Top of the ninth inning. Bases loaded. Reds up 5-3. Game on the line.
So why did WKRC-TV cut away from the Opening Day game to air CBS coverage of the NCAA tournament? Talk about March madness.
WKRC-TV switched its exclusive over-the-air simulcast of Fox Sports Ohio's Opening Day game to sister station WSTR-TV (Channel 64) because of its contractual obligation as a CBS affiliate.
"We always have a contingency plan in place because of the NCAA March Madness on CBS," explains Jon Lawhead, Channel 12 general manager. "Usually our worry with two major sporting events is that the baseball game will go into extra innings."
Before and after changing channels, WKRC-TV ran a "crawl" – a text message scrolling across the screen – to tell Channel 12 viewers the game was on Channel 64 at 7 p.m.
Unfortunately for Reds fans, the switch came with the Reds battling to hang on. Reds pitchers loaded the bases with three walks, two by closer Raisel Iglesias and one by David Hernandez. With two outs and the bases loaded, Hernandez battled slugger Corey Dickerson with 12 pitches before he hit a grounder to second.
The game was over at 7:06 p.m., Lawhead said. Channel 64 then joined a Big Bang Theory rerun in progress.
Lawhead admits he missed all the drama before this one belonged to the Reds. He left the game at 6:30 p.m. to beat the crowd, with the Reds leading 5-3 in the eighth inning, "thinking the Reds have got this."
Even in our highly mobile society, more than 100,000 Greater Cincinnati households watched Opening Day on Local 12, according to Nielsen. The game averaged an 11.9 rating and a 26 percent audience share on Channel 12. (One ratings point in Cincinnati represents 8,500 homes, so the 11.9 translates to 101,150 homes.)
The No. 2 TV show Monday in Cincinnati was the 7 p.m. NCAA game on Channel 12 with an 8.7 rating, followed by CBS's late game on Channel 12 (7.0). The second-highest local broadcast was WKRC-TV's parade coverage noon-2:30 p.m. (6.7), followed by WLWT-TV's 11 p.m. news (6.4) and WXIX-TV's 10 p.m. news (5.6).