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No Yankees, No Problem?

Television: Fox executive believes a riveting Angel-Twin series is better than simply having big-name team.


It's not about the New York Yankees, as much as it's about the story.

On the eve of an Angel-Minnesota Twin American League championship series that lacks the drawing power of sports' most powerful dynasty, Fox Sports President Ed Goren argued Monday that this showdown between the Southland's second-favorite team and contraction's escapees provides numerous selling points that foretell a ratings winner.

"We've been talking in our promos about October's magical matchups. Well, Cinderella has showed up in both of these very compelling teams," Goren said. "Late in an Angels' game, how many of those guys have dirty uniforms? They play the game like it should be played. The Twins weren't even money to make it to spring training, much less the World Series."

Goren contends the elements are in place for the series to help Fox improve upon its 2001 championship series rating of 7.0--11.2 million households. A network source expressed an Angel-Twin ratings goal of 8.0--12.8 million households.

The two dynamics that would help Fox's cause most are a lengthy series of close games. Dan Bell, Fox Sports' director of communications, noted that the Yankees' World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres in 1998 drew a 14.1 rating on Fox, while the seven-game 1997 World Series between the Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians had a 16.7 rating on NBC.

"Whoever wins Game 1, I tend to root for the other team in Game 2," Goren said. "I don't care if it's the Yankees and Dodgers, a series sweep negatively affects ratings. You always want the drama to play out to the max. That's what makes this the best time of year in sports television."

For baseball viewers, the worst of the best is over. Fox will broadcast all championship series and World Series games.

The mishmash of networks that televised the four division series--ABC Family, ESPN, Fox, FX--made for a frustrating, confusing journey with the remote. An ABC Family spokeswoman said her first-year company received several complaints regarding Major League Baseball's decision to designate Game 1 of the St. Louis-Arizona series as an 8 p.m. start (10 p.m. in St. Louis) on an obscure cable network that broadcast no regular season games.

Disney's networks, which include ABC Family, were assigned up to 12 division series games by Major League Baseball, which also directed the scheduling. As a result, those who channel-surfed through DirecTV on Sunday might have missed Game 5 of the Twin-Oakland A's division series on ABC Family. A program listing incorrectly identified the game as "Till Dad Do Us Part," a TV comedy marking a reunion of former "Night Court" co-stars John Larroquette and Markie Post.

Although ABC Family (formerly Fox Family) enjoyed a significant ratings boost with baseball--Friday night's Yankee-Angel game drew a 3.8 rating during a time slot that otherwise averages 0.8--network President Angela Shapiro told Daily Variety on Monday that she would prefer to halt playoff broadcasts in the future. "They just don't speak to the brand and sensibility [of the network]," Shapiro said. ABC Family has contractual rights to broadcast division series games through 2006.

Fox spent $2.5 billion to win exclusive broadcast rights to the championship series and World Series through 2006, an investment strengthened, Goren said, by riveting games.

"This [Angel-Twin] series puts us in two stadiums that might be the loudest indoor and outdoor stadiums in baseball," Goren said. "I haven't seen a louder stadium than Anaheim's the other night. One of the things I've told my announcers and producers for this series is, 'Less is more. We can't sell the game more than allowing the crowd to lay out its emotion.' "

Additionally, Goren said the Los Angeles market is not treating the Angels as the Dodgers' unattractive stepbrother. Los Angeles viewers displayed significant interest in the division series by producing more viewers than in New York and helping lift Saturday's clincher to a 6.4 rating that was 49% better than a Seattle-Cleveland game of similar importance in 2001.

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