KSDK lands rights to Cardinals

NBC affiliate KSDK in St. Louis has re-acquired the rights to air World Champion St. Louis Cardinals baseball games beginning next spring (assuming the power, knocked out in some areas by last week’s snow/ice storms, is back on by then…)

KSDK carried Cardinals baseball from 1947 until 1987. In 1987, KSDK had the number one network lineup, and didn’t want to pre-empt top-rated network programming to carry baseball games. They passed the rights off to KPLR, which has been the home of the Cardinals since 1988.

With NBC prime-time not doing much these days, KSDK has decided to re-acquire the package, with some games certain to air in prime, pre-empting NBC fare. KSDK will air 20 Cardinals games in high-definition (including road games — hear that, Comcast SportsNet?), plus two spring taining games and a weekly television show devoted to the team. The games will also be carried through a network of TV stations spanning eight states, including Illinois.

With the move, KSDK, already far and away the number-one station in the market, will likely become more dominant. The station airs top-rated programs such as Wheel of Fortune, Jeporady! The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Ellen, plus a successful local daily program, Show Me St. Louis.

With the Cardinals now out of the picture, this brings up, once again, the possibility of KPLR becoming an ABC affiliate. ABC had a rocky history with former affiliate KTVI (now a Fox O&O) and with Sinclair-owned KDNL, Channel 30, which is among the lowest-rated ABC affiliates in the country. The station dumped its newscasts five years ago in a cost-cutting move. KDNL is also held in low regard by St. Louis residents. (The Grey’s Anatomy Super Bowl debacle comes to mind.)

KPLR nearly became an ABC affiliate in 1988, but that was snuffed out when it acquired Cardinals baseball. With owner Tribune in the mode of possibly selling off its TV stations, the current CW affiliate could be in the best position in years to land the ABC affiliation. KPLR however, still owns the broadcast rights to Blues hockey games.

Fox Sports Net Midwest continues to own the cable rights to Cardinals games.