At Comcast SportsNet, three hours of game-day coverage will sandwich each contest, with commentary running till the first pitch and resuming after the final out. To lure viewers on off-days, a six-part special,
The Final Push
, has been recapping how the Phillies made it back to the World Series after a 15-year hiatus.
At WPHT-AM radio (1210), Harry Kalas and the rest of the home-team crew will call the games and hope that TV viewers will turn down the sound on Fox's national telecasts and listen to the local play-by-play. Expanded pregame coverage will feature Mitch Williams, the legendary antihero of that last Phillies trip to the Series in 1993 and now a popular local sports commentator.
At CW57, which shares regular-season Phillies games with SportsNet, CBS sports anchor Beasley Reece will anchor a special pregame show called
World Series: Phillies Fever
, to be simulcast on sister station CBS3.
Those are just some of the ways that hometown radio and TV stations, especially those with links to the Phillies, are trying to cash in on the good fortune of the home team during the World Series.
At Comcast SportsNet, the local sports channel owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., the goal is to build on a franchise that already owns a key position in local sports despite a disadvantage it doesn't usually face.
During the regular season, SportsNet telecasts more than 100 of the Phillies' 162 contests, complete with pregame and postgame coverage. But playoff games draw national interest, so they go to national channels.
SportsNet sees its role like that of a bullpen catcher: important before the game, and eager to come out afterward to celebrate or commiserate, but unnoticed while the runs are being scored.
Unnoticed but not unbusy. Comcast will have a four-person on-air team in Tampa Bay for the start of the Series tonight, said spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick. Working with three counterparts in Philadelphia handling analysis and fan reaction, the team will produce pregame shows, including such regular features as
Daily News Live
, and return live after each game.
Like the WPHT radio broadcasts, the SportsNet crew includes some personalities, such as Williams, likely to be familiar even to casual fans.
In 1993, Williams was the Phillies' closer, and aptly nicknamed "Wild Thing." He won a permanent place in the city's hard-luck sports history by blowing a ninth-inning save in the sixth game, yielding a walk-off homer to Toronto's Joe Carter that ended the Phils' hopes of taking the Series to a pivotal final game. Williams was mercifully traded the following December.
Now Williams is back in a new, happier role, offering commentary for WPHT and its sister sports-talk station, WIP-AM (610), as well as on SportsNet.
The Phillies' second straight playoff run has media companies hopeful that they, too, will score big.
"These types of audience increases translate pretty directly into additional ad revenues," Fitzpatrick said. He said SportsNet already had added new advertisers, including a company planning to pitch commemorative baseball bats during the Series.
Final ratings are not yet available, but SportsNet says early results reflect intensifying interest. After the Phillies clinched their trip to the Series by beating the Dodgers, SportsNet's postgame show drew a peak audience of 155,000 households - nearly twice its average audience.
Marc Rayfield, general manager for both 1210 and 610, said audience numbers for 1210's game broadcasts at the end of the regular season and start of the playoffs were triple or quadruple their season-long average.
He said he expected ratings to continue to climb during the World Series - a prospect WPHT hopes to cement by synchronizing its radio broadcasts with the Comcast digital version of Fox's game telecasts. That way, at least some local viewers will be able to turn down the TV volume, turn up the radio, and avoid listening to announcers who lack what many consider the proper hometown attitude, without hearing about a home run or strikeout before they see it.
(For those who want a more disinterested radio perspective, the local ESPN affiliate, 950-AM, will supplement its own expanded local sports coverage and sports-talk format with the ESPN radio broadcast of the games.)
Rayfield said callers to sports-talk lines were showing the city's "overwhelming interest" in the Phillies. WIP says its recent ratings are up 20 percent to 25 percent.
"It's kind of weird in October to be all-baseball, all-the-time, because this is Eagles season. But that's what we are right now, because that's what the audience wants," he said.
Rayfield said the Phillies' trip to the Series should be a win-win for the city and all its sports media.
"Winning promotes listening," he said. "Winners are good for the radio, they're good for the economy, they're good for everybody."