Giants' World Series win sweeps ratings into basement

LOS ANGELES Mon Oct 29, 2012 7:19pm EDT

LOS ANGELES Oct 29 (Reuters) - The San Francisco Giants' four-game World Series sweep thrilled the team's fans, but the lopsided contest attracted the smallest television crowd in the championship's history for broadcaster Fox.

The 2012 telecast of the Fall Classic averaged 12.7 million viewers, News Corp unit Fox said on Monday. That left the Giants' victory over the Detroit Tigers in the ratings cellar, according to Nielsen data.

The previous World Series low came in 2008 when an average of 13.6 million watched the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays in five games. An average of 17.1 million watched the last-four game sweep, when the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

Ratings for the World Series have generally been declining for nearly three decades. An average of 25 million people tuned in for the seven game series in 1997 in which the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians.

World Series viewership still ranks among the year's biggest TV events, and this year's contest ranked as the ninth most-viewed prime time program of the year, said Michael Mulvihill, senior vice president of programming and research at Fox Sports Media Group. He urged judging the results against "today's competitive environment rather than bygone years."

"This World Series gave us exactly what we expected: a top 10 show among all viewers and a top five show among hard-to-reach younger men," Mulvihill said in a statement.

The series ranked second among primetime shows for all of 2012 among men age 18 to 49, Fox said.

This year's matchup featured the sixth-largest TV market, San Francisco, versus the No. 11 market, according to Nielsen.

San Francisco dominated from the start, kicking off with an 8-3 win that featured three homers by Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, known affectionately as Kung Fu Panda. After two shutouts by the Giants, Detroit sent Game Four into extra innings but lost 4-3 in the 10th.

The quick, one-sided series hurt Fox's hopes of broadening interest in the two teams, said Ed Desser, president of Desser Sports Media, a sports consulting firm.

"When you have a short series, that tends to depress average ratings," he said.

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