NFL Ratings Seem to Be Headed Up After Long Decline

Ratings for NFL telecasts, which had been steadily declining since the 1981 season, may be back on the upswing.

ABC’s telecast of the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins Monday night, despite being a 44-14 blowout by the Cowboys, got a national Nielsen rating of 20.7. ABC’s opener last season, the Rams vs. Dallas, got an 18.9 rating.

Only one Monday night telecast got a higher rating last year--the season finale between the Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, with a 25.1. The next-best rating was a 19.4 for the Raiders and Seattle.

The NFL games on CBS last Sunday, with Minnesota’s upset victory over San Francisco being the primary telecast, averaged a 13.3 national rating. Last season, CBS drew an 8.3 national rating on opening day.

NBC was off slightly from last season. Its doubleheader got average national ratings of 7.4 and 10.8, compared to 7.3 and 12.4 a year ago. The second-game rating might have been even a little lower, but NBC executive producer Mike Weisman decided to cut away in most of the country from the Raiders’ lopsided victory over the New York Jets and go to the more exciting game between the Rams and Denver Broncos.


In Los Angeles, Sunday’s San Francisco-Minnesota game drew a rating of 16.2, while San Diego-Buffalo on NBC got a 9.5.

Add ratings: The New York Mets-Dodgers telecast on NBC last Saturday got an 11.6 L.A. rating and a 12.7 New York rating. The national rating was 6.2.

ABC’s telecast of Saturday’s Florida State-Nebraska football game, which started at noon and went head-to-head against the Dodgers and Mets, drew only a 3.8 in L.A. and a national rating of 7.2.

The women’s final of the U.S. Open Saturday drew a national rating of 7.3. The men’s final on Sunday drew a 8.7, up from a 6.6 last year.

The Mets and Yankees were both on TV in New York Sunday, the Mets playing the Dodgers and the Yankees playing the Oakland A’s. The Mets got an 8.6 rating and the Yankees a 6.8.

For the record: It was incorrectly reported in this space last week that Katz Sports defaulted on a $2.9-million contract with the Big Ten last season. In fact, it was another syndicator that defaulted on the contract. Katz never had a deal with the Big Ten, nor did it default on any contract.

Hospital report: Angel and Ram announcer Bob Starr, who suffered a mild heart attack while playing golf in New York on Aug. 30, is back home after having been released from New Rochelle Hospital this week. He is expected to return to work about Oct. 1.

Former Yankee announcer Mel Allen filled in for Starr on telecasts from New York on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, and radio announcer Dick Enberg and Allan Conin worked Wednesday night’s telecast from Anaheim Stadium.

Channel 5 sports director Hec Highton said that Phil Stone of San Diego, who works regional telecasts for NBC, probably would be used on future telecasts if he is available. Stone subbed for Starr on a telecast Aug. 23 when Starr was on a Ram assignment.

Gib Shanely, former Cleveland Brown announcer who now lives in Los Angeles, is taking Starr’s place on Ram radio broadcasts.

Strong-arm tactics: Major league baseball produced its own Pete Rose special, “Countdown to History,” and then sold it to TV stations, using an unusual ploy.

If a station wanted to show Pete Rose’s 4,192nd hit live, it had to buy the special. Otherwise, the hit had to be shown on tape.

Channel 4 was one of 116 stations buying the package. WTBS and the Spanish International Network also bought the special, mainly so they could show the hit live. The major networks didn’t have that option. And ESPN didn’t want to buy the Rose special because it had produced its own.

It was a coup for Channel 4 to have Rose’s big hit live, but the station, which picked up the signal from Cincinnati’s WLWT, erred by cutting away from the live feed too soon. The station missed Rose breaking down and crying in a rare show of emotion.

Meanwhile, ESPN, which had to show the hit on a delayed basis, stayed with the reactions longer and had Rose’s show of emotion. Of course, all ESPN was cutting into was a taped fishing show, while Channel 4 had to move on to other news. But it seems that Channel 4’s other news could have waited a little longer.

Channel 4 will televise the Rose special Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Laker update: For the third straight season, all 41 of the Laker road games will be televised--38 by Channel 9 and three by CBS. CBS will also televise the Lakers against the Boston Celtics Feb. 16 at the Forum. Laker road games on CBS will be Jan. 26 at Detroit, Feb. 23 at Philadelphia and April 6 at Houston.

Channel 9 will televise two exhibition games against the Celtics, Oct. 6 at Providence, R.I., and Oct. 8 at Hartford, Conn. WTBS will carry the Lakers against Indiana in the annual NBA Hall of Fame exhibition Oct. 21 at Springfield, Mass.

CBS’ regular-season opener will be Philadelphia against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks Oct. 26.

Los Angeles’ new cable sports channel, Prime Ticket Network, will televise 23 Laker home games. That schedule is not yet set.

King update: The Kings will make two appearances on ESPN this season, Nov. 3 at Philadelphia and Nov. 24 at Chicago. And 37 games--23 at home and 14 on the road--will be televised by Prime Ticket Network.

The first Prime Ticket telecast will be Oct. 20, when the Kings play Edmonton at the Forum. A home game against Boston two nights later at the Forum will also be televised by Prime Ticket.

Radio station KLAC, the Lakers’ flagship station, will carry the Kings this season. When there is a conflict with the Lakers, the King game will be farmed out to KGIL.

ESPN will open its hockey schedule Oct. 10, with Washington playing the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Notes With the Raiders having played Thursday night and the Rams at Philadelphia Sunday, L.A. viewers will get three pro games Sunday--the Rams on CBS at 10 a.m., the San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks on NBC at 1 p.m., and the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons on CBS, also at 1 p.m. . . . New NBC commentator Sam Rutigliano will work the Charger game with Charlie Jones; Jack Buck and Hank Stram will announce the Ram game, and Dick Stockton and Wayne Walker will handle the Falcons and 49ers. . . . The Charger game in San Diego fell about 4,000 tickets short of a sellout Thursday, the deadline for lifting the blackout, so San Diego will instead get Houston at Washington at 1 p.m.

Add Buck and Stram: They can be heard every Sunday evening on KNX from 7:07 to 8 p.m. discussing that day’s games on “The NFL Tonight,” a CBS radio network show. . . . Another CBS show carried by KNX is “NFL Preview,” broadcast at 8:30 to 8:50 a.m. every Sunday during the NFL season. Brent Musburger and Jimmy The Greek are co-hosts. . . . KNX will also carry a CBS game of the week every Sunday. This week, it’s Seattle-San Diego. . . . Retired Ram Jack Youngblood, a guest on CBS-TV’s “NFL Today” last Sunday, gets an audition this Sunday as a commentator. He’ll work the Falcon-49er game for practice with Tim Ryan. After last Sunday’s experience, Youngblood said: “I think I’d prefer working in the studio to being a commentator. I loved it.” Youngblood was taken aback when he discovered they had to do six or seven different halftime shows. After the first one, he got up and was ready to leave. . . . Dodgervision, which now has a subscriber base of about 7,000, had 7,000 additional one-game requests for last Friday night’s Met-Dodger game that matched Dwight Gooden and Fernando Valenzuela.