World Series TV ratings: Fox knocks it out of the park

Wedneday's spectacular (for Phillies fans) Game 1 of the World Series posted stunning ratings, underscoring the bonanza News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox television network is reaping. Shares of the parent company of The Wall Street Journal and the Fox Business Channel rose 60 cents on Thursday, or 4.43 percent, to $14.14. They've gained 48 percent this year.

According to Nielsen data supplied by Fox Sports, Game 1 between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies averaged a rating of 11 (19.5 million viewers), or about a 29 percent gain from last year's Game 1 between the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays. It's also the second-highest Game 1 of the decade and is Fox's best rating for a nondecisive World Series game since 2004. They were a "bit better" than Fox expected, Lou D'Ermilio, a spokesman for Fox Sports, told DailyFinance.

For Fox, which also has seen record pro football ratings, the Yankees-Philles matchup couldn't have come at a better time. News Corp.'s media properties, including the Journal, are being hurt by the slowdown in ad spending. Sports advertising is no exception. It dropped about 4 percent, to $4.83 billion, between January and June of this year compared with a year earlier, according to TNS Media Intellegence.

But sports programming is proving remarkably resilient as viewers choose to watch their favorite teams because it's low-cost entertainment. The ratings for Game 1 show pockets of surprising strength for a World Series dubbed the "Amtrak Series" because both teams are from the Northeast.

Fan Favorite

The Phillies stunned the Yankees 6 to 1 behind the nearly flawless pitching of Cliff Lee, who joined the team from the Cleveland Indians earlier in the summer. Lee has become a fan favorite in Philadelphia, as evidenced by the 25 percent gain in the TV ratings over last year's Phillies World Series appearance.

The rating is the percentage of homes watching a particular program. About 45 percent of the homes in Philadelphia saw the Phillies demolish the Yankees on Wednesday night, and 29.7 percent of those in N.Y. watched the game. Ratings were up 71 percent in Cleveland, also the former home of Lee's Yankee pitching opponent, CC Sabathia. Ratings were also strong on the West Coast.

As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, Fox pays $256.5 million annually for its baseball deal and is "hoping that the series goes at least six or seven games to maximize the advertising potential." Sorry, Yankees fans. If the first game foreshadows the rest of the series, that won't be happening.

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