Fox Guts Out World Series Ratings Slide

Game 1 down 11 percent in the 18-49 demo

The 2011 World Series got off to a thrilling start Wednesday night, as the St. Louis Cardinals eked out a 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers. Unfortunately for Fox, the quality of the on-field action wasn’t reflected in the ratings.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the series opener averaged 14.2 million viewers from 8 p.m. to 11:13 p.m. EDT, down 6 percent from the year-ago 15 million (Rangers-Giants). Game 1 of this year’s Fall Classic notched a 4.2 rating among adults 18-49, an 11 percent drop from last year’s 4.7.

Wednesday night’s broadcast marked the second smallest national audience for a World Series opener. In 2006, the Cards and Tigers limped out of the gate in front of just 12.8 million viewers.

The median age of Fox’s broadcast was 52 years. Only the 2006 Series led off with an older crowd (53). Men age 50 and up accounted for 35 percent of Game 1’s overall deliveries.

As was the case a year ago, Fox’s World Series coverage kicked off against a tough Wednesday night schedule. At 9 p.m., ABC’s Modern Family rang up the evening’s highest demo rating (5.7), while delivering 13 million total viewers. CBS’s Criminal Minds served up 13.2 million viewers and a 3.9 rating on the hour.

Ratings for the second game of the World Series were generally stable, with falloff rarely plunging more than 5 percent. Game 3 is traditionally the lowest rated of a Series; last year’s pivot game drew just 11.5 million viewers, while the third meeting in the 2009 Yankees-Phillies set dropped 3.5 million viewers.

Viewers can expect to see a slightly heavier spot load this year, as Fox has carved out two minutes and 55 seconds of inventory between each half inning, making its pods 30 seconds longer than its regular-season counterparts. Naturally, the broadcaster can shoehorn additional ads during pitching changes, which makes Cards micromanager Tony La Russa something of a godsend. (In a June showdown with the Phillies, La Russa strolled to the mound five times in a single inning.)

A 30-second spot in this year’s World Series costs an estimated $500,000 a pop. Along with a wealth of paid ads for official MLB sponsors like Anheuser-Busch, MasterCard, and Taco Bell, Fox aired promos for the upcoming animated series Allen Gregory (Oct. 30) and the midseason thriller Alcatraz.