Fox Scores Big With Baseball

Oct 20, 2003  •  Post A Comment

There’s no crying about baseball for Fox this year.
After two years of sagging playoff ratings, Fox is cleaning up with some of its highest-rated Major League Baseball games ever and killing the competition in the process.
Through last Wednesday, Fox’s 17 postseason baseball game broadcasts were up 50 percent in viewers over last year with an average of 14.1 million people tuning in. With the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox-perennial losers, yet crowd favorites-in the National League and American League Championship Series, respectively, Fox saw its viewership increase 59 percent over last year in those two recently concluded series.
The decisive Game 7 between the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins on Wednesday was the most-watched LCS game on any network since 1991 with 26.4 million viewers. It also scored a 10.1/27 in adults 18 to 49. The game outrated 24 of the past 27 World Series games.
Those ratings were enough to convince execs at NBC and CBS to move original episodes of their scripted series out of the line of fire and air repeats on Thursday night, when the Boston Red Sox took on the New York Yankees in Game 7 of that series.
Fox won eight of the nine nights it carried an LCS game in adults 18 to 49. However, with the Marlins advancing to the World Series over the Cubs, Fox may have seen its best baseball ratings already. Initiative projected that the World Series between the New York Yankees and Florida Marlins would average a 12.4/21, well below the 16.7/29 that the agency felt a Cubs vs. Red Sox matchup would have averaged.
On a conference call last week, Fox Sports President Ed Goren acknowledged that the success of the Chicago Cubs, lovable losers for nearly a century, had driven up ratings numbers during the playoffs.
“No question [World Series ratings] would have been very impressive” had the Cubs not lost to the Florida Marlins, he said.
But Mr. Goren noted that fans who tuned in for the Cubs now know the Florida team.
“A lot of people who didn’t know a marlin from a dolphin have been captivated by this scrappy team,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a great World Series.”
Regardless of how well the World Series performs, Fox is already way ahead of the game. A little more than three weeks into the new season, Fox is up 42 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 36 percent in total viewers compared with the same period last year.
That bodes well for Fox’s new season, considering the network was in fourth place last year in adults 18 to 49 before it even had the chance to roll out its new fall schedule after baseball ended. This year, Fox is nipping at NBC’s heels for first place in the demo with a 4.4/12 vs. NBC’s 4.5/12. Fox is second in total viewers only to CBS and is beating NBC with 11.5 million vs. NBC’s 11.3 million.
With hit show “Joe Millionaire” returning, Fox’s new series getting a strong promotional platform during baseball and no new shows achieving breakout hit status on the other networks, Fox should get significant sampling on its new shows when it starts rolling them out after baseball.
Couple that with returning hits such as “24,” “That ’70s Show” and “The Simpsons,” and Fox could have a real shot at stealing the 18 to 49 crown from NBC this season.
Other highlights from last week:
* Three series were given a seal of approval, earning full-season orders from their networks. UPN picked up the back nine episodes of sitcoms “All of Us” and “Eve.” “All of Us,” executive produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, helped launch UPN’s new Tuesday night sitcom lineup and has become UPN’s most-watched series, averaging 4.5 million viewers, and its highest-rated show among persons 12 to 34 with a 2.3/7, after four airings. “Eve,” airing Mondays at 8:30 p.m., is averaging a 2.1/7 rating in adults 12 to 34 and 4.4 million viewers. “Las Vegas” was the first new NBC series to get a full-season order. It has been finishing third in its Monday 9 p.m. time slot, but with very competitive numbers. It has averaged a 4.6/11 in adults 18 to 49 and 11.25 million viewers.
* Several series that were on the bubble last year to return for another season seem to have justified their pickups. ABC’s “The Practice,” which lost more than half its ratings when it moved to Monday nights last year, is winning its Sunday 10 p.m. time slot in adults 18 to 49 (4.0/10), leading NBC’s “Lyon’s Den” (3.6/9). Compared with its Monday night average in the second half of last season, “Practice” is up 43 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 24 percent in total viewers (10.4 million vs. 8.4 million).
The WB’s “Angel,” which moved to Wednesdays following the hit “Smallville,” is averaging a 3.1/9 in persons 12 to 34 and 5.2 million viewers. That’s up 24 percent in the demo and 12 percent in viewers compared with its first three airings last season on Sunday nights.
In its new Tuesday 9:30 p.m. time slot, NBC’s “Good Morning, Miami” has been retaining 87 percent of “Frasier’s” adults 18 to 49 audience, averaging a 4.0/10 in the demo. “Hidden Hills” averaged an 84 percent retention in the same time slot last year.
* After averaging a 6.8/20 in adults 18 to 49 and 16.7 million total viewers in its first three episodes, “8 Simple Rules” fell about 50 percent from its average when it ran a rerun last week while the show’s production is on hiatus following the death of series star John Ritter. The rerun scored a third-place 3.8/11 in the demo. NBC’s “Whoopi” appeared to be the main benefactor, up 42 percent over the week before with a 4.0/12 in adults 18 to 49.
Jon Lafayette contributed to this report.