World Series Preview: Inside Fox’s October Showcase

There’s joy in Mudville as baseball continues to deliver

When Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander takes the hill tonight in the opening game of the 108th edition of the World Series, he’ll be stepping into history.

While this marks the 11th trip to the Fall Classic for the Tigers and the 19th appearance for the San Francisco Giants—14 of which were earned under the club’s original New York designation—these clubs have never met in the postseason.

Fox is confident that the novelty of a Tigers-Giants showdown and a Detroit roster that includes the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 (Miguel Cabrera) and the best pitcher in baseball (Verlander) should be reason enough for fans to tune in. And while the ratings will never again match their Carter-era heyday, the World Series remains one of television’s most consequential events.

According to Nielsen prime-time ratings data for the fourth quarter of 2011, last year’s World Series (Rangers-Cardinals) ranked second among men 18-49—only CBS’s The Big Bang Theory put up bigger numbers in the demo—and eighth with the adults 18-49 set. Fox’s deliveries got a real shot in the arm when the Series returned to Busch Stadium for Game 6, as 21.1 million viewers tuned in; moreover, the network averaged a 6.5 rating in the dollar demo.

David Freese’s walkoff homer in the 11th sent the Series to the limit and fans responded accordingly. Game 7 drew 25.4 million viewers and notched a 7.4 in the demo, making it the highest-rated MLB broadcast since Game 4 of the 2004 Series. 

With those two final nailbiters, Fox averaged a 4.8 in the dollar demo and a 10.0 household rating. If the Rangers had managed to clinch in five games, the 8.4 average household rating still would have satisfied Fox’s ratings guarantees.

It goes without saying that Fox’s deliveries are largely a function of duration, although history sometimes does some of the heavy lifting. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox dispelled the 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino, beating the Cards in straight sets in front of the largest baseball audience in 10 years. The four-game blowout averaged 25.4 million viewers, peaking at 28.8 million in the deciding contest.

Six of the 14 World Series broadcast by Fox have gone at least six games; of these, three were decided in seven.

The further the Tigers and Giants burrow into October, the more advertising dollars Fox will generate. Last season’s seven-game capper raked in $268.8 million in revenue, per Kantar Media; by contrast, the five-game Giants-Rangers set in 2010 generated just $191.2 million. All things being equal, each game beyond the fifth frame can bring in an additional $40 million in sponsor dough.  

The stakes are higher still this fall, as Fox is commanding as much as $500,000 per 30-second spot. All told, a seven-game Tigers-Giants tilt could bring in as much as $280.9 million in ad sales revenue.

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