Fox Strikes Out With Lowest Ratings On Record For A World Series

Fox's lowest ratings on record for a World Series brought other misery--the four-game sweep also cost the network about $20 million to $30 million in missed advertising sales per game--or a total of $60 million to $90 million had the series gone the full seven games.

Last night's sweep by the Chicago White Sox over the Houston Astros means that for the second year in a row, Fox was put in the unfortunate position of missing out of three additional games each year. The Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight games in 2004.

Fox had been selling the World Series for around $350,000 for a thirty-second commercial spot. Typically, TV network buying and selling executives say if the World Series can get through game five, then they are "break even" in terms of what it cost in licensing rights. That means Game 6 and Game 7 are usually pure profit for Fox. But the missed advertising dollars are not the worst of it.

Fox's ratings for this series were down by 32 percent versus a year ago, averaging 17.2 million viewers from 25.4 million a year ago--the lowest viewership on record for a World Series. The viewership was 5 percent below the previous record--the 18.1 million mark, set in the 2000 World Series which featured New York Yankees-New York Mets that year.



The fourth game averaged a Nielsen Media Resarch 6.6 rating/18 share in adults 18-49--down 34 percent in 18-49 from last year's Boston-St. Louis game 4, which came in at a 10 rating/26 share. One saving statistic: the fourth game was up 10 percent from the 2002 game 4 between the Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants, which marked a 6.0/16.

With ratings well down, Fox will no doubt be also stung with having to offer advertisers make-good inventory in other programming--mostly sports, say industry executives. Much of that will probably be offered in NFL Football, or perhaps NASCAR car racing events in the months to come.

Still, Fox made some correct moves this year, according to media buying executives, with regard to its prime-time programs. Media analysts applaud Fox's changed approach this season--debuting its shows before the playoffs began instead of waiting until November, after the baseball playoffs concluded. New shows, or relatively new shows--like the highly regarded and high-rated "Prison Break" and "House"--had new episodes airing before the playoffs.

Promotionally, Fox used the games--as it always does--to mostly tout its upcoming prime-time shows. This year, that activity included "Prison Break" and last year's mid-season effort "House," which was paired with "Bones," a procedural crime drama, in a number of promos.

Competing networks' marketing executives were impressed by the minute-long promo spots used to tout "Prison Break," all of which will help the network in the months to come.

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