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'Skins-Bucs game earns highest preseason rating

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 30, 2002

Mike Rajewski's job just got much easier and probably much more lucrative.

The general sales manager at WTOG-Ch. 44 was one of many at the station smiling broadly when the ratings came in for Saturday's Bucs-Washington Redskins game and showed that WTOG had the best night in its history.

The 26.9 rating/41 share was the best Bucs' rating ever for a preseason game on Ch. 44, and Rajewski said the broadcast was higher rated than any other preseason telecast in the country last week.

Each rating point represents 15,682 local viewers; the share is the percentage of televisions in use tuned in to the broadcast.

"We did expect an increase because of the new coach(es)," Rajewski said. "I was estimating a 24 or 25. But whenever you overdeliver an estimate, well, we're excited about it."

High preseason ratings are nothing new for WTOG, but this year has exceeded expectations. Last year, WTOG averaged a 17.5 rating for its three games. In its first broadcast this year, though, it blew that average away, drawing a 22 as the Bucs beat Jacksonville.

"We've been averaged a 17.5 last year and we were thrilled with that," Rajewski said. "The ratings have been growing the last 3-4 years, but not these kinds of margins."

WTOG will wrap up its preseason coverage with tonight's game against Houston. It would take a much lower rating, albeit an unlikely scenario, to dim the success of this preseason.

"I'm looking forward to next year," Rajewski said. "Next year's advertising (rate) is based on this year's ratings, and obviously there's a lot of excitement about this team in the market."

JUST IN CASE: Not that anyone will notice, considering college football swings into full sprint this weekend, but Fox Sports Net and WMOR-Ch. 32 have contingency plans for a baseball strike. If the Rays do not play tonight, Ch. 32 will show Eternity at 8, followed by Jerry Springer, Steve Harvey and MadTV. For the rest of the dates, Ch. 32 will run its regular lineup.

FSN will fill in its open spots with more Best Damn Sports Show Period, which usually runs after the Rays and Marlins, as well as the Last Word with Jim Rome.

BEWARE BULLS: For those looking for some way South Florida can upset Oklahoma Sept. 28, you might want to skip ESPN around 6 p.m. today when Chris Fowler reports on the Sooners' vaunted defense (which returns eight starters).

OVERSTATEMENT OF THE WEEK: Guess what this quote is referring to: "It's Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali. It's the Dodgers and the Yankees. It's Palmer and Nicklaus. It's what people want to see."

Yep, the WNBA final between Los Angeles and New York (this weekend on Ch. 8). Commentator Ann Meyers went just a little overboard with her hyperbole. Those "people" who "want to see" obviously don't live in Tampa Bay. Saturday's playoff semifinal game between Utah and L.A. was the lowest-rated sports broadcast in the area with a 0.2/0 share.

AROUND THE DIAL: ESPN and ESPN2 will televise eight college football games today through Labor Day, concluding with two Monday games: TCU at Cincinnati at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN) and Kentucky at No. 17 Louisville at 6 (ESPN2). ... ABC will have four games: two Saturday, including Tyrone Willingham's debut as Notre Dame coach at 8 p.m., and a game each on Sunday and Monday.

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