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Blazers start losing with viewers, too

How the mighty have fallen. And how not-so-mighty Portland television reporters slipped and slid en route to monstrous viewership during the recent storm.

The Portland Trail Blazers registered the worst Nielsen ratings I have seen for a Blazer telecast since the team showed up in Portland in 1970.

At one point on Saturday night Ñ when most Portland-area residents were huddled around the warmth of their TV screens Ñ the Blazers-Timberwolves game from Minneapolis on KGW (8) sank to just a 5 percent share of the audience, with 30,000 homes tuning in.

That's not just bad. That's awful. I've seen 'Three Stooges' episodes and Juiceman infomercials grabbing more impressive numbers. As a comparison, the weather coverage at 9:45 a.m. Saturday on KGW was attracting 120,000 homes, while KOIN (6) was netting 80,000 homes, KATU (2) almost 70,000 homes and KPTV (12) 65,000 homes.

If there was a trend to the storm coverage this time around, it was the 'it's all about me' syndrome among anchors and reporters. If I heard one more story about how they got to work, how they stumbled across the parking lot and how they got picked to do Troutdale duty, I thought I would throw my golf shoes (yeah, reporters' shoes of choice for icy streets) at the TV. There's a name in the TV news business for this: 'reporter involvement.' I've got another name for it: 'not having anything else to talk about.'

And sure, the Blazers were competing with weather coverage on KATU and KOIN and the Rams-Falcons playoff game on KPTV. But even the game between the Blazers and the Shaquille O'Neal-powered Miami Heat on Jan. 7 finished with a paltry 12 percent share.

KGW is in the final year of its contract with the Blazers as the team's flagship station (airing 39 games this season) and station executives have said it would like to keep the relationship going. The Blazers pay KGW for the airtime, but sinking viewership has a way of turning things around quickly during negotiations. Besides, how many times does KGW want to pre-empt its No. 1-rated evening newscasts with Blazer games bringing in an audience that's a third the size?

Too bad the team has lost its allure, because the telecasts are looking better than ever under Producer Scott Zachry and Director Chris McMurtry. Except for the sappy halftime shows (and no one has ever figured out how to make halftime programming interesting or entertaining), the play-by-play team of Mike Barrett and Steve Jones (or Mike Rice, who takes over for Jones when the Snapper is doing ESPN games) are not your typical hometown screamers.

And could anybody at home tell the difference that the games are now being produced from a Mira Mobile Television production truck instead of Paul Allen's state-of-the-art super-duper digital studio inside the Rose Garden? Once Philadelphia's Global Spectrum took over ownership of the Rose Garden last month, the Blazers' Post Up Productions ceased to exist and Allen's showcase studio was disassembled.

Even some of the Blazer promos that we hear now during the telecasts are recorded in a studio basement at some guy's home on Council Crest.

I wonder if having Darius Miles doing weather reports from the Gorge would help.

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