* World Series could be lowest rated in history
* Finals to feature No. 11 TV market Detroit
* Detroit to face No. 6 TV market San Francisco or No. 21
* Fox hoping for a six- or seven-game World Series
By Liana B. Baker and Lisa Richwine
Oct 22 When the mighty New York Yankee bats went
silent during a humbling four-game sweep in the American League
championship series, it was more than a blow to a franchise that
has won 27 World Series titles. It also doomed the Fox TV
network to what could rank as the lowest-rated World Series in
The series, which starts on Wednesday, pits the Detroit
Tigers against the St. Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants,
a matchup that will not include one of the top five U.S. TV
markets. The National League team will be decided in a
winner-takes-all game seven on Monday night.
From a ratings standpoint, Fox executives were no doubt
cheering for the Yankees, whose nationwide popularity extends
beyond the 7.4 million homes that make its metropolitan area the
largest U.S. market.
"If it doesn't go more than five games, it runs the risk of
being the lowest-rated World Series," said Sam Sussman, sports
activation director at media buying firm Starcom USA.
A seven-game series adds drama, and eyeballs, to a Fall
Classic whose ratings have been slipping for three decades,
according to Nielsen Sports Marketing Service. Last year, an
average of 16.6 million viewers watched St. Louis beat the Texas
Rangers in seven games. An average of 25 million people tuned in
for the seven game series in 1997 in which the Florida Marlins
beat the Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees proved a tonic for slipping ratings in 2009,
when an average of 19.1 million viewers caught their six-game
victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, a 40 percent hike from
the previous year when the Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays in
Of this year's remaining teams, San Francisco represents the
largest TV market. It ranks as the sixth-biggest, according to
Nielsen, while Detroit is 11th and St. Louis is 21st.
Either pairing with the Tigers "is definitely not the
matchup that marketers or the executives at Fox had hoped for,"
Sussman said. "Any option with the Yankees not in it, it doesn't
paint a pretty picture from a ratings perspective."
Michael Mulvihill, Fox Sports senior vice president of
programming and research, counters that viewers will tune in to
watch the Tigers, whose lineup features Miguel Cabrera,
baseball's first triple crown winner since 1967. The triple
crown is an unofficial title given to a player who leads his
league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.
If the Giants advance, they will bring a dramatic storyline
after rebounding from the brink of elimination against the
Cardinals. For St. Louis, making it to the World Series will
give the team a chance to defend last year's title.
Still, Mulvihill admits the loss of the Yankees will hurt.
"It's impactful," he says. "The Yankees are the No. 1 TV market
and still the biggest brand in baseball."
Fox is getting $450,000 to $500,000 for a 30-second
advertising spot, figures Brad Adgate, senior vice president and
research director for Horizon Media. With a typical game
featuring about 70 spots, Fox may collect between $31.5 million
to $35 million in ad revenue per game.
In 2006, the last year for which Nielsen provides data,
advertisers paid $399,025 for a 30-second spot for the
Networks frequently are required to provide "make goods" -
usually lower priced ads - if ratings don't meet guarantees for
audience deliveries made to sponsors. Mulvihill declined to
comment on whether Fox is providing "make good" compensation to
its World Series advertisers.
A person with knowledge of Fox's business plan said that
Fox's ad projections anticipate the series going to five games
so that a longer championship would be a revenue windfall.
The worst scenario for Fox, of course, would be a repeat of
the Yankees dismal four game sweep in the American League
"Yes, we lost the Yankees," said Mulvihill, the Fox
executive, "but if we can just get to a game six or seven, we're
going to be in great shape."