An Instant Classic, Game 6 Draws 21.1 Million

Cards blast secures one more World Series broadcast for Fox

David Freese’s 11th inning walk-off homer capped an epic World Series game and assured Fox of a seventh and deciding broadcast. Perhaps more importantly, the dinger was witnessed by 25.2 million viewers.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, the wild and woolly Game 6 delivered an average 21.1 million viewers and a 6.5 rating among adults 18-49. Featuring a stunning array of extra-inning firepower, the Cardinals rallied twice to force the first Game 7 since 2002.

Game 6 now ranks as the most-watched World Series broadcast since the sixth—and deciding—game of the 2009 Yankees-Phillies tilt (22.3 million). 

Fox averaged an 8.1 rating among men 18-49. The median age of Game 6 was 52 years, up just a few ticks from the seven-frame Arizona Diamondbacks-New York Yankees series 10 years ago (49).

Through six games, the Cards-Rangers spectacle is averaging 15.3 million viewers, up 7 percent versus the 2010 World Series. With tonight’s unexpected bonus game, the final numbers should prove even stronger.

As it stands now, deliveries for the 2011 World Series are still some of the lowest in history. The waterlogged 2008 edition (Rays-Phillies) remains the least-watched Fall Classic in history, with an average draw of 13.6 million viewers over five games. Last year’s Giants-Rangers was also a five-game set; that series drew just 14.3 million viewers.

Should Game 7 prove anywhere near as thrilling as last night’s home run derby, the final average will surpass the 15.8 million viewers served up by the 2006 World Series (Cards-Tigers). As such, this year’s set will be the seventh most-watched series of the last decade.

In the 14 years Fox has televised the World Series—before seizing the reins in 2000, Fox shared hosting duties with NBC for four seasons (1996-99)—its most-watched Fall Classic was the 2004 Red Sox-Cardinals series. An average crowd of 25.5 million fans watched Boston put an end to 86 seasons of futility, as the Sox dispatched the Cards in four games. 

With seven games of inventory in hand, Fox should rake in as much as $260 million in ad sales revenue. Per Kantar Media, last year’s World Series generated some $191.2 million in ad sales revenue.

Tonight’s first pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. EDT. On short rest, Texas lefty Matt Harrison (0-1, 7.36) will face 36-year-old Cards ace Chris Carpenter (1-0, 2.77).

A visiting team has not won the seventh game of the World Series since Oct. 17, 1979, when Willie Stargell and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat Baltimore 4-1 in the old Memorial Stadium. That series drew an average 38 million viewers on ABC.