Fox Sports Cincinnati will be the only television outlet
for Cincinnati Reds Major League Baseball games this year, after several broadcast
networks balked at carrying games over the air.
Fox Sports Ohio will carry 85 Reds games on cable, compared
with 50 last year, said Steve Liverani, general manager of the network, which has 3.9
The network also has the rights to sell a package of around
50 games to local broadcast networks for over-the-air distribution. Last year, Fox Sports
Ohio bought time on two different networks to distribute 45 to 50 Fox Sports-produced Reds
But this year, both WSTR-TV (an affiliate of The WB
Television Network) and WKRC-TV (a CBS affiliate) have decided not to carry the games
under similar terms.
Both stations have scheduling problems trying to fit in
Reds games around their network-programming commitments. Also, network programming -- even
reruns -- is usually more lucrative to offer than the often-low-rated Reds games,
according to broadcast executives.
"Last year, they paid us to carry the games, and they
kept all of the commercial [revenue]," said Bill Pulliam, general manager for WSTR.
"This year, it wasn't financially smart for us to continue to do that."
The lack of a broadcast outlet for Reds games, however,
should make Fox Sports Ohio's team coverage more valuable for Reds fans. The
network's Reds telecasts averaged a 2.1 rating last year, according to Fox's
Nielsen Media Research figures, but Liverani is hoping to push that number to the 4.0
range this year.
"We're the only game in town, outside of the Fox
and ESPN national telecasts, so we're hoping to see an increase in our Reds
ratings," Liverani said. "The performance of the team will dictate how well the
games perform, but the fact that we're the only place to get Reds baseball will be a
To increase awareness of the games, the network is in the
midst of creating a promotional campaign to support its Reds coverage. In addition, it
will debut Real Reds, a weekly, 30-minute show on the team, Liverani said.
The team itself is satisfied with Fox Sports Ohio's
Reds coverage, but it is a little concerned about the lack of a broadcast outlet.
"We have a lot of older people who don't have
cable in the market, so at this point, they won't be able to see any games this
year," said Larry Herms, public-relations assistant for the team
"Fox Sports Ohio does a great job for us, but there is
still a small group of people that don't see what Fox does," he added.