Winter has had a frigid grip on the St. Louis area for much of the past two weeks, as many local television weathercasters try to whip people into a frenzy over a couple of inches of snow.
How did we survive before “Storm Mode,” “First Alert” and the like existed? Answer: We expected it to snow in February, we expected it to be hot in August. We didn’t need people speaking in dramatic tones telling us to allow extra time to get to our destination when it snows — or to drink a lot of fluids if it is 100 degrees. We knew that. This is St. Louis, not San Diego.
But enough of that. It’s almost time to start thinking about warm breezes and summer sizzling.
The Cardinals begin their slate of exhibition games in Florida next week, and broadcasting Redbirds spring training games has become big business for the team’s rightsholders in recent years.
Beginning Thursday, the Cardinals have practice games scheduled for 28 days over five weeks, and 23 games will be broadcasted in the St. Louis area — 11 on both radio and television, seven just on radio and five only on TV.
As recently as 2012, Fox Sports Midwest televised just five Cardinals spring training contests. It went up to 10 — a record at the time — the following year. That mark was surpassed last year, when FSM carried 15 Redbirds practice games. And that’s the number it is set to show this spring.
“Fans wanted to see more spring training games. We’re meeting that demand,” FSM general manager Jack Donovan said. “The regular-season viewership and feedback from fans showed there was an appetite for more spring training telecasts. In 2013 we went from five to 10, and that allowed us to gauge interest. The feedback was good, so we jumped to 15.”
FSM would not divulge its ratings for its Cardinals exhibition telecasts, but Donovan discussed the matter in general terms.
“The games almost always rate No. 1 in their time slot among men and sometimes No. 1 among households,” he said. “We also replay most games in prime time.”
He said the expanded spring schedule is part of FSM’s business model with the Cardinals.
“There’s demand from the fans,” he said. “We’re meeting that demand. We program Cardinals content 12 months a year, and this is a big part. We want more fans and want them engaged year round.”
The spring telecasts have fewer cameras than are used in the regular season, as well as some other cutbacks, but the goal is to make the telecasts available without breaking the bank. To that end, all but one of FSM’s Cards telecasts this spring come from the team’s base stadium, in Jupiter, Fla.
“We make a significant investment and work hard to meet our broadcast standards,” Donovan said. “Producing most of our telecasts from Jupiter helps reduce travel and equipment setup. And we benefit by sharing production of four games with other Fox Sports regional networks.”
The only “road” telecast this spring is on March 15, vs. Minnesota, and it will be a “shared” production — announcers from both teams will call the game. Three other games also are to have a mixed booth of broadcasters: March 14, 26 and 31.
Cardinals Radio Network flagship station KMOX is set to carry 17 of the 18 games produced by the network. The exception is the finale, on April 3, which goes to KYKY (98.1 FM) because 1120 AM has a Blues broadcast that night.
KMOX’s schedule includes nine weekday afternoon contests — something it never aired until regaining the Cardinals’ radio broadcast rights in 2011. (It had lost the broadcasts to KTRS (550 AM) for five seasons after the Birds had roosted at KMOX for five decades.)
Part of the deal that brought the Redbirds back was a stipulation that KMOX would carry all the spring training broadcasts. KMOX used to merely air Cardinals highlights on weeknights and carry full games on weekends.
But the new deal meant that the station’s weekday afternoon programming — mostly Rush Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated show — would be pre-empted when necessary.
KMOX officials have said for every listener upset about Limbaugh being bumped there are just as many who want to hear the ballgames. And the ratings are comparable for both.
Anne Carroll, who oversees the Cardinals Radio Network, said it will have 140 stations this season. That includes a new market: Clarksville, Tenn., (WKFN AM and FM).
But not all of the affiliates will carry all the exhibition contests.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE REDBIRDS
ESPN and MLB Network are visiting all 30 MLB spring training camps, and ESPN is set to be at the Cardinals’ facilities on Saturday.
Bram Weinstein, John Kruk and Buster Olney are to provide reports to various programs on the network throughout the day, beginning with the 8 a.m. edition of “SportsCenter.”
Among players most likely to appear are Adam Wainwright, Jason Heyward, Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina. plus manager Mike Matheny.
MLB Network’s focus on the Cardinals is set for March 19 at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, ESPN has added another Cards game to its Sunday night schedule this season: their contest July 12 at Pittsburgh. That puts the current total at four. Already scheduled was their road game against the Cubs on April 5 — the standalone MLB season opener — as well as home contests on April 19 (vs. the Reds) and May 17 (vs. the Tigers).
Last Sunday’s Daytona 500 tied for the lowest rating it has produced other than when the race had a major delay. According to Nieslen, 7.3 percent of U.S. homes with a TV turned in to the coverage on Fox — tying the bottom figure that CBS recorded in 1990.
The event last year drew a 5.6 rating, but had a rain delay of more than six hours. Also, Nielsen says 23.5 million people watched at least part of this year’s race, which is the lowest figure other than last year since the number of viewers began being tabulated in 2001.
St. Louisans watched at a higher rate than the national audience for the third year in a row. Local Fox affiliate KTVI (Channel 2) drew an 8.8 rating.
ESPN’s “College GameDay,” a Saturday show that first previews the day’s action in the sport then provides updates and looks ahead to later action, makes its first trip to Wichita, Kan., this weekend as part of an unusual doubleheader. The morning version of “GameDay” will originate there at 9 a.m. on ESPNU then move to ESPN at 10 a.m.
Rece Davis is host, with commentary from Jay Bilas, Jay Williams, Seth Greenberg and Stephen A. Smith.
The morning show airs before No. 11 Wichita State entertains No. 10 Northern Iowa for the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title. Both are 16-1 in the league heading into their showdown on the final day of play. ESPN televises that game at 1 p.m.
After signing off “GameDay” at 11 a.m., most of that cast quickly will trek the 160 miles or so to Lawrence, Kan., where they’ll do the latter version of the show from the site of the Kansas-Texas game.
“GameDay” No. 2 is to start immediately after the MVC game ends (approximately 3 p.m.) and lead into the KU-Texas contest at 4 p.m.
CARDINALS SPRING TRAINING BROADCAST SCHEDULE
|Thurs., March 5||Miami||No TV, KMOX (1120 AM)|
|Sat., March 7||Washington||No TV, KMOX|
|Sun., March 8||Miami||No TV, KMOX|
|Mon., March 9||Boston||No TV, KMOX|
|Thurs., March 12||Baltimore||FSM, KMOX|
|Fri., March 13||Miami||No TV, FSM|
|Sat., March 14||Minnesota||FSM, KMOX|
|Sun., March 15||Minnesota||FSM, KMOX|
|Mon., March 16||Detroit||FSM, KMOX|
|Tues., March 17||Miami||FSM, KMOX|
|Thurs., March 19||NY Mets||FSM, KMOX|
|Sat., March 21||Atlanta||FSM Plus, KMOX|
|Sun., March 22||Baltimore||No TV, KMOX|
|Wed., March 25||Washington||FSM, KMOX|
|Thurs., March 26||Miami||FSM, KMOX|
|Fri., March 27||NY Mets||FSM|
|Sat., March 28||Detroit||No TV, KMOX|
|Sun., March 29||NY Mets||FSM, KMOX|
|Mon., March 30||Washington||FSM|
|Tues., March 31||Miami||FSM, KMOX|
|Wed., April 1||NY Mets||MLB Network|
|Thurs., April 2||NY Mets||No TV, FSM|
|Fri., April 3||Memphis||No TV, KYKY (98.1 FM)|
• All games at 12:05 p.m. (St. Louis time) except April 2, at 6 p.m. Outside the St. Louis market, the games carried on KMOX will be available to the stations on the Cardinals Radio Network.
• KMOX will delay the March 21 and 22 broadcasts and air them following Blues coverage.