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Boston bonanza

Fox looking to Red Sox to drive Series TV ratings

Posted: Wednesday October 24, 2007 1:23PM; Updated: Wednesday October 24, 2007 1:23PM
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Television executives will tell you publicly that they root for volume (e.g., a seven-game series) when it comes to postseason baseball. Privately, they root for the Cubs, Red Sox and Yankees.

"I don't care what sport it is. There are few national teams in any league and when you get a national team in a championship series, naturally it's going to improve the ratings," says Fox Sports president Ed Goren. "One of the more honest comments that I've heard through the years from a commissioner of a sport came from David Stern. Years ago he was asked who he was rooting for in the NBA Finals. His response? I'd love to see the Lakers against the Lakers."

The baseball equivalent might be an all-Red Sox World Series. Boston is the seventh-largest TV market in the U.S. (Denver is 18th), but no city is more crazed about its baseball team. Game 7 of the ALCS game drew a 52.9 household rating in Boston (meaning 52.9 percent of all TV households) and peaked at a 57.0 rating at 11:45 ET when Coco Crisp ran down the final out in center field. (For comparison, "The Who Shot J.R." episode of Dallas drew a 53.3 rating.) The entire ALCS averaged a 38.7 rating in Beantown. Thanks to Boston's national following, the Red Sox-Indians seven-game series produced a 7.4 average national rating (11.6 million homes), which was 37 percent higher than last year's Tigers-A's ALCS.

If you're not glass-eyed (or bored) by the ratings numbers, we'll give you two more stats: When the Red Sox beat the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, it was the highest rated Series since 1999 (15.8 rating) -- and the average audience of 25.4 million made it the most-watched World Series since 1995. While the Red Sox-Rockies is unlikely to draw such an audience (no Curse to break this year), it will certainly best last year's Cardinals-Tigers snoozefest, which drew an all-time-low 10.1 rating.

Here's what else will help Fox this year: The World Series is starting on Wednesday (it traditionally started on Saturday) to avoid competing against college football and other sports. "It gives baseball the sports page buildup leading to Game 1 of a World Series," Goren says. "When you start a World Series on a Saturday, you are competing in the sports page against college football, the NFL. [The Monday news cycle] recaps Game 7 of the ALCS and football. [On Tuesday] and Wednesday, it's all about baseball. And that's a positive."

Fox says it will have 25 cameras (18 of them manned) and 100 microphones placed around Fenway Park and Coors Field. The uniqueness of each stadium will add to the television atmosphere. While the Rockies are an unknown quantity and failed to produce high ratings for TBS in the LCS, Goren says he is looking beyond this year. "It's an investment in the future of baseball," he says, "because a bunch of these young stars in Colorado will be around a long time."

For this year, at least, he's hoping they're around for seven more games.

Around the dial

Devotees of the Web site Shut Up Tim McCarver are asked to hide their eyes: The analyst was feted on a conference call this week by Fox officials. McCarver is calling his 18th World Series, a record for a baseball announcer "If that doesn't quality for the baseball Hall of Fame, nothing does," said Goren. "He is our Mr. October."

Everyone has an opinion on Manny Ramirez. Asked if he considered the Boston outfielder a great player, McCarver said, pointedly: "I consider Manny Ramirez a great hitter...His base-running is deplorable. Not only does he not run out of the box, he walks out of the box." Studio analyst Eric Karros called Ramirez "one of the greatest players to play" while announcer Joe Buck called him "a Hall of Fame player."

Goren said it's a myth that late-finishing games are bad for TV ratings."In last Saturday's [Oct. 13] extra-inning game in Boston (Game 2), the rating from 11 to 1:15 was higher than the rating from first pitch to 11 o'clock. You can say, 'Well, it's a Saturday'. Trust me, the ratings go up after 11. You want to talk about a younger demo? Network television sells on the 18 to 49 demo, and from 18 to 49 those ratings go up the longer you go if it's a competitive game."