Series Short, Sweet for Fox

Oct 31, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The Boston Red Sox’ first World Series celebration in 86 years came too early for Fox.

Despite ending in a sweep, the Series drew the highest ratings in five years. But with only four games played, Fox lost an opportunity to cash in on those high viewership levels.

“Are we disappointed we didn’t get more games? Sure,” said a Fox spokesman. But he noted that over the life of the network’s baseball deal, World Series are averaging six games. “That’s OK,” he said.

Had the Series gone longer, Fox “could have actually made some money on their Major League Baseball deal this year,” said Larry Novenstern, senior VP and director of national buying at Deutsch. But he said the strong performance of the two League Championship Series limited whatever pain Fox might be feeling.

With both League Championship Series going the full seven games, Fox got to broadcast 18 of a possible 21 games in the last two rounds of the playoffs. “It could have been a lot worse for them,” Mr. Novenstern said. “In the ALCS there were a lot of extra innings, so they got a lot of extra revenue in as a network. They got a ton of extra advertisers in there. They probably paid off some prime-time debts.”

Fox had virtually sold out a potential Game 5 of the Series. With commercials selling for $350,000, and about 60 spots available per game, about $21 million in revenue slipped away. Fox could have raked in a similar amount during later games.

Instead, Fox began to run its regular prime-time programming last Thursday.

“Some of that money is going to come back into the general marketplace and potentially tighten up the marketplace,” Mr. Novenstern said. “But as of right now, fourth-quarter scatter is kind of a wasteland, so I don’t think it’s really going to change things so much.”

He said one client that had earmarked money for all seven World Series games was likely to simply pocket the unspent funds. “I’m pretty sure their money is just going back to the bottom line,” Mr. Novenstern said.

The World Series averaged a 15.8 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. That’s up 23 percent from last year’s Series, in which the Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees in six games. The 2004 rating is a remarkable performance for a one-sided Series. Usually viewership grows during a more tightly contested playoff.

The 2004 rating was the highest since the 1999 World Series, which aired on NBC and drew a 16 rating. The Yankees swept the Atlanta Braves in that Series.