
Published October 5, 1995
In a brief written statement released yesterday by the MLB Office of the Commissioner, Barry Frank, hired by the league to negotiate the next TV deal, said the current regional TV arrangement will end after this year. Frank: "It is our intention, as we negotiate the next round of television contracts, that each game of the post-season will be seen by our fans in its entirety, nationally either on cable or network television. In the future, starting times will be arranged so that games will not conflict" (MLB). In L.A., Larry Stewart writes, "It didn't take long for [MLB] to recognize that its regional television coverage of postseason play doesn't work" (L.A. TIMES, 10/5). In Boston, Jim Baker calls Frank's proposal a "very nice intention," but adds that sources at ABC are "cool" to the concept. One ABC official: "Someone will spend a lot of money for rights and lose a lot with all those games on nationally the same day and night" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/5). EXPLAINING THE CURRENT DEAL: White Sox Vice Chair Eddie Einhorn, one of the architects of The Baseball Network, says the networks were not willing to carry an added round of playoffs at a time when LCS ratings were slipping. Einhorn: "So those games [would] have gone to cable. But with all our Washington problems [antitrust], we were told that was a sensitive issue. We thought there might be a clamor from viewers [about regionalization] and in some ways hoped there would be. ... Maybe Washington doesn't care about the postseason being on cable anymore. And unlike a few years ago, there are technical ways to go to the displaced fan" (Michael Heistand, USA TODAY, 10/5). CRITICISM FROM WITHIN: Dodgers GM Fred Claire: "We're missing something when people here can't see a game in the East. The best thing for baseball is exposure. Instead of figuring out a way to get them all on TV at the same time, we should be figuring out how to get them on TV at different times" (L.A. TIMES, 10/5). AL VP Phyllis Merhige: "I was going home to watch the Boston-Cleveland game last night. I was disappointed when I couldn't get it. But it's not baseball's decision. The regionalization decision was made by The Baseball Network" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/5). DISH JOCKEYS: Several areas are reporting that out-of-market games have been available via satellite. In Boston, Jack Craig reports, "Descrambling the pictures is taking place among some satellite home dish owners and bars, via a financial package of games with middle men, not under baseball auspices" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/5). One TBN official, on the formal no-descrambling policy: "It's a tough thing, I know, but it's the best way to protect the affiliates and ratings. I know it's a tough issue, but we're leaving at the end of the year" (Stan Olson, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/5). In San Francisco, Bruce Jenkins writes, "Best idea for fans planning to visit sports bars for the weekend games: Call ahead to make sure" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/5). RATINGS AND AD DOLLARS: The overall Nielsen rating for Tuesday's four games on NBC was a 10.3 -- down 9% from the AL LCS opener in '93 and 16% from the NL LCS opener in '92 (AP/Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/5). The preliminary overnight rating for last night's games (only for 8-11pm EDT) was a 12.7 (Nielsen Sports Marketing). BROADCASTING & CABLE reports a "mixed bag" for local ratings this season, with some markets seeing a 1% ratings drop and others (Cleveland, Seattle, California and Cincinnati) seeing "substantial" gains in the second half (B&C, 10/2 issue). CNBC examined the drop in interest among advertisers this year. Media buyer Thomas DeCabia: "It's not the sought-after property such as football or even college football." CNBC's Mabel Jong: "Baseball is also competing for ad dollars in one of the most competitive advertising market places in recent memory with winning network lineups and NFL football as formidable competition" (CNBC, 10/4).