Radio-TV Ratings Reflect Orioles' Magic '12 Season
By Dave Hughes
The guys who run Baltimore's sports stations all agree: The winning Orioles did significantly boost this season's radio and TV ratings.
"I can directly attribute our higher ratings to the Orioles and their better play," said Bob Philips, vice president and market manager of CBS Radio Baltimore, which owns WJZ-FM, 105.7 The Fan. "It certainly helped us. It's great when both sports teams do well. It drives up our ratings."
The Orioles, who took second place in the American League East and qualified for one of two AL wild-card spots, averaged about 4,000 more fans per game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2012 and topped last year's mark in total attendance, according to team statistics.
In the Baltimore radio market, WJZ-FM, which doesn't even carry Orioles play-by-play, was No. 1 among men ages 25-54 in October, largely because of incredible listener interest in the team, Philips said.
WJZ-FM took first place for that key male demographic in October's full-day ratings, according to radio ratings firm Arbitron. That's up from sixth place in July and August and fourth place in September, as the Orioles prepared for their playoff run.
The station's morning show with Ed Norris and Steve Davis -- a frequent Orioles talk waterhole -- has been first in that male 25-54 demo most months since summer, rising in total audience share from a 7.7 in July to a lofty 10.3 in October.
Philips said his station, even without Orioles play-by-play, often beat rival WBAL, the Orioles' flagship station.
Philips pointed out that WJZ-FM posted a strong 6.8 share at night with team-themed call-in programming, even when WBAL was carrying Orioles baseball. That's up from a 5.6 share in September and a 6.2 in August.
"Our listenership wants to talk in the pre- and postgame shows," Phillips said. "We want to interact with fans. People love talking about [the Orioles], especially when they're winning."
Dave Hill, the program director at WBAL, 1090 AM, which carried the Orioles for many years except for a stretch between 2007 and '10, when they were on WJZ-FM, agreed with Philips about the ratings surge.
"Without a doubt, it has helped us in the ratings," Hill said.
Hill pointed to the Oct. 12 AL Division Series afternoon game against the New York Yankees -- with a disputed home run call -- that ran smack into the key afternoon drive-time slot.
"Now that was drama on the radio," Hill said. "That was one big day and one big game, but it can lift a station's ratings for an entire ratings period. We've seen an increase at night in all demos, compared to last season."
WBAL, which carries non-sports news and talk during mornings and afternoons, had an overall ratings jump from 10th place in July to sixth place in October, according to Arbitron.
Its evening sports coverage surged from seventh place in July to third place in September and October among men 25-54.
"People still like to listen to baseball on radio," Hill said. "When we got the team back, we were super excited."
Nestor Aparicio, who owns Towson sports talker WNST, 1570 AM, said the Orioles' improved play was also good for his station and Web site, wnst.net.
"We definitely saw a huge surge of Twitter conversation and additions," he said.
That surge also impacted the team's TV ratings. According to the Sports Business Journal, the Orioles had the fourth-highest increase in Major League Baseball ratings during the 2012 regular season, with an even sharper spike in key audience demographics.
The Orioles averaged a 4.75 household rating on MASN this season, up from an average 3.2 rating in 2011, according to data the Baltimore Business Journal supplied.
The team averaged a 1.94 TV rating among adults ages 18-34, a 100 percent jump from last year's 0.97 mark. The Orioles also averaged a 2.56 rating among adults age 25-54 this season, a 112 percent increase from the network's 1.21 rating last year.
The TV audience for the Orioles' final regular-season home game on Sept. 30 was almost twice as large as the one for last year's last home game. According to The Baltimore Sun, there were 91,000 total viewers watching the Orioles' regular-season home finale, compared with 47,000 on the last home telecast in 2011, which is a 94-percent increase.
"With the club having turned a corner and with a solid buzz building, we [saw MASN's Orioles broadcasts] dominate almost on a nightly basis," said John McGuinness, senior vice president and general sales manager for MASN.
Issue 179: November 2012