Once upon a time, Atlanta Braves telecasts (along with NWA Wrestling) were the foundation of Turner Broadcasting’s WTBS. Today, the Braves are as poor a fit for the cable superstation as Bob Horner’s trousers on a normal-sized person, explains the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Tim Tucker.
The Braves’ season finale at Houston marks the end of an era that began in 1977, when Ted Turner had the novel notion of bouncing his bad baseball team’s games off a satellite to cable systems nationwide. Although Braves games will continue to be televised in Atlanta and much of the Southeast, the team no longer will be national programming on TBS ” a casualty of the evolution of the TV industry.
“A very important part of my life won’t be there anymore,” said Bill DeArmond of Winfield, KS, a college professor who credits the distant team with helping him through personal tragedies.
As the number of channels ” and baseball teams ” available on television has exploded, the national audience for Braves games has eroded. From a peak rating of 4.9 in 1983, the national Nielsen cable rating for Braves games is down 84 percent, to 0.8 this season ” an average audience of 716,000 households. (The rating is the percentage of U.S. cable TV households tuned in on average.)
So like countless other TV shows of declining popularity, the Braves are being … canceled.
“It’s going to be hard, going to be a very emotional day,” said longtime Braves broadcaster Skip Caray, who will call today’s game with his broadcaster son, Chip Caray. “These [viewers], we’ve been a big part of their family. The connection is going to be severed, and it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to them.”
The Braves played a key role in sustaining the cable industry through its infancy.
“Without that [programming], a lot of cable systems would have died,” said Terry McGuirk, at the time Turner’s right-hand man and now the Braves’ president. “I remember going over to Charleston one time, and the cable-system guy had, like, 15 VCRs playing tapes of really bad-quality stuff. Then all of a sudden, we arrive on the satellite with the Braves.”