Like managers juggling pitchers to get through the late innings, Major League Baseball and its broadcast partners are tweaking the postseason schedule in a bid to bolster television viewership that hit record lows during the last two years.
MLB and Fox Sports said Monday that the 2007 World Series would start on Wednesday, Oct. 24, instead of the customary Saturday night. The schedule would also push a seventh game to Nov. 1, a month usually better suited for football.
The Arizona Diamondbacks-New York Yankees 2001 World Series played into November, but only after the 9/11 terrorist attacks caused delays in the baseball schedule.
The later date for the 2007 Series opener was picked because TV television audiences typically are 15% bigger on Wednesday nights than on Saturdays. The schedule change also is designed to avoid playing on Friday night, the second-worst night of the broadcast week.
"We want to put on the games when the most people are there to watch them," said Bill Wanger, senior vice president of research and programming for Fox Sports. "We can get off on a stronger note. And we're not going to be competing with NFL and NCAA football or even NASCAR on the weekend. We'll have the stage to ourselves."
The National and American League division series will begin on Wednesday, Oct. 3, and be broadcast on TBS and TNT. The National League championship series would begin on Thursday, Oct. 11, with the American League championship series following on Oct. 12. TBS and Fox will split those games. Fox is the exclusive World Series network.
But the possibility of playing in a cold-weather climate in November is causing some concern.
"At some point, we will have to look at condensing the [regular-season] schedule, maybe schedule some doubleheaders for each team to shorten the season seven to 10 days," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "If you run into some bad weather back east in late October, it's going to impact the level of play. I know it's tough to cut gates and dates out of the schedule, but at some point we will have to look into that."
World Series ratings fell to record-low levels during 2005 and 2006. Last year's television audience fell to 15.8 million, the lowest ever.