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Rams' Owner Gets the Picture--So Will Team's Fans

January 03, 1986|LARRY STEWART

Score one for Georgia Frontiere. Her decision Thursday to buy enough tickets so that the Rams' playoff game against Dallas Saturday at 1 p.m. could be televised locally has made her a bit of a local heroine.

Next up is Al Davis. But don't expect him to do what Frontiere did, thus enabling Channel 4 to carry the Raiders' playoff game against New England Sunday at 1 p.m. There'll be too many tickets left at today's 1 p.m. deadline because the capacity at the Coliseum is 92,516.

If the Rams had to sell that many, their game Saturday wouldn't be televised locally, either.

The feeling here is that since NFL playoff games are big events, they should be exempt from blackouts. Most fans want to attend a big event, regardless of whether it is televised or not.

The Rose Bowl, for example, is never blacked out in Los Angeles, yet it is difficult to get a ticket.

Granted, the Rose Bowl attracts a different kind of crowd than an NFL playoff game, but the point is that television doesn't drastically affect attendance if the event is a big one.

"That's easy for a fan to say, or for you to write," said Val Pinchbeck, the NFL's director of broadcasting. "But there is another side to the argument.

"Say, for example, that New England beats the Raiders and Cleveland beats Miami. Then next week New England plays at Cleveland. If the game is exempt from being blacked out and the temperature in Cleveland is around 15 degrees, you'd be lucky to get a live gate of 15,000."

Financially, the Raiders don't benefit directly from a larger attendance. Each playoff team gets a fixed amount from the league.

"It doesn't matter if there are two people in the stands or a full house," Al LoCasale, the Raiders' executive assistant, said.

Owner Al Davis' thinking is that a full house helps inspire his team. Winning is his main concern.

Saturday's Cleveland-Miami playoff game fell about 2,300 tickets shy of a sellout and will be blacked out in the Miami area. Dolphin owner Joe Robbie is taking a lot of heat for not stepping in to buy the remaining tickets.

Without a legitimate sellout, the only way an NFL game can be televised locally is if both teams plus league officials agree to do it. That happened only during the strike season of 1982, when nonsellout playoff games were televised because of what were called "extenuating circumstances."

The weakest argument for blacking out a game is that a team is giving away its product by televising it.

The flaw in that argument is that NFL teams aren't giving anything away. They each get more than $14 million a year from television. And where does the TV money come from?

Ultimately, it comes from viewers, or consumers, who theoretically buy the products that are advertised during NFL telecasts.

By lifting a TV blackout, the viewing audience is increased. Advertising rates are based on the size of the audience, which is determined by those all-important ratings.

NBC will lose about 5% of its viewing audience if Sunday's Raider game is blacked out. That won't affect what sponsors pay for this game, but it may affect what they pay for similar playoff games in the future.

If Sunday's Raider game is blacked out as expected, the game can still be seen on TV.

One way is to drive toward San Diego far enough to pick up NBC affiliate Channel 39. A station spokeswoman said Thursday the station is planning to carry the game.

There is also an NBC affiliate in Bakersfield, Channel 17, and the San Luis Obispo affiliate, Channel 6, can be picked up in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.

But the easiest thing is to watch it where it is being brought in by a satellite dish. Many Southern California sports bars are now equipped with them.

NBC usually uses a frequency called KU-band, which can't be picked up by a dish that isn't specially equipped to do so. But dish owners are in luck Sunday. NBC is using both the KU-band and the more common C-band frequency. The C-band telecast should be on Satcom 2R, Channel 22.

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