Look back at: Divisional Playoffs |
Wednesday, November 1|
Series strikes out with national audience
NEW YORK -- This Subway Series drew only token viewership.
Fox Sports' telecasts of the New York Yankees' five-game victory
over the cross-city Mets produced the lowest-rated World Series in
history, drawing big audiences in the Big Apple but in few other
major TV markets.
The games averaged a 12.4 national rating and 21 share, down
22.5 percent from last year and 12 percent from 1998's previous
Both the rating and share are less than half of what they were
in 1986, the last time the Mets played in the World Series. Each
rating point represents a little more than 1 million television
households; share is the percentage of in-use TVs tuned to a
"Our research people are going to have to take a look and see
if they can come up with some explanations," Fox Sports president
Ed Goren said Friday. "I'm guessing maybe there's something wrong
with the national Nielsen sampling. This has been a difficult year
for a lot of us."
The trend of sinking ratings hasn't discriminated much by sport
or network this year. NBC's coverage of the Summer Games drew the
lowest ratings for a Summer or Winter Olympics since 1968. The NCAA
men's college basketball title game dropped 18 percent from a year
ago, which was the previous low since CBS started airing the event
in 1982. The All-Star games for the NBA and baseball were the
One notable exception is the Super Bowl, which continues to
consistently draw ratings above 40.
The World Series' showing, which industry analysts say also
could be traced to lengthy games and competition from fall TV
season premieres pushed back by the Sydney Olympics, forced Fox to
show "make-goods" -- "free" commercials to make sure sponsors'
messages reach as many viewers as were paid for.
But the bottom line shouldn't be affected, the network said.
"We're in pretty good shape, given extra innings in Game 1 and
ads we've run during pitching changes. For the few advertisers that
we still need to address, we will make it up to them in prime
time," Fox Sports VP Lou D'Ermilio said. "Our sales people
consider it to be not a major issue."
This year's Game 5, a 4-2 Yankees victory Thursday night at Shea
Stadium, drew a series-best 13.1 rating. Sixty-one percent of TVs
that were on in New York on Thursday night tuned in to the game.
But the overall ratings were hurt by disappointing audiences in
other large markets around the country. Of the 40 largest markets
after New York, 30 registered double-digit percentage losses from
the 1999 series.
"I don't have any reaction right now," baseball commissioner
Bud Selig said. "I'm going to study them over the weekend, and
I'll have a comment next week."
Fox's silver lining is that, while losing a lot of older
viewers, it did well among men between 18-34, a group advertisers
seek. And, while Fox's entertainment programming regularly leaves
it behind the other major networks in prime-time ratings, the World
Series allowed Fox to win three of the five nights when there were
Fox is major league baseball's exclusive postseason broadcaster
for the next six years, having secured TV rights to the playoffs,
World Series and All-Star games as part a $2.5 billion deal drawn
up last month.
The network and sport hope baseball's ratings swoon this season
was an aberration. The regular season ratings were down from 1999
on Fox (10 percent), ESPN and ESPN2 (both about 15 percent), the
All-Star game set a new low rating, and the early rounds of the
playoffs were down 15-32 percent on various broadcasters.
But there could be two lasting TV effects of the first all-New
York World Series since 1956: other networks might decide they will
try to counter Fox's games with first-run programming, and Fox
won't have a strong 2000 rating to use as a basis for 2001 ad
"The only financial hit really may come a year from now," said
Paul Schulman, president of media buyer Schulman/Advanswers NY.
"People will be expecting more in the area of a 12.5 again."