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Series Is Largely a Local Favorite

The Angel-Giant matchup is posting impressive ratings in California but not so nationwide.

October 24, 2002|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

There's no question that the Southland has been captivated by the Angels and their World Series run. Their 10-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 Tuesday night got a 32.3 rating with a 48 share of the audience in Los Angeles.

And in San Francisco, Game 3 drew a 32.0 rating with a 49 share. It marked the first time in the Series that L.A. got a better rating than San Francisco.

But while the Series is a hit in California, it is not faring as well in other areas of the country, particularly the East. And because of that it appears to be on the way to becoming the lowest-rated Series ever.

The national rating for Game 3 was a 10.8 with an 18 share, and the three-game average was a 10.8/19.

The previous low for a Series was a 12.4/21 for the "Subway Series" in 2000 between the New York Yankees and Mets.

Game 3's numbers were 30% below the 15.4/24 for Game 3 of last year's Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Yankees. And the three-game average is off 22% from last year's 13.8/22.

Ed Goren, Fox Sports president, was not surprised by the drop-off.

"In addition to the regional matchup dampening overall viewership," he said, "Game 3 in particular was negatively influenced by the Angels' taking an early 8-1 lead."

The national rating peaked at a 13.0 from 6:30-7 p.m.

"Also," Goren said, "Game 3 last year had a big boost by an emotional first game at Yankee Stadium, highlighted by President Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and capped by a close 2-1 score.

"The bottom line is Games 1 and 2 were two of the top-13 shows in prime time last week, and Fox finished first each night a World Series game was played."

Goren also has to be heartened by the Game 3 ratings in L.A., which are Laker-type numbers. The four-game NBA Finals in June averaged a 31.8 rating with a 51 share. The year before, when the Lakers beat the Philadelphia 76ers in five games, the NBA Finals averaged a 33.2/54.

But the declining Series ratings are a concern. In general, television ratings are declining because of the proliferation of cable channels and Internet activity. No Series has averaged a 20 rating since 1992.

The highest-rated Series was in 1978 between the Dodgers and Yankees, which averaged a 32.8/56. Last year's dramatic seven-game Series drew a 15.7/25.

One thing that might help ratings is speeding up the games. The first two games of this Series averaged 3 hours 50 minutes. Game 3 went 3:37 and didn't end until after midnight in the East.

"They lost me in the sixth inning," said New Yorker Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports, which carried the World Series from 1990 to '93. "I usually start nodding off at 11 p.m."

Pilson, now a leading sports television consultant, said not much can be done about starting the television coverage any earlier. The networks want prime-time coverage to reach the largest audiences. And there are obligations to affiliates for time slots for local news and local programming.

"You really can't start the coverage before 8 p.m. [in the East]. But one thing you can do is cut back on the pregame," Pilson said. "It's foolish to not start the game within five minutes of going on the air."

Of course there are viewers who like to see the introduction of players and other pregame festivities. Fox has been criticized for not providing more of that.

You can't please everyone. The late finishes bother people in the East, and the 5:30 p.m. start times don't sit too well with fans in the West. A lot of people are stuck on the freeways at that time, or busy with other activities.

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