Behind the Nats TV Number (Again)
Since other people keep writing about the Lonely 9,000, I'm gonna keep writing about it too. And for the severalth time, I'm not reveling in this at all, because small fan base = small blog base.
Oh, and because some of you have asked, here's a handy map of the "local" audience we all kept referring to: in 207, it referred to 33 counties and seven cities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and D.C., totaling a bit more than 2.3 million households. That's the base from which the Lonely 9,000 are drawn.
Also, many of you have written to say that HD issues are largely to blame. Bearing in mind the relatively small penetration for HD sets (estimates from 17 to 36 percent, but mostly on the lower side) and the fact that 25 percent of Nats games are actually in HD, this would seem to be only partially to blame at best.
Anyhow, WSJ Numbers Guy Carl Bialik goes behind the Nielsen numbers to find out exactly how they were created.
With any Nielsen sports rating, there are caveats: Sports bars aren't included; other homes outside the metro area could have been tuned in; and there is some statistical error in the measurement, which takes on greater importance as the audience shrinks.
A minuscule local rating of 9,000 had me wondering just how few Nielsen homes were tuned into the typical Nationals broadcast. Nielsen spokesman Gary Holmes told me that there are 600 households reporting TV viewing to the company in the D.C. area, meaning just two or three households were tuned into the average game. That means Nielsen can be 95% confident that the true Nationals rating falls somewhere between 0.04 and 0.74, according to Mr. Holmes. In other words, "We are 95% confident that the actual household audience is between 17,081 and 923 homes."
Two or three households. Imagine the responsibility. So if just one diehard Nats fan and his/her child living in a Nielsen household decided the loss of Shawn Hill was just too big an impediment to nightly viewing, the rating would plummet. Alternatively, if the family of Collin Balester relocated to Fairfax, became a Nielsen household and tuned in nightly, the rating would soar. Either way, the Nielsen number crunchers are 95 percent sure that the Nats have, by far, the least number of regional sports network households of any MLB team. Please continue to doubt Nielsen if you so choose.
Meantime, just in case you MASN doubters hadn't seen, Marc Fisher tracked down more details about the differences between Orioles and Nats broadcasts, according to MASN. And, according to MASN, there are none. So put that excuse to bed.
Webster says he checked with the executive producer of the broadcasts and found that indeed the same technology is used in both O's and Nats casts, including the Pitch Track feature that documents where each pitch lands and the pitch speed graphic, both of which Nats fans find to be a regular presence on the Orioles games, but rarely used in the Washington broadcasts.
"The Nats do get the cool pitch tracker technology," Webster says. "It's an $80,000 piece of equipment that is used by both teams, like a replay, at the discretion of the talent (which, in this case is Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton)." Maybe that's the issue--the O's broadcasters use the toy more and more wisely than do the Nats' crew. In any case, the bottom line is that, to a fan's eyes, one broadcast has more bells and whistles than the other.
Webster catalogues the ways in which the two teams' casts are the same: "The graphics are identical - except for the colors. All of the promos, ticket sales, community events, in-game inventory [are] identical --- both teams get an equal number of promotions. The identical number of games are shown on MASN and MASN2 for both teams - 100 games on MASN; 61 games on MASN2; 40 games on MASNHD."
Meantime, the Examiner's Jim Williams also offered a MASN-centric view of the broadcasts, and especially of the annoyingly high camera angle at Nats Park.
Tim Scanlan the ESPN Vice President, Event Production who over see's the networks baseball coverage told me "The new Nationals Park provides us with some very challenging camera angles due to the height of the press box camera is quite high and somewhat awkward looking. Not unlike Pittsburgh and some of the other new ball parks. All the other camera locations are fine it just seem like high home was not considered when they built the park." So for those who wanted to know about the funky angle from the high home game camera it is because the press box is high the camera has a limited range, it is that simple.
I have spoken to a number of radio and TV broadcasters and production people and they say that Nationals Park is beautiful and a great park for the fans. However, it has worst and most poorly planned out broadcast location in baseball....
By contrast when they were building Oriole Park Bill Brown who was then the Executive Producer of Home Team Sports (the forerunner to CSN) was involved with every aspect of the construction of the park. He was able to turn the new stadium into a state of the art television studio. The camera angles at Oriole Park are some of the best in all of baseball and fans can thank Brown (now the Senior Producer for FOX Sports) for that. It is too bad that the team in charge of building the Nationals Park did not include the television people in their construction meetings.
And this was the first mention I'd seen of the construction people being to blame for the low ratings. But heck, there are enough missing viewers to blame virtually everyone.
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