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On the air

Fox 13 boasts a Bucs bonanza

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

Fox 13 clearly is the station the Tampa Bay area turns to for NFL action, a fact never more clear than this season.

Bucs ratings are up. The Fox NFL pregame show routinely pulls better ratings than the CBS counterpart even when it doesn't lead into a Bucs game. And the local Bucs postgame show with Channel 13 sports director Chip Carter from 4:30-5:30 p.m. attracts more viewers than the 4 p.m. NFL game on CBS.

At Fox headquarters, they rave about Channel 13's strong numbers, and the station is one of Fox's strongest affiliates.

Thank you, Buccaneers.

"The Bucs drive everything," Carter said.

Ratings are up 8 percent, from an average of 32.2 last season to 34.8. That rates Tampa/St. Petersburg as the fifth-best home market in the NFL, behind Milwaukee (43.3), Pittsburgh (42.0), Buffalo (39.0) and New Orleans (38.3).

Last season, the Bucs were the seventh-best market. But Carter thinks the addition of Jon Gruden as coach, the hot start and absence of a slump have provided the impetus for this year's big numbers.

"In the past the ratings have been good, but the team has been 8-8 or gets those slow starts, the 3-4 records under ( Tony) Dungy, and then you see the numbers go down a little bit," Carter said, adding that casual fans had no reason to become disinterested this season as the Bucs never had a losing streak.

Overall, the numbers don't surprise Carter, though he admits to being "stunned" at the postgame numbers.

Sunday, for the sixth time this season, Channel 13 will carry a one-hour postgame show, something it only does if there isn't a 4 p.m. Fox telecast. The show is essentially an interview-fest, picking up the postgame news conferences of Gruden and Brad Johnson and jumping around to interviews with various players.

"It's all live," Carter said. "It's kind of a cool show because there is no format."

WE'RE NO. 1: Fox's A-Team of Joe Buck, Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman will work the Bucs-49ers game. The Bucs are 2-0 in games with Fox's top crew calling the action, arguably their most impressive victories, 21-7 over Green Bay and the 34-10 dismantling of the Atlanta Vicks.

We'll have to put an asterisk next to that 2-0 record, though, because the Bucs are 1-1 with the A-Team minus Buck. While he was off doing the World Series, Dick Stockton subbed and the Bucs played arguably their worst games of the year, losing to Philadelphia 20-10 and barely edging Randy Fasani's Carolina Panthers 12-9.

YAKKITY YAK: Fox's Howie Long visited One Buc Place last week for a scheduled feature on it being put up or shut up time for the Bucs. He was expecting to sit down with the vocal Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson, as well as Gruden.

Here's hoping that Long can produce as entertaining an interview as Terry Bradshaw has for some of his features this year. Long's work will be cut out for him thanks to the overabundance of yapping Bucs stories this year and the saturation of Sapp's mug during game broadcasts. But his more serious and introspective style could yield a different perspective.

THIEVES IN THE TEMPLE: Though most (all?) features on the Bucs defense have centered on the exploits of Derrick Brooks, Sapp or Simeon Rice, ESPN's Greg Garber will report, in the Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show, on the art of thievery by the defense, which led the NFL with 31 interceptions.


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