At least Cubs, Red Sox win in ratings

Posted: Wednesday, October 08, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Buoyed by the presence of the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, baseball's division series was the highest-rated on network television in eight years.

Fox Sports averaged a 7.5 rating for its five national broadcasts, a 21 percent increase from last season's 6.2. It was the highest rating since 1995, when the first-round playoff games were regionalized on the Baseball Network and got a 10.4.

''It really shows that if you provide compelling matchups and interesting games that fans continue to be captivated by baseball,'' Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Tuesday.

Despite the high ratings, baseball was still beaten by the NFL on Monday night. Game 5 of the Boston-Oakland series got an 8.5 rating compared to a season-low 10.2 for ABC's coverage of Indianapolis at Tampa Bay.

Since 1996, no baseball playoff game in the first two rounds has beaten ''Monday Night Football'' in ratings.

However, this year's 20 percent edge for the NFL was considerably lower than last year, when the Green Bay-Chicago football game (10.6) was 54 percent higher than Game 5 between San Francisco and Atlanta. This year's baseball game increased 23 percent from last year.

Fox's five-game average in the division series was also higher than the 6.5 for the NBA Finals and the 7.0 for NASCAR's five highest-rated races on NBC or Fox.

The 21 percent increase is the highest for any sport the past year, beating a 14 percent jump for the Bowl Championship Series college football games on ABC.

Three of Fox's games involved the Cubs, including the highest-rated national afternoon division series game ever on Saturday (6.0) and the second highest-rated game ever (9.8) for Game 5 on Sunday.

A ratings point on Fox represents 1,067,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 106.7 million TV homes. Fox is in the third year of a $2.5 billion, six-year contract with baseball.

Once again, Fox will regionalize coverage of one game in the LCS. On Wednesday night, Game 2 of the NLCS between the Cubs and Florida and the opener of the ALCS between the Red Sox and Yankees will both start at 8:18 p.m. EDT.

One game will be shown on Fox with the other on the FX cable network, drawing criticism from some fans.

''It's a nice problem to have,'' DuPuy said. ''Of course you'd rather have games where everybody can see every game. That's the only day with the overlap. It's something we look at every year. The fact that fans are clamoring for both games is a good sign.''

Baseball's playoff ratings on ESPN also were much higher than last year. The nine games on ESPN averaged a 3.9 rating (3,411,000 households) and the four games on ESPN2 averaged a 2.8 (2,388,000 households).

The combined average of 3,047,000 homes was up 52 percent from last year when the games were shown on ABC Family.

Game 3 between Chicago and Atlanta on Friday night got a 6.7 rating on ESPN, the highest-rated division series game ever on cable. The game the next night between Oakland and Boston got a 3.6 on ESPN2, that network's highest-rated show ever.

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