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Guess You Had to Be There to See Dodgers

September 13, 1996|LARRY STEWART

In just about any other city, if a local baseball team were involved in a pennant race, as are the Dodgers, every game would be televised.

The Baltimore Orioles will end up with 151 of their 162 games on local television, counting over-the-air and cable. The New York Yankees' total is 150.

Twenty of the 28 teams televise at least 100 games locally. Seven more do 50 to 100. Only one, the Dodgers, schedules fewer than 50 regular-season local telecasts.

Why? Basically, it's economics, one factor being able to sell enough advertising to justify televising additional games. "We could handle a few more games, maybe 52-55," said Channel 5 General Manager Greg Nathanson. "But we're pretty limited too. There are a lot of 4:30 games, which don't work for us, and ESPN takes Wednesday nights and Fox takes Saturday afternoons."

Another problem is the Dodgers don't draw good ratings unless they're in playoff contention.

That's L.A. for you. Look at the poor Angels. They're out of it, and Channel 9, obligated to televise all 50 of the games that were scheduled before the start of the season, is stuck with minuscule ratings.

The Dodgers and flagship station Channel 5 scheduled 46 regular-season telecasts last season and 46 again this season. If they originally scheduled, say, 100, and the Dodgers fell out of contention, Channel 5's sales people wouldn't be very happy.

The way it is now, Dodger fans aren't very happy.

What makes things doubly bad is the Dodgers are one of only a handful of teams without a supplemental cable package.

At least the Dodgers are making some progress. Before the Dodgers went from Channel 11 to Channel 5 two years ago, no home games were televised. Ten were scheduled this season.

And next season, there will be 52 Dodger games on Channel 5, plus an additional 40 on Tele-TV, a not-yet-launched digital microwave service. But for now, Dodger fans are concerned about this season.

The good news, according to the Dodgers' director of broadcasting, Brent Shyer, and Channel 5's executive producer of sports, Joe Quasarano, is that an effort will be made to add telecasts if the Dodgers and San Diego Padres continue to battle it out in the National League West.

Adding a baseball telecast creates all kinds of problems, mainly because other programming, and its commercials, must be preempted. But it can be done.

The next Dodger telecast won't be until next Tuesday from Colorado, but there's a possibility that 10 of the Dodgers' last 12 regular-season games will be televised. Four are already scheduled for Channel 5, including one home game Sept. 24, and the station might add three more home games--Sept. 26, 27 and 29 against the Padres--if there's still a race.

Fox will show the Sept. 21 game from San Diego, which has been rescheduled from 8 p.m. to 1 p.m. at Fox's request.

Channel 5 will now show the Dodgers and Padres on Sunday, Sept. 22, instead of Saturday, as previously scheduled.

And then Fox will probably show the Padres and Dodgers from Dodger Stadium on the next Saturday, Sept. 28.

ESPN figures to show the San Francisco Giants and Dodgers from Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 25, provided the game is a sellout. The sellout rule takes effect the final three weeks of the season, and that is why ESPN did not show the Dodger game Wednesday in L.A.

But all rules are off for the final day of the season. So ESPN could show the season finale against San Diego on Sept. 29, sellout or not, and so could Channel 5.


The ABC college football game to be shown here Saturday at 12:30 p.m. is Brigham Young at Washington, while most of the country gets Michigan at Colorado.

Why wouldn't L.A. get the more desirable game?

It's called regionalization.

"In doing college football for more than 30 years, we've learned fans like to see games from their region," ABC spokesman Mark Mandel said. "And since Washington is a Pac-10 school, and Los Angeles is Pac-10 country, it gets Washington-BYU, even though we are aware some people would prefer Michigan-Colorado."

Said Channel 7 program director Connie Borge: "We've had only one complaint so far."

With Michigan-Colorado available on pay-per-view, might ABC be intentionally trying to drive up pay-per-view sales?

"We'd be out of our minds to even think of that," Mandel said. "Our main objective is to get over-the-air ratings, and we do that by putting the most appropriate games in each market."

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