WHY THE RANGERS AREN’T TV STARS

The Texas Rangers baseball network recently announced their television schedule for the upcoming season: 25 games. Since the Rangers play 81 road games, that means that, once again, less than a third of them will be on TV. With the Rangers looking like contenders, fans are wondering more than ever, “Why not more?”

The basic answer, as might be guessed, is simple: Money. The Rangers baseball network is doing quite nicely now. thank you. and they’re not inclined to tamper with the present successful formula.

There are a few givens. The Rangers local outlet, KXAS-Channel 5. is an NBC affiliate. Too much pre-empting of NBC’s national programming (KXAS indicates 30 games would be the maximum) could jeopardize the station’s affiliation with the network. (Moreover, the Ranger-Channel 5 contract is an exclusive, precluding any co-op deal with a second station.) So why not an independent station, the obvious being KTVT-Chan-nel 11? Too expensive, says Ranger network director Roy Parks. Channel 11, unlikely as it may seem, is a highly profitable outfit – with high rates. “Buying time on Channel 11,” says Parks, “would simply wipe out our profit.” Channel 39? No way. UHF simply does not have the appeal for advertisers.

But what’s more interesting is that the Ranger network (now the largest in baseball with 18 outlets) wouldn’t really be interested in more Ranger TV even if they could get it. Why not? Ranger radio. More TV games, says Parks, would cut into the network’s radio broadcast advertising revenues. And the radio games, because of vastly lower production costs, are considerably more profitable. (One Ranger radio broadcast from Chicago last summer, advertisers are told, drew a listen-ership of over 400,000.)

The limited TV schedule is not unique to the Rangers. Though in New York and Chicago most all games are broadcast, that’s not the rule. Even in Los Angeles, the Dodgers televise only 18 games, the Angels 27. The Reds, in baseball-crazy Cincinnati, televise 35 games. The Houston Astros televise 50. but 20 are UHF.

Asks the frustrated fan. “Is the profit margin so sacred?” In this case, yes. The Ranger network is owned by the City of Arlington, which paid an exorbitant $7.5 million to original Ranger owner Bob Short for the broadcast rights. Though the present balanced TV/radio formula has seen profits increase by about $200,000 in each of the last five seasons, network officials say that even by 1981. when their 10-year contract is up. they won’t have come close to covering that initial investment. “Sure,” says Parks, “the average guy wants more TV baseball. 1 don’t blame him. But this is a business.”

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