For only the third time since Fox Sports Midwest began televising Blues and Cardinals games in 1997, it will move baseball to a secondary outlet and place hockey on its main channel.
The ballgame Saturday will be on Fox Sports Midwest Plus, which is used for spillover programming when FSM has rights to two games airing simultaneously. There had been no such problems in the early stages of the Blues' playoff series against San Jose, but that ends Saturday night when both teams play. Hockey will be on the normal FSM outlet and baseball will shift to the "Plus'' channel, something that also will occur Monday if the Blues' series still is going. The channel number of FSM Plus varies by programming provider (a list of channels is at the bottom of this story).
Although the Cards consistently do much better in the ratings than the Blues, postseason hockey has been drawing record numbers this spring for FSM. Its general manager, Jack Donovan, has said the difference in magnitude of the games is the underlying reason for the decision on where to place the telecasts.
"The Cardinals recognize the importance of Blues playoff games, and we appreciate the flexibility,'' he said.
The two other times when the Cards were moved from the main channel were for the final home game of a Blues season.
In previous years when the Blues were in the playoffs, the solution for overlaps was much simpler — hockey usually would be on the team's over-the-air station, generally KPLR (Channel 11). But three seasons ago the Blues dumped so-called ''free TV'' from their local broadcasting lineup in favor of doing business exclusively with FSM and this is their first playoff appearance since doing so.
But if the Blues advance, there will be no such overlapping problems in subsequent rounds. National networks (NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC) have the coverage the rest of the way. No local versions of TV coverage are allowed after the first round.
On radio, the Cards will take precedence on KMOX (1120 AM), with hockey moving Saturday to WXOS (101.1 FM). That's a departure from the normal overlap procedure of placing the Blues on one of KMOX's sister FM stations.
"We felt it was an opportunity to go to a different station, get some different listeners maybe,'' Blues vice president of broadcasting Bruce Affleck said. "And they can do a longer pre- and postgame show'' at WXOS than at one of KMOX's affiliated stations, which have music formats.
Some to lose Blues on TV?
Charter Communications, the largest cable or satellite programming provider in the St. Louis market, is in the process of shuffling its lineup and the result for the small percentage of its customers that don't purchase digital service is that they are losing a couple sports channels — including NBC Sports Network.
That's bad news for affected local hockey fans, because that outlet is carrying a lot of NHL playoffs games and is in line to air some Blues games if they advance to the second round.
NBC Sports Network is moving to Channel 54 and 206, with high definition service on Ch. 806. Charter's non-digital customers also are losing Golf Channel (headed to Ch. 209, with the HD version on Ch. 809).
However, Charter spokeswoman Jessica Hardecke said Thursday that customers who want to switch to digital service can do so for free, that there will be no charge for digital programming for the first year and the normal $1 monthly fee for the box needed to receive digital service will be waived for the first year for one TV. (Boxes for additional TVs will cost $5 per month, which is the rate current subscribers pay).
SATURDAY'S CARDINALS TV CHANNEL FINDER
AT&T U-verse 691 (HD 1691)
Cable America-Maryland Heights and Republic 12
Cable America-St. Robert 7
Cable One-Joplin 78
Cable One-Kirksville 3
Charter-Cape Girardeau 94
Charter-St. Louis and Osage Beach 3, 10 or 94
DirecTV 680 (HD 680-1)
Dish 454 (HD 9577)
Insight-Evansville, Ind. 2, 505 or 12.10
Mediacom-Columbia/Jefferson City/Springfield 126
New Wave 16
Poplar Bluff 2
*Time Warner-Newburgh, Ind. 23
*Time Warner-Terre Haute, Ind. 13
*WOW-Evansville, Ind. 7
*Cable systems in Southwest Indiana will receive Indiana Pacers basketball on FOX Sports Indiana and Cardinals-Pirates on FOX Sports Plus.