SBD/Issue 167/Sports Media

MLB Playoff Games On Fox To Air Earlier On Weeknights, Saturdays

MLB and Fox as part of an agreement unveiled last night have set the "first pitch for all weeknight postseason games" on the network at 7:57pm ET, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. Saturday night games also will "start no later than weeknight games and possibly earlier," while Sunday night games will "begin after the conclusion of Fox's NFL broadcasts, as in previous years." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "This move will help us big-time. This is reaching out to fans. This is precisely what we want to do." Rosenthal reported Fox' weeknight coverage of the ALCS and World Series this season will "begin with a pregame show" at 7:30pm, and the 7:57pm start time will be "earlier than championship events in every major professional sport but the Super Bowl." MLB noted that "no regularly scheduled World Series game has started before 8 p.m. on a weeknight since at least 1975." To secure the earlier start times, Fox Sports "needed approval from more than 200 affiliates and 27 owned-and-operated stations," which "air their own programming from 7:30 to 8 p.m., the start of network prime time." Fox Sports President Ed Goren: "This could not have been accomplished without their cooperation and understanding." Rosenthal noted Fox and MLB also "considered afternoon starts for Saturday games in the LCS and World Series, but determined that more fans would watch if the games were played in prime time." TBS, which will "broadcast the NLCS in addition to all four Division Series, has not yet set its start times" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/17).

NECESSARY CHANGE? Selig said, "I give Fox a lot of credit. I've wanted this (for) a long time. And it's a very significant change." USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes the earlier start times "might seem like a no-brainer, given that baseball's weeknight postseason games can last past midnight." But despite last year's weather-plagued Phillies-Rays World Series averaging an all-time Series low 8.4 rating, World Series numbers have "generally suggested that viewers don't seem all that bothered by games ending in the wee hours" (USA TODAY, 5/18).

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