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Fox Isn’t Cheering for Short Series

Oct 30, 2006  •  Post A Comment

With four games done in the World Series last week, only the Cardinals were smiling.

St. Louis had a 3-1 lead over the Detroit Tigers after beating the Tigers Thursday night, creating the possibility of ending in just five games a series that was tracking below last year’s Chicago White Sox-Houston Astros sweep. Last year’s World Series averaged a record-low 11.9 Nielsen Media Research household rating and 20 share.

Ending in five games would be bad news for Fox, since later games tend to be the highest-rated and fewer games means less ad inventory. But five games would not be as bad as last year, when there were only four games.

Fox has also been able to pack a few extra commercial spots into this year’s games as part of its new agreement with Major League Baseball. Fox is probably underdelivering viewers to its sponsors, but was likely to run as many paid spots as possible Friday and offer make-goods, if necessary, in other programming.

The first five games left Fox with about a 10 rating and 15.7 million viewers, down 10 percent from last year. A network spokesman said that ratings in most of the country were about flat year to year, but noted that Detroit and St. Louis are smaller markets than Chicago and Houston and that accounts for a difference in about 900,000 homes watching per game.

Commercials

Fox’s ratings and financial fortunes would improve with a Detroit comeback. Not only do later games in a series usually draw much higher ratings, but the network will be able to air another 60 or so commercials at about $375,000 per 30 seconds in each game that’s played.

But so far this year’s World Series seems to lack star power, said Chris Boothe, president and chief activation officer of Starcom USA.

“You’re always going to get the die-hard guys, the baseball fans there, but for the ratings to go beyond that bubble, the casual fan has to step into the equation.”

Mr. Boothe was also concerned that younger viewers aren’t watching the World Series.

“These are the people who seemed to push baseball to record attendance levels. It’s really not translated to television,” he said.

Still, he said, the World Series “provides a high-reach, high-touch vehicle for that male audience.”

Fox officials noted that the network has won the night in the 18 to 49 demo each night the World Series has aired. Fox was No. 2 in the demo the week of Oct. 16 and was likely to win the week of Oct. 23, thanks to baseball.

Fox’s normal programming this time of year usually doesn’t do as well.