The Hunt for Red Rocktober

Boston, Denver stations feed viewers’ World Series fever
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The Rockies are going to whoop the socks off Boston,” boasted one fan of the upstart Colorado baseball squad.

“The Rockies have nothing,” one of the Red Sox faithful countered. “You have no chance against the Sox.”

The fans weren’t sparring in the watering holes along Boston’s Yawkey Way, or in the cheap seats at Coors Field high in the Rockies. They were dishing smack on the aptly named Trash Talk Blog on WFXT Boston’s myfoxboston.com.

As the Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox began their World Series duel (Game Five, if there is one, will be played Oct. 29), stations in the local markets were coming up with an array of unique ways to provide programming for the baseball-mad masses, and tap viewers for content as well. Station managers say they haven’t seen such local fervor in years, and it has translated into grand-slam ratings.

“Red Sox Nation is every bit as passionate as [when the Sox won the Series in] 2004,” says WFXT VP/General Manager Gregg Kelley.

Adds KCNC Denver News Director Tim Wieland, “Overnight, the whole city just went berserk. I keep thinking, where did all this merchandise come from?”

Stations are devoting ample airtime to specials highlighting the players and team histories, and peppering newscasts with Series updates and color. With the Fall Classic airing on Fox, it stands to reason that the Fox affiliates have been the most active. Kelley says WFXT’s hour-long pre-game shows, featuring former Red Sox great Dwight Evans, have been cleared at multiple Fox affiliates around New England.

NESN, the cable network that offers 149 Red Sox games in the regular season, is celebrating “Soxtober” with pre-game shows and special programming like the Remy Awards, with former player/current NESN announcer Jerry Remy giving out plaudits for the regular season.

Out West, CBS affiliate KCNC is playing up “Rocktober” with specials about the brief but colorful history of the Rockies. At Fox O&O KDVR Denver, a crew of reporters ventured to Boston’s Fenway Park for a special that aired in primetime last week. It did a 4.3 household rating/7 share—“a terrific number for us,” says VP/General Manager Bill Schneider.

Stations have been more active online, with Web pages dedicated to the games, anchor blogs, and user-generated video.

WFXT boasts a “Red Sox World Series Headquarters” click on its home page and a Webcam posted on the street across from Fenway, along with the Trash Talk blog.

Fans can also take part in a live chat as the game is going on—as many as 300 might be yammering at a given time. They can also send “Shout-Outs” that crawl across the bottom of the screen—something akin to a “Hit a homer for Southie, Papi!!!” tribute to slugger David Ortiz—during the pre-game show.

The shout-outs have been popular: There were some 2,000 per game on WFXT during the American League Championship Series (ALCS). Kelley says overall page views on myfoxboston.com around game time have been six to seven times’ more than the norm.

Shuffling Along

Fellow Boston stations are also having fun with Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon’s recent celebratory Irish jig. Both WBZ and WCVB invited users to send video of their loved ones imitating the pitcher’s awkward shuffle, resulting in a bounty of dancing-baby clips on the station sites.

When sales of Rockies tickets were hampered by a computer crash last week, several local stations jumped to point fans to where they could grab ducats. KDVR offered live streaming video of a player press conference last week, and Schneider says overall page views have been running 10 times higher than normal.

The teams’ post-season journeys have indeed been very good for business. With share hovering around 70 during the ALCS (ratings for Game One of the World Series hit 49.3/70), WFXT had little trouble selling Series spots. Kelley says he’s getting around 10 times the rate the station typically commands in prime. Schneider won’t share KDVR specifics, but allows that the ad community has jumped on avails like Rockies star Matt Holliday on a hanging curveball. “The market has been extremely excited to have the World Series,” he says, “and they’ve responded accordingly.”

Much like a big leaguer dealing with Series spotlight pressure, station managers remind themselves to enjoy the action while it lasts. Wieland says he’s seen comparable passion when Denver’s beloved Broncos were in the Super Bowl in the recent past, but the Rockies’ sudden surge makes this extra special. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this in my time in the market,” he says.

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