SBD/October 19, 2011/Media

Fox Hopes To Buck Trend Of Low-Rated World Series With Prolonged Rangers-Cards Matchup

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).
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