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Despite Lower TV Ratings, Orioles On Pace To Increase Attendance

July 16, 2014

The Baltimore Orioles are in a great place as they take some time off during the 2014 MLB All-Star break. The Birds have a 52-42 record and are in first place in the American League East, with a four-game lead against the second-place Toronto Blue Jays. 

At the 2013 All-Star break, Baltimore was in third place in the AL East, trailing the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Despite the team's success on the field, Orioles telecasts are averaging 5.6 percent of Baltimore-area television viewers through the first week of July, according to a July 14 report by John Ourand of the SportsBusiness Journal. That is a 7 percent drop from the same viewing period in 2013. 

How can a team with a passionate fan base be a big hit on the field, while losing television viewers and possible ad revenue? 

"There are many reasons why ratings can be down, but I think there are two key factors when it comes to Baltimore," Ourand said. "The Washington Wizards' longer-than-expected run in the NBA Playoffs clearly impacted those watching sports in Baltimore. Also, the region was one of the strongest in the country for World Cup viewing. And while the games were not head-to-head against the Orioles, sports fans only have a limited amount of time to dedicate to watching television. I do expect that as long as Baltimore remains in the hunt for a playoff spot, those numbers will rise."

A race for the MLB playoffs after the All-Star Game could lead to a ratings increase for the Orioles, said John McGuinness, MASN vice president and general sales manager.

"If you look at the last time Baltimore was in a similar position at the break (in 2012), and applied the same growth to current ratings, the Orioles will establish new all-time highs across every key demographic," McGuinness said. 

McGuinness said even though the ratings had dropped off, the Orioles' success on the field had helped MASN attract sponsors.

"The excitement and the support surrounding the Orioles has been tremendous -- the demand just continues grow," McGuinness said. "Partnering with MASN goes much deeper than simply delivering eyeballs. The advertising community understands this. They know we watch their schedules carefully and always over-deliver on whatever was agreed upon."

McGuinness also talked about the difference between sports broadcasts on national networks and those on regional networks.

"Local home-team sports create a powerful lean-forward, edge-of-your-seat viewing experience -- an experience you cannot find anywhere else on TV (live sports or otherwise)," McGuiness said. "There's a special connection that occurs -- one that heightens awareness, enhances an image, influences purchasing decisions and sponsors' bottom lines. 

"Think about it. Local fans have skin in the game. They win and lose with their teams. They talk as if they took part in the game -- 'I can't believe we came back last night,' 'We never gave up,' 'We are on a roll' -- because they did, in their own special way." 

Another factor to take into account when gauging a team's success is attendance, said Victor DiMaio, the president of DiMaio and Associates, a political consulting and audience analysis firm based in Tampa, Fla.

"TV ratings are important, but it is putting fannies in the seats that determines the success or failure of any sports franchise," DiMaio said. "If you use the numbers published by ESPN, the Orioles have in 48 home dates in 2014 drawn a total of 1,440,288 fans to Oriole Park. Should they remain in the race for the playoffs, then they are on pace to draw over 2.5 million fans in 2014, which would exceed the over 2.3 million fans they drew last season."