Saturday, October 26
All-California series takes ratings hit in Game 5
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Baseball's labor strife this year was partly responsible for the all-time lows being set by World Series ratings this year, according to the chairman of Fox Sports.
"Once again, baseball managed to turn off its loyal fans,'' David Hill said Saturday before Game 6 of the World Series. "I hoped it would pick up when we got to the postseason. It certainly hasn't been what I hoped it would be.''
The all-California matchup between Anaheim and San Francisco also is responsible for the record low ratings, with the drop steepest in the Eastern time zone. Through five games, the Series averaged a 10.8 rating and 17 share, 25 percent below last year's five-game average of 14.4/24 for the Series between Arizona and the New York Yankees.
Last year's World Series, which went seven games, finished with a 15.7 rating. That was the third-lowest ever, ahead of only the 2000 Subway Series (12.4) between the Yankees and Mets, and the Yankees' four-game sweep of San Diego in 1998 (14.1).
The rating is the percentage of television households in the United States tuned to a program, and the share in the percentage watching among homes with sets on at the time.
"Our ratings had been terrific all year,'' Hill said. "They went in the bucket when all the bristling and sabre-rattling started.''
Baseball players and owners bickered publicly for much of July and August, with players threatening to strike, which would have been the sport's ninth work stoppage since 1972. The sides struck a deal Aug. 30, just 2½ hours before the scheduled start of the walkout.
News Corp., Fox's parent, took a $909 million charge against earnings in February, saying it had overpaid for its sports deals: $4.5 billion for the NFL, $2.4 billion for baseball and $1.9 billion for NASCAR.
Fox is in the second year of its baseball contract.
"Baseball's got to be concerned about its future,'' Hill said. "I would imagine they'll read the writing on the wall at the very highest levels and get their house in order.''
Hill said the Angels and Giants had played "terrific games'' and credited Bill Webb and Michael Weisman for creating what he called outstanding productions. Hill said baseball had given the network everything it asked for.
"The ratings have been a bit of a kick in the side of the head every morning,'' he said.
He didn't see the need for any new rules to quicken the paces of games.
"They just have to enforce what they have,'' he said.