Baseball's World Series scores lowest TV ratings ever

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fox Sports got the lowest ever ratings for a World Series championship on television with its broadcast in the past week of the matchup between Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.

Philadelphia Phillies players celebrate after their team defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win Major League Baseball's World Series after game 5 in Philadelphia, October 29, 2008 REUTERS/Mike Segar

The series, which the Phillies won on Wednesday night after the completion of a rain-delayed Game 5, scored an average TV rating of 8.4, according to Nielsen Sports Marketing Service. That was lower than the 10.1 rating for the 2006 finals between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers.

A ratings point is a percentage of U.S. TV households that watched a game.

Fox had hoped a six- or seven-game World Series would help maximize viewer totals and advertising revenue, even though the teams that made the finals did not hail from metropolitan areas that draw large audiences like New York or Los Angeles.

“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,” Fox Sports President Ed Goren said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

The last five World Series have lasted only four or five games, limiting the ability of News Corp.’s Fox Network to ring up large viewer numbers and advertising dollars. The biggest TV ratings are typically scored in the sixth and seventh games of a finals.

The highest ratings this year, at 11.9, were scored for the Wednesday night completion of the last game after it was suspended two nights before.

A typical World Series game contains about 70 30-second ads, which this year cost $400,000 apiece. That totals $28 million a night; welcome money in a seven-game series.

This year’s World Series included the lowest ever rated game -- 6.1 for Game 3 -- since Nielsen began tracking the baseball finals in 1968. The previous low was 8 for Game 1 in 2006. Philadelphia and Tampa/St. Petersburg are the No. 4 and No. 13 TV markets in the United States, respectively.

Ratings have consistently dropped for World Series games over the last several years, but they have also declined for all TV shows as the viewing audience has splintered with the explosion of choices on cable networks.

Officials with Fox, which has televised 10 of the last 12 World Series, previously pointed out that baseball’s finals over the years have proven more popular than the combined average TV ratings for prime time programs.

Despite heavy rains that delayed two of the games, the World Series’ this year again outperformed regular prime time programing by the margin of 33 percent.

Ratings for every game provided Fox with its best prime time scores on those respective nights going back 22 to 38 weeks, Fox said. The combined total of 42.3 ratings points -- Fox considers that a more important reflection of how many viewers it reached -- fell just short of last year’s 42.7 total despite the poor weather.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Bernard Orr