The World Series (Nervous) Breakdown

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The obituary for the 2008 World Series must include, in the lead paragraph, that it was the least-watched crowning of baseball’s champions since Neilsen began its attempt to measure TV viewing audiences 40 years ago. The 8.4 national rating and 14 share erases the 10.1/17 brought on by the dubious the St. Louis-Detroit Series two years ago, and this is the first without a double-digit rating ever.

Not that anyone residing in Philadelphia, which registered a 51.8 rating and ridiculous 69 share, will shed a tear over that. (Or in Tampa-St. Pete, where it was 32.4/45).

In lieu of flowers, we suggest lobbying hard to Fox and the MLB to face facts: Frigid night games, especially those weather-delayed, aren’t going away in October (or November), so, with the ratings bar already as low as it can get, go old-school.

Bring back day games.

Factor 1: People are awake in the day. They’ll find a way to watch even if they happen to be at work. They’ve become accustomed to the practice from the NCAA basketball tournament.

Factor 2: People, especially kids, are asleep at night. Many hit the sack by 10 p.m., when Game 3 finally started in the East, or the time before it ended in the West.

Factor 3: The perception that the MLB has sold its soul to TV has become reality in the minds of the viewers. Change the business model. Accept fewer hundreds of millions of dollars for the TV rights fees, with the understanding that day World Series games are part of the new strategy. If ultimately the budget-stretched fans finance the advertisers who support the prime-time TV coverage, this circles back to the fans making a stance against such spending on their behalf.

Don’t wait until Congress conducts another bogus hearing on the state of baseball to make these adjustments. Those hearings will likely be televised. And the fans will watch. No matter what time they’re aired.

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Two examples of the media’s reaction, still, on the TV side, from the Sports Business Daily:
==Phil Wood of the Washington Examier: “This is the World Series, Bud. This should be baseball’s time to shine. Yet you continue to allow television to dictate when and even whether the games should be played. … I certainly understand that the TV revenues are paramount to the profitability of the sport. But you’ll never convince me that the game isn’t losing generations of fans by making the World Series inaccessible to kids.”

==Gary Loewen of the Toronto Sun: Selig and MLB “have served notice that the fans, and even the players, don’t quite compare in importance with the corporations and the television networks … Watching the World Series used to be a family affair. Now families unite at the breakfast table, checking the newspaper for the score of the game the night before.”

== Richard Sandomir of the New York Times, about how Game 5 ended before 10 p.m. EDT: “No one can say kids could not stay up for this World Series finale.”

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Fox’s spin on the World Series ratings (paraphrasing its press release):

The conclusion of Game 5 earned an 11.9/18 (19.8 million viewers) on Thursday, which brought a nine-inning rating of 9.6/14 (15.8 million viewers) for the entire game. Game 5 was the highest-rated and most-watched game of the 2008 Series.
Still, it was seven percent lower than the last Game 5 that decided a series — 2006, Tigers-Cards, a 10.3/18.

“This World Series got off to a solid start last week and was poised to build momentum as we expected it to,” said Fox Sports president Ed Goren. “The rain delay on Saturday and suspended game on Monday, combined with only going only five games, obviously worked against the Series reaching its maximum viewership potential, but even with that, FOX was No. 1 most nights, posted some of its best nights in many weeks and was No. 1 last week in prime time.”

==Among Adults 18-49, the Game 5 coverage, pregame, post-game and 8:00 p.m. Barack Obama paid program, combined to average a 5.0 rating. CBS was a distant second with a 3.0, followed by ABC (2.4) and NBC (2.3). Fox also had the night among Total Viewers with 15.5 million viewers. CBS was again second with 11.9 million viewers.

==Even with the rain delays, the five-game ’08 World Series can be measured as being down just 1 percent from the total ’07 World Series, which was a Red Sox’s four-game sweep. Combine the ratings of the five games — 42.3 — and it’s almost as good as the four games from ’07 (42.7).

== The 2008 World Series gave Fox some of its highest-rated nights in many weeks. Game 1 was at the time Fox ‘s highest-rated Wednesday night in 22 weeks. Game 2 was Fox’s best Thursday night in 28 weeks. Despite a 90-minute rain delay, Game 3 gave Fox its best Saturday night in 24 weeks. Game 4 provided Fox’s top Sunday night in 38 weeks, stretching back to Super Bowl XLII. The first five and a half innings of Game 5 on Monday produced Fox’s best Monday night average in 23 weeks, and the conclusion of Game 5 surpassed Game 1 to rank as Fox’s best Wednesday night in 23 weeks.

- This is the first time in history that the World Series has failed to reach a Game 6 in five consecutive years, with the last coming in 2003.

- Boston posted an impressive 19.0/27, tops among the non-home markets with Orlando, Providence (both 15.8), Ft. Myers (15.6), West Palm Beach (15.4), Charlotte (15.0), St. Louis (14.5) and New York (14.3) rounding out the top 10 ratings for last night’s conclusion of Game 5.
Los Angeles had a 10.9 rating.

- Philadelphia averaged 36.3 for the five-game series with Tampa/St. Petersburg scoring a 28.4. Florida markets Orlando (12.7), Ft. Myers (11.4) and West Palm Beach (11.1) followed. Other markets posting strong average ratings throughout the series include Minneapolis (10.8), St. Louis (10.7), Charlotte (10.4), Milwaukee (10.2) and Seattle (10.1).
Los Angeles had an 8.4 total rating, 22nd out of the 56 metered markets.

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