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World Series Ratings Up 8%, Boosting Fox

October 28, 2003|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

The World Series delivered a financial windfall to Fox Sports as the six-game contest drew a wide array of viewers.

Although the audience for marquee sporting events has been shriveling in recent years, millions of viewers returned to postseason baseball this year, drawn by the success of long-suffering teams and by come-from-behind victories.

Viewership for the World Series, which ended Saturday when the Florida Marlins defeated the New York Yankees, was up 8% over the 2002 Series, when the Anaheim Angels overcame the San Francisco Giants. That all-California matchup failed to generate much national interest.

This fall's finale pulled in an average of 23.2 million viewers, up 18% over last year's Game 6. The 2002 Series went seven games.

The News Corp. network's television coverage of the entire postseason produced the highest ratings since 1995. But the World Series recorded its third-lowest television ratings ever.

Fox charged $325,000 for a commercial spot during this year's fall classic. The network raked in at least $60 million more in ad revenue than it had planned for postseason baseball, reaping most of that during the league championships.

Particularly pleasing to Fox, the Series managed gains among key demographic groups sought by advertisers. It attracted 10% more women aged 18 to 49 than in last year's Series. And, at a time when network executives are lamenting the loss of young viewers, the Series grabbed 12% more adults aged 18 to 34.

"It wasn't just the die-hard baseball fans that were watching -- everyone was watching," Fox Sports Chairman David Hill said Monday.

The success helped to quiet critics of Fox's six-year, $2.5-billion contract with Major League Baseball to broadcast postseason play, which disrupts the launch of the network's fall schedule. Last year, the company took a $225-million write-down for its baseball losses.

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