Rams' TV ratings tumble to six-year low
By Dan Caesar
Of the Post-Dispatch
The Rams' fall from grace isn't limited to the standings this year.
Television ratings have taken an unprecedented tumble this season, dropping to their lowest level since 1998 - before the team's rise to prominence began.
With just one game remaining, Nielsen Media Research reports that telecasts of their games are being seen in an average of 25.7 percent of area homes with a TV. That's a 22 percent drop from their rating of 33 last season.
There are several notable numbers:
Their best-rated game this season (28.2 for a September contest against New Orleans), is lower-rated than all their games last year.
In the last five seasons, the Rams have appeared on "Monday Night Football" 14 times. Discounting a meaningless season-ending contest against San Francisco two years ago in which the Rams already had been eliminated from postseason contention, they never had drawn a local rating below 31.6 for a "MNF" telecast.
But they were on three times this season, with the best rating a 27.1 figure for their game this week vs. Philadelphia. The three-game average is just 24.9.
The theory that the Cardinals' postseason success hurt Rams viewership doesn't hold statistically. Ratings for Rams games in October, when the Cardinals were garnering most of the attention of local sports fans, was 25.8 - just about the same as the season average.
Changes could be in store for the Rams on radio, as their deal with Clear Channel Communications expires after this season. Clear Channel airs the games on KLOU (103.3 FM), which it owns, and also sends the transmission to KTRS (550 AM), which it does not own. Sources say KTRS has been paying about 15 percent or so of the estimated $3 million annual rights fees.
Clear Channel nationally has been moving away from broadcasting the NFL, but its arrangement locally (with KTRS paying part of the freight) could make it more attractive to trying to remain involved. Lee Clear, who manages Clear Channel's local radio operations, could not be reached for comment. But Rams executive vice president Bob Wallace said, "I think they'd like to keep it."
Tim Dorsey, who runs KTRS, said he is optimistic that a deal similar to the existing one will be worked out. Either way, he said he wants his station to remain as the AM outlet for the broadcasts.
He said if Clear Channel pulls out, "we would unilaterally speak to the Rams."
Because of the unsettled situation, the Rams regular-season finale Sunday could be the last game for the entertaining broadcast duo of play-by-play voice Steve Savard and analyst Jack Snow, who are in their fourth season together.
"We hope its not, but it's a possibility," Savard said. "I don't lose sleep over it, but I really enjoy doing it. We haven't reinvented the wheel, but we have fun."
Adding to their appeal is that they aren't afraid to criticize the home team when the situation warrants.
"No. 1, we have an obligation not to embarrass the organization as the home radio team," Savard said. "But we also have an obligation to the listeners to be honest. When the special teams are lousy, we say so. When the defense can't stop anybody at Green Bay, we say it."
Savard, sports director at KMOV (Channel 4) would seem to be in more jeopardy if a change of stations takes place than would be Snow - who has been with the club for decades as a player and broadcaster.
"I love working with Jack," Savard said. "We have a great rapport - sometimes it's friends, sometimes it's like father-son, sometimes it's like brothers. We aren't above having fun at the others' expense, which is the way I am with my friends. I really hope we continue."
Collinsworth picks NY
Analyst Cris Collinsworth had this to say about the Rams-Jets matchup on HBO's "Inside the NFL" show this week:
"I look at this as two of the upper mid-level teams from their respective conferences and every time that type of matchup occurs, the AFC teams ends up winning. So I would be surprised if the Jets don't go in and win this game.
"The big question now is Chad Pennington. Can Chad Pennington have a big performance in a big game? What has qualified as a big game so far this season have been two games against the New England Patriots and one game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He basically has fallen on his face in all of those games.
"But this St. Louis team is not nearly as tough as those two top teams and I think he will get it done here."
"Monday Night Football" had the lowest-rated season in its 35-year history. The 17 games (16 Mondays and a season-opening Thursday night telecast) were watched in an average of 11 percent of the nation's homes with television sets, according to Nielsen. Last year's rating was 11.5, only a tad better than 2002, when the previous low level (11.4) was hit.
Still, the drop is largely attributed to the change in home-entertainment options. VCRs, DVDs, satellite and cable TV, plus the Internet, either did not exist or were in comparative primitive states in 1981, when "MNF" had its best rating of 21.7. Ratings for all major network programming is down substantially over the last two decades.
"Monday Night Football" has been among the top 10 prime-time shows for 15 years. It was seventh this season going into the Rams-Eagles finale this week.
Nationally, it drew a 10.6 rating - the best rating for any program.
Television ratings in the St. Louis market for telecasts of Rams games since the team arrived in town:
Year Rating Homes tuned in
1995 22.8 255,360
1996 18.3 204,960
1997 21.2 237,440
1998 15.8 176,960
1999 27.4 306,900
2000 32.2 360,600
2001 33.4 374,150
2002 30.7 356,100
2003 33.0 382,800
*2004 25.7 298,100
* One game remaining
Note: Each rating point represents 1 percent of the homes in the St. Louis area that have a televison set.
Re: Rams' TV ratings tumble to six-year low
I think Collinsworth is a 49er kiss ass who has been lost since the ***** ship sank (not to mention 3/4 of the remaining national media). Yes now they have to actually do some journalistic work so they come up with takes like this.
Just perfectly unbiased. Wow he must have slept in rat infested gutters sneaking around to come up with this analysis. Glad we have this smuck to fill us in.
I look at this as two of the upper mid-level teams from their respective conferences and every time that type of matchup occurs, the AFC teams ends up winning. So I would be surprised if the Jets don't go in and win this game.
C'mon RAMS beat these bleeping jets.
Re: Rams' TV ratings tumble to six-year low
I don't think "unbiased" is something anyone on this board should claim to be. His remark about the AFC seems accurate to me. The AFC has been kicking the NFC's butt this year. Look at what Buffalo and Miami did to us and I don't think picking the Jets is a reach at all.