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Debate ratings blast baseball


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000

On the three days baseball playoff games competed against coverage of the presidential candidates' debates, more Tampa Bay area viewers chose the stations featuring politics, leaving the ratings for sports coverage last among major network affiliates.

Viewership figures for Tuesday fit the trend, with NBC's coverage of the final debate between Al Gore and George W. Bush scoring the highest ratings among area TV stations for WFLA-Ch. 8. WTVT-Ch. 13's broadcast of the science fiction show Dark Angel followed, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research provided by WFLA.

WFLA's success Tuesday came after a decision to hand broadcast of the Yankees-Mariners playoff game to area Pax TV affiliate WXPX-Ch. 66. Though the move nearly cut out about 40,000 Citrus County viewers who don't receive WXPX on Time Warner Cable, the company eventually telecast NBC's satellite feed of the game in Citrus through a last-minute fix.

Debate coverage on CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10 and ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28 placed third and fourth Tuesday, followed by WXPX's telecast of the Yankees-Mariners game. A WFLA official said viewer confusion about where to find the game could have contributed to the lower ratings.

Still, similar results emerged Oct. 11, when coverage of the second presidential debate on WFLA, WFTS and WTSP edged the Mets-Cardinals contest on WTVT.

On the night of the first debate, (Oct. 3), WTSP topped area stations airing CBS's coverage, with WTVT a strong second courtesy of Dark Angel's debut. Debate coverage on third-place WFTS still scored ratings nearly three times larger than viewership for WFLA's Yankees- Athletics contest.

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