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A Game 7 in World Series could boost TV ratings

The New York Yankees tend to draw the most viewers when they play for the title, but a Game 7 between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals could mean up to $30 million in extra revenue for Fox.

October 21, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Texas catcher Mike Napoli hits a two-run home run off St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter during the fifth inning of the Cardinals' 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.
Texas catcher Mike Napoli hits a two-run home run off St. Louis starter Chris… (Jeff Roberson / Associated…)

Whenever the Yankees don't make the World Series and, hey, it happens, those who pay attention to baseball's television ratings have a sort of doomsday feeling, as if the entire world will all be watching "Dancing With the Stars" or any NFL game instead.

And it's true. The Yankees get the ratings.

In 2009, when the Yankees played the Phillies, the World Series averaged over 19 million viewers for the six-game series including just over 22 million viewers for the final game. Last year, the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants averaged 14.2 million in the five-game series and no game had more than 15.5 million viewers.

But what is also true is something Fox Sports vice president Ed Goren brought up when asked how his network would deal with the televising of the 2011 Series between St. Louis and Texas.

Goren said there are two golden words — Game 7 —- once you can no longer say the three really golden words — New York Yankees.

"Last year's World Series won prime time for its week," Goren said. "We haven't been fortunate enough to have a Game 7 since 2002 and there are some people who think that's even more important [in a World Series] than anything."

In 2002 the Angels beat the Giants in seven games. As a whole that World Series averaged 19.2 million viewers, but Game 7 drew 30.8 million. Other than Game 7, no game had more than 19.3 million.

If the Cardinals and Rangers make it to Game 7 that could mean up to $30 million in extra revenue for Fox, according to two TV sources who have knowledge of contracts but are not authorized to speak publicly.

Since 1996, Fox has broadcast 70 World Series games, and 69 of those have won the ratings prime-time slot, according to Nielsen. Game 2 of the Cardinals-Rangers series on Thursday was watched by 14.3 million viewers, a 5% increase over Game 2 of last year's World Series.

"You don't get the Yankees every year. The key is getting six or seven games [in the World Series]," said Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports. "While ratings might not be as strong as in previous years, the World Series is still an event. It's still an important part of the television season in terms of prime-time ratings.

"Historically, ratings may have declined as they have for most sports properties as the number of available channels has grown, but if you want to reach a sports audience, the World Series, along with the Super Bowl and NCAA basketball tournament, remains an efficient buy."

Still, the numbers don't lie. The year after the Angels-Giants went seven games, the Yankees and Florida Marlins went six games in 2003 and averaged 20.1 million viewers, or almost a million more for the Series than watched the Angels and Giants. But no single game came close to the 30.8 million that watched Game 7 in 2002.

In fact, since then, no single World Series game has approached the TV ratings the night the Angels won their only title in that dramatic Game 7.

Curt Schilling, who pitched in four World Series and is now an analyst for ESPN's Baseball Tonight shows, said it is up to guys like him, the media, to make any series interesting.

"The onus falls on us," he said. "There are a ton of stories about these two teams just under the surface, a ton of human interest stuff that we need to sell."

So don't blame Fox executives if they root for whoever needs to win to force just one more game.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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