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Volume 24 No. 117
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Fox' Saturday MLB Overnight Rating Down To Start '12; ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" Flat

Fox earned a 2.3 overnight Nielsen rating for its first Saturday afternoon MLB coverage this past weekend, which was led by Red Sox-Tigers in 43% of markets. That figure is down 8% from a 2.5 overnight for the opening weekend last year, which was led by Tigers-Yankees in 59% of markets. The opening telecast this year did earn a 14.0 local rating in Detroit, marking the net’s highest-rated regular-season MLB telecast ever in the market. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 1.4 overnight for White Sox-Rangers, which was its first “Sunday Night Baseball” telecast of the season. That rating is flat compared to Giants-Dodgers to start last season. ESPN earned an 8.5 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth, marking the net’s highest-rated regular-season MLB game ever in the market (records date back to ’99) (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

TAKING IT TOO SERIOUSLY? USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Fox' Tim McCarver, during the Red Sox-Tigers broadcast Saturday, said, "There is nothing more disturbing than social networking." The comment "drew immediate social media reaction." McCarver said yesterday that "anyone who took him seriously was way off base." McCarver: "If anybody took that literally, they're not understanding the spirit of comment. Anybody listening to that broadcast who thinks it's anything other than being playful is just looking for something else. But it doesn't bother me. I pay no attention to it" (USA TODAY, 4/10). USA TODAY's Mike Foss noted it "didn't take long into the season for Tim McCarver to raise a few eyebrows." Foss: "In a world in which players and fans interact freely through social media platforms, announcers have followed suit." This "isn't the first time McCarver has made a seemingly out-of-touch remark" (USA TODAY, 4/9).

AROUND THE HORN: MLB is launching a new cable channel tonight at 7:00pm ET called MLB Network Strike Zone, which is patterned after the NFL's successful RedZone Channel. The channel already has signed affiliate deals with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, DirecTV and Dish Network. The channel will operate on Tuesday and Friday nights during the season, when MLB Network carries live games. During that time, Strike Zone will provide live look-ins and highlights commercial free. It will be part of DirecTV's Sports Pack and MLB Extra Innings package, and part of Dish Network's Multi-Sport Pack (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

GROWING UP: SportsNet N.Y. President Steve Raab in an interview with MULTICHANNEL NEWS, said, "After six years, the programming on the RSN should be right, operating at the right expense levels, the talent has developed and matured." Asked if there is "any chance of getting back on Dish's air," Raab responded, "If they don't want to be in sports in this market, I'm not sure what we can do." Asked about ad sales, Raab said by Opening Day, "we want to be at 70% to 80% of our ad sales. We'll be there and be at the high end of that range" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 4/9).

NEW GIG: In California, Dan Hayes interviewed FS San Diego's Mark Sweeney, who is a baseball studio analyst for the newly formed RSN's pre- and post-game Padres shows, as well as an in-game and sideline analyst. Asked if he had "any live broadcast experience before the last two weeks," Sweeney answered, "I had done on-air stuff with Fox 5 here and playoff stuff, but nothing this substantial. ... I also understood, the type of player I was and not having a household name, I had a small window of opportunity. I'm not degrading what my situation is, but it's the truth and you see it. They all want the big name. But having this opportunity is very exciting and humbling." Sweeney explained, "I feel like I'm prepared for this. There's a lot of stuff I need to learn and go through rep-wise. But I think I'm prepared to talk baseball and let people understand how hard it is, but also show the good things about the game that are the insides" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 4/8).