The Seattle Mariners may not be World Series champions, but the team is the ratings champion of the Pacific Northwest.
Continuing last year's strong performance, Fox Sports Northwest-distributed Mariners games are averaging double-digit household ratings, often besting both cable and broadcast-network programming in the DMA.
The regional sports network has turned the Major League Baseball team's popularity into additional advertising revenue and distribution, and ratings are also up for other Fox Sports-related programming, Fox Sports Northwest general manager Mark Shuken said.
Through the first 12 games of the year, the network has averaged a 15.2 rating within the Seattle DMA, 18 percent ahead of its performance in the same number of games last year, Shuken said.
In 2001, the Mariners — who lost to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series — averaged a 14.9 rating.
The April 15 Mariners-Texas Rangers telecast, which garnered an 18.4 rating, even beat all broadcast network shows that evening in the local Nielsen.
The April 17 Mariners-Oakland A's game did even better, tallying a season-best 19.3 rating.
The Mariners have coattails, too. Fox Sports Northwest is averaging double-digit ratings for its Regional Sports Report, which airs immediately after Mariners telecasts, Shuken said. The show has been expanded to an hour, from 30 minutes.
"Unlike in some other markets, which have a long-term history of success or popularity, in Seattle this Mariners mania has translated into high ratings for our regional news," said Fox Sports Net president Tracy Dolgin. "
The Northwest Sports Report, which is now one hour instead of 30 minutes, is up 106 percent in ratings from a year ago."
Fox was able to use last year's breakout Mariners ratings to increase ad rates for its 2002 telecasts, although Shuken would not reveal specific figures.
"Right now, given the relative softness of the market, we're still outpacing our expectations," he said.
Shuken said FSN has even cut international deals. Canadian operator Rogers Cable carries 50 games in British Columbia, and Japan's NHK airs FSN's weekly Mariners magazine show. The Mariners have several Japanese players, including last year's American League most valuable player, Ichiro Suzuki.
Not surprisingly, Fox Sports Net is looking to develop other Mariners-related programming. Shuken said the network might join with the team to develop community-related shows.
It will also most likely bring back its Mariners Magic
game-replay show during the off-season. Launched as an experiment to keep the Mariners top-of-mind during the winter, the condensed, one-hour replay of regular-season games aired Monday-Thursday from November to March and averaged a 1.0 rating in primetime.
"It was a test, and people really paid attention," Shuken said.