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Perry Rod




09/28/09 at 12:46 PM CDT



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L.A. Dodger Fans Plead to News Corporation and Time Warner Inc., and Why Executives Should Listen

Nearly 3,000 miles away from the corporate headquarters of media titans News Corporation and Time Warner Inc. is the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles, California.  Nowhere in the world has amassed a larger group of entertainment industry professionals.  As a result, nowhere in the world holds a larger proportion of critical and discerning audience members.

Amongst the crowd of L.A.’s performers and attention seekers sits a man who has been perfecting his performance art for sixty years, calling ballgames from when Los Angeles had the newest stadium in baseball.  Today, Dodger Stadium is one of the oldest in baseball and Vin Scully has become known as “the most trusted man in Los Angeles,” according to Los Angeles Magazine.  With countless awards and tributes, his many fans are convinced he is the greatest sportscaster of all time.

For years now, Los Angeles has been by far the largest city in the United States without a professional football organization.  One could argue that the success of the city’s wildly successful basketball team, the Lakers, has helped filled that void.  However, overall ratings for basketball have not been impressive since Michael Jordon left the game.  In fact, they have been cut in half since the 1990’s.

In comparing postseason NBA to MLB ratings, after Michael Jordon’s last postseason appearance in 1998, MLB has beaten NBA every year – except in 2008, when MLB ratings fell off a cliff.  In fact, MLB ratings have been on a perpetual downtrend for years.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, meanwhile, have had the largest attendance numbers in baseball.  Despite twenty years of somewhat mediocre performance, the Dodgers have consistently been listed near the top in terms of fan attendance and been in the top three in MLB attendance every year since 2004.  One could argue that Vin Scully’s “hope you’ll join us,” messages have had some considerable influence.

Memorable moments of baseball can be quite entertaining, with all eyes set on a dramatic battle between pitcher and batter.  Vin Scully captured one of the greatest moments in baseball in the 1988 World Series, and fans never forgot.   But let’s face it.  Baseball can also be long and tedious.  It’s a sport that – when watched on television – can use an effective salesman.  And it’s not the ninth inning one run bases-loaded two out moments in baseball that require a high quality sportscaster.  It’s the fourth inning four-to-one game where you start to question the purpose of your life.  But that’s when Vin Scully tells an interesting story about a player or marvels about a kid in the arms of his father in the stands and you are reassured that watching the game is exactly what you need to be doing.  It’s no surprise then that Los Angeles has the second highest paid sports announcer in Vin Scully, second only to football’s John Madden.

In late 2006, Fox and TBS won contracts from Major League Baseball giving them post season baseball television rights through 2013.  They paid 1 billion dollars for those rights.  But baseball does not sell itself, especially without a Michael Jordon larger-than-life unstoppable player.  And memorable moments in the game can depend on who is selling us on how important the game really is.

Nobody sells it like Vin Scully.  And no time in baseball is more important than the playoffs and World Series.  Fox and TBS have had good reason to help promote baseball, but they have failed, year after year, in utilizing the nation’s top promoters of baseball.

The shame is that Vin Scully is talking about retirement in 2010 and it will be their last shot at having an amazing voice in baseball do play-by-play for the playoffs and World Series.  Decisions, plans and contracts have no doubt already been made on these matters, as a part of typical corporate bureaucracy.  Yet, random petitions have started on the internet from L.A. fans trying to desperately get the attention of the media conglomerates.

How good does a sports broadcaster have to be in order to have fans who plead that he be heard in the post season?  You certainly won’t see that every day.  It’s time corporate executives think of what’s best for the sport, and it’s time they listen.

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