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The World Series begins tonight on Fox, and the Rangers-Cardinals matchup “looks to be a contender for least-watched Series since Nielsen began tracking such things,” but the series should still deliver audiences that Fox and its advertisers “can bank on, especially if the net catches a break and the Series runs longer than five games,” according to Jon Weisman of DAILY VARIETY. Fox Sports Media Group Vice Chair Ed Goren said, "In this 500-channel universe, the numbers that the World Series pulls in viewership are substantial year after year. Some years are better than others -- the more games you get, the better you'll be -- but it is still a major, major ratings attraction." Weisman noted a World Series without teams from big markets like N.Y., L.A., Chicago and Philadelphia "reflexively triggers a flight impulse for some.” But Goren said that even if the numbers for this series “run ragged rather than robust, the broadcasts will be a success.” Goren: "The World Series last year, we won primetime for the week. Even last year's World Series … was the eighth highest-rated show of the year." He said ad sales “testify to an enduring interest in the Fall Classic.” Weisman noted there is “some hope for Fox that this year's Series might exceed expectations." There is “reason to expect plenty of attention-grabbing offense,” and Fox “has a star in the making” in Rangers RF Nelson Cruz to go along with Cardinals 1B and perennial All-Star Albert Pujols (VARIETY.com, 10/18). ADWEEK.com's Anthony Crupi writes under the header, "MLB Playoff Ratings Darken World Series Outlook." He notes Fox "may be in for yet another rough World Series outing" following the low LCS ratings, but the net "may find a glimmer of hope in this year's lineup." St. Louis "was the second most popular MLB franchise on the dial," averaging a 9.0 rating during the regular season on FS Midwest (ADWEEK.com, 10/19).
LET THE CHATTER BEGIN: USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand reports given that the “two lowest-rated Series came in the past three years and this year’s league championship series ratings were way down,” Fox Sports Media Group Chair David Hill “expects the annual what’s-wrong-with-baseball questions.” Still, Hill “seems relaxed when asked what could be changed, like not having Series games Sunday and Monday nights to avoid the NFL, to improve baseball’s appeal.” Hiestand notes to “help Series hype, Fox will have its first-ever ‘roadblock’ tonight at 7:59 ET, when all 10 Fox channels will air a one-minute reminder that Series coverage is about to start.” In addition, the Fox Hot Spot will use “technology that has been seen on TV cricket overseas.” The idea is “for heat-seeking sensors to pinpoint heat made by a ball making contact ... and mark the spot for viewers by making it glow.” Hill said that Hot Spot “might not appear” on tonight’s coverage of Rangers-Cardinals Game One and “initially will aim only at the batter’s box but might be used to cover more of the field” (USA TODAY, 10/19).
FAIR AND BALANCED: In Dallas, Barry Horn writes for fans who think Fox’ Joe Buck and Tim McCarver “can’t deliver a fair and balanced World Series broadcast” are “wrong.” Buck is a former Cardinals broadcaster and McCarver played for the team, but Horn writes, “Please don’t get out your faux-enthusiasm meter and declare them Cardinals fanatics. It won’t be so. If anything, they will be rooting for both teams to produce an exciting Series that goes seven games. That would deliver what Buck and McCarver root for most -- better ratings” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/19).
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING: ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski wrote under the header, "The World Series: It's Broken. Fix It!" Wojciechowski noted the 8.4 rating for the Giants-Rangers World Series last year was "tied for the lowest World Series TV numbers in its long, storied history." Wojciechowski: "Why? Because regular-season baseball lasts longer than a Ken Burns documentary. So shorten it. A 154- or even a 148-game regular season would work just fine. The integrity of the season wouldn't be compromised, and it would allow the postseason to start before we gas up the snow blowers. ... While we're at it, let's shrink the league championship series and World Series from best-of-seven series to best-of-five" (ESPN.com, 10/18).
Fox earned a 17.1 final Nielsen rating and 28.4 million viewers for its NFL national window on Sunday featuring Cowboys-Patriots in 88% of U.S. markets, marking the highest-rated telecast of any kind since ABC earned a 21.2 rating for the "Academy Awards" last February. The telecast also marked Fox’ highest-rated NFL regular-season telecast since its national window featured Brett Favre's return to Green Bay in '09 for a Vikings-Packers game, as well as the net’s sixth highest-rated regular-season telecast ever. Compared to Fox’ Week Six national window last year, which featured Cowboys-Vikings, the net saw a 9% ratings bump. The telecast ranked first across all TV programs last week among all key adult and male demos, and even marked the top telecast among all key female demos (Fox).
HIGHEST-RATED '11 NFL REGULAR-SEASON GAMES THROUGH WEEK SIXRKNETDATEGAMERAT.VIEWERS (000)1Fox10/16Cowboys-Patriots (to 88% of U.S. markets)17.128,4002NBC9/8Saints-Packers (NFL Kickoff)16.027,1693Fox9/11Giants-Redskins (to 63% of U.S. markets)15.325,8024NBC9/11Cowboys-Jets15.325,7665NBC9/18Eagles-Falcons14.323,424
UNDER THE LIGHTS: NBC finished with a 10.1 final rating and 16.6 million viewers for its Vikings-Bears “SNF” telecast, marking the net’s lowest-rated NFL game this season. Those figures are down 14% and 13%, respectively, from an 11.7 rating and 19.1 million viewers for Colts-Redskins in Week Six last year. The game did mark the most-viewed program for the night, giving “SNF” six straight weeks of primetime wins. The program also marked the fourth best audience among all primetime TV programs for the week ending Oct. 16 (NBC). In N.Y., Neil Best noted from ’06-08, “back in the heyday of ‘Desperate Housewives’” on ABC, “SNF” was the top program in primetime “on 33 of 48 occasions.” From ’09-11, the telecast “has been No. 1 for its night every week but one,” with the exception being a second-place finish to Fox’ Yankees-Angels ALCS Game Six in ‘09, “which had been delayed one night by rain” (NEWSDAY.com, 10/17). Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 7.8 U.S. rating and 12.1 million viewers for the Dolphins-Jets “MNF” telecast, up 26% and 25%, respectively, from a 6.2 rating and 9.7 million viewers for the Titans-Jaguars, which marked the net’s smallest “MNF” audience last season. The increase marks ESPN’s first year-over-year “MNF” audience gain. The game also delivered ESPN a win in primetime among all nets in each key male demo, as well as adults 18-34 (ESPN).
Shaw Communications President Peter Bissonnette is taking "full responsibility for the technical glitch that kept its customers from watching almost all of the first period" of Monday's Penguins-Jets game, according to Geoff Kirbyson of the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. The Jets won the game 2-1 for their first win this season, and "both goals were scored before the signal was restored." Bissonnette said, "We screwed that up. It was a technical anomaly, that's the best I can put it." He said that Shaw will "extend the free period of the TSN Jets specialty channel by two games." Additionally, instead of "having to pay as of Dec. 6, the home game that evening against the Phoenix Coyotes will also be free." Bissonnette said that the company has "implemented a number of checks and balances to ensure future broadcasts will not encounter similar technical difficulties" (WINNIPEGFREEPRESS.com, 10/18). Jets chat boards "lit up like a Christmas tree even before game time with many irate fans threatening to shift their cable business over to MTS or Bell." There were "no reports of glitches with TSN Jets on either MTS TV or Bell" Monday night (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/19).
OLYMPIC FEVER: AROUND THE RINGS' Ann Cantrell reports the '12 London Games represent "a series of firsts for ISM Ltd., the IOC's worldwide exclusive licensee of Olympic-themed video games." Publishers beginning next month "will release a series of Olympic-themed games for virtually every platform from Xbox 360 to mobile phones to web browsers." "Mario and Sonic at the Olympics Games" hits retail stores Nov. 18 and is "featured as part of a special edition blue Wii console bundle in European markets." For the "first time ever, there will also be a Facebook game in which people can build an Olympic Park online." ISM will "work with sponsors to give away real-life prizes for winners." ISM also will "work with Olympic sponsors and National Olympic Committees to create 'minigames' or simpler, flash-based games for free that can be played through a web browser" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 10/19).
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said that the Pac-12 Network "will be based in the Bay Area -- Los Angeles was also considered -- in a massive broadcast center that will include Pac-12 Enterprises." In San Jose, Jon Wilner noted within the next month, the conference "will make its second critical hire of the fall: A chief executive for the television network." Scott added that there "has been no decision on the future of the basketball tournaments" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 10/17).
SHOW ME THE MONEY: Tournament and cable network officials announced yesterday that play to determine the World Series of Poker's $8.7M top prize "would be aired nearly live on ESPN, ESPN2 and online." The AP's Oskar Garcia noted the broadcasts "will be tape delayed 15 minutes, meaning viewers at home will get to see the players' hands sooner than ever before." Each of the nine players remaining in the field will "return to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on Nov. 6 to play down to three players." Coverage will air on ESPN2. Those remaining will play Nov. 8 on ESPN for the title (AP, 10/18).
FINDING A HOME: In New Jersey, Pete Caldera reports a decision on the Yankees' radio home "could be made shortly after the World Series." Wherever the Yankees "land on the dial in 2012, the club retains the right to approve their announcers -- indicating a healthy possibility" for John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman to remain in the booth. (Bergen RECORD, 10/19).