Fox Sports and ESPN are thinking about expanding coverage of Barry Bonds’ controversial chase of historical glory, AP reported.
Bonds needs eight more home runs to tie Hank Aaron’s career record of 755, and the two networks will decide whether or not they will show more games than they have previously scheduled.
Fox and ESPN must decide if much of the animosity of the fans who root against Bonds will turn into high ratings.
“There are some who would say that in a way, it’s a perfect storm,” Fox Sports president Ed Goren told AP. “Those who are rooting for him will watch. Those who are rooting against him will watch. You never know.”
Bonds has had an unambiguous dark cloud hanging over his head for the past couple of years due to the fact that some people believe he may have used performance-enhancing drugs at some point during his Hall of Fame-worthy career. With arguably the most fabled Major League Baseball career record at stake, there is well-oiled speculation from television executives that baseball fans will tune in to see Bonds creep closer to the record.
On the night in 1998 when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run record of 61, 43.1 million fans tuned in for a 12.9 rating; these are opportunities Fox and ESPN would not like to miss out on.
ESPN senior vice president for programming and acquisitions Len DeLuca told AP the dark cloud hanging over Bonds could shower good television ratings.
“It is almost axiomatic that the more controversy surrounding any major event drives more casual people to the set,” DeLuca said. “The baseball fans are going to be there. This is the Holy Grail, the career home-run record. But one of the facts of news that we all know, be it in sports or in regular news, is that controversy drives interest.”
According to Fox Sports, as of Friday, the network is scheduled to show five San Francisco Giants (Bonds’ team) games nationally for the rest of this season, including Saturday afternoon’s game against the Boston Red Sox.
According to ESPN’s Web site, the network is scheduled to show two Giants games for the rest of this season. However, this could all change soon.
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