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Fans Must Turn Fox's Double Play

American League Championship Series * Angels Vs. Minnesota

October 09, 2002|LARRY STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The confusion surrounding the television schedule for the first round of baseball's playoffs is over, but now comes another problem.

Both league championship series games today begin at the same time.

Game 2 of the American League series between the Angels and Minnesota Twins begins at 5:15 p.m., as does Game 1 of the National League series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was our decision," Fox Sports spokesman Dan Bell said Tuesday. "We want to make these games available to the largest possible audience, and if we aired a game in the afternoon, that would not be the case.

"Our research indicates that viewership is 50% higher for an 8 p.m. [EDT] start than for a 4 p.m. [EDT] start. That's a pretty significant increase."

Because Fox can't televise two games at once, it is putting today's NL game on Fox Sports Net.

In Los Angeles, that game will be carried by Fox Sports Net 2. That's because Fox Sports Net has the Kings' season opener against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center, plus the pregame ceremony in which Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 jersey will be retired.

After the baseball game, Fox Sports Net 2 will televise the Galaxy's playoff game at Colorado, delayed. The soccer game begins at 6:30 p.m.

In San Diego, the Kings can be seen on ESPN2, which is televising the game nationally.

As for head-to-head baseball telecasts, there is precedence. Last year, when baseball's season was put on hold for a week because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a cramped playoff schedule prompted two league championship series games to be played simultaneously on an NFL Sunday.

The result was a combined 12.3 rating for the two baseball games, the highest rating ever for Fox during a league championship series.

The only other time Fox could be faced with have two games on a weekday is a week from today, when Game 6 of the NL series and Game 7 of the AL series are scheduled. If both games are necessary, the NL game will be played at 1:15 p.m. and the AL game at 5:15 p.m., both televised by Fox.

Fox figures people will be more likely to watch an afternoon game if it is a decisive one.

Today's head-to-head games will keep viewers wanting to see both games busy clicking their remotes. But things could be worse. In 1995, the first year of the ill-fated Baseball Network, playoff games were split nationally, , meaning only half the country got each game.

Fox announced Tuesday that Monday night's decisive game in the San Francisco-Atlanta division series averaged a 6.9 rating with a 12 share, bringing the average for Fox's six first-round telecasts to a 6.3/11, with an average audience size of 9.1 million viewers.

The 6.3/11 was a 19% increase over last season's 5.3/10 and a 29% increase over the 4.9/9 for Fox and NBC combined in 2000.

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