No Yankees, No Phillies: Fewer World Series Viewers for Fox

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San Francisco Giants win 2010 World SeriesProbably among the fans cheering the loudest for the New York Yankees as they battled the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series, were executives from News Corp. (NWS), the parent of Fox Sports, which has exclusive rights to broadcast the World Series through 2013. Not only were the Bronx Bombers the media giant's hometown team but without their presence, ratings for the Fall Classic would likely suffer, which is exactly what happened.

Many fans skipped the contest between the San Francisco Giants and Rangers, which is a pity because the Giants played some extraordinary baseball as they captured the title. Neither the Giants nor the Rangers has the fan base of bigger-market teams such as the Yankees or the Boston Red Sox, which failed to even make the playoffs this year. The Philadelphia Phillies would have been the first National League team since the 1940s to make the World Series for three years in a row. and that would have provided Fox a compelling story line. But the Phillies fell to the Giants in the highest-rated National League Championship Series.

World Series ratings also were hurt by the fact that the Giants put the Rangers away in five games.

Still Outfoxed the Competition

"The match-up featured two teams that the East Coast really didn't care about and pulled ratings through four games that rivaled the record low rain-delayed World Series between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay in 2008," writes Robert Seidman at TV by the Numbers. "That series also only went five games. Longer series are always better for the network, and had the series been closer and gone a full seven games, Fox's ratings for the series would've been much better."

Though the ratings were down, they were still good enough to allow Fox to beat the competition. For instance, about 15 million people watched Game 1, making it the top-rated show of the night. Still, 23% fewer people watched that game than last year's Game 1 match-up between the Yankees and Phillies. Viewership rose 3% from the last non-Yankees Series, 2008's clash between the Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays. A Fox spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

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Game 4 of the Series lost to a regular-season football game for the first time in history. But America's pastime roared back in last night's contest, beating ESPN's Monday Night Football by drawing a 10.6 rating, Fox spokesman Dan Bell told USA Today. That's down 17%t from last year's Yankees-Phillies series, and a 5% decline from Game 5 of the Phillies-Rays series in 2008, which started on a Monday and was delayed because of rain and wound up ending on a Wednesday.

Disappointing ratings worry advertisers because they may force the network to issue "make-goods," essentially free commercials for failing to deliver audiences that advertisers were guaranteed. Fox has had difficulty attracting audiences this year, and even some network stalwarts such as The Simpsons have suffered viewership declines.

An even bigger challenge awaits Fox next year, when it must convince viewers to tune into American Idol without its star Simon Cowell. Wall Street is skeptical that the talent competition can keep hitting homers in the ratings the way it has done for years.
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