With the storied New York Yankees facing off against the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies, Fox Sports has a potentially compelling matchup in baseball's World Series that should drive strong TV ratings.
All News Corp's Fox needs is close games, a full seven-game series and Mother Nature to cooperate and it could see strong revenue, analysts said. The finals begin on Wednesday.
It probably matches the two best teams in baseball and the public usually supports that type of a series, said Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports and now head of his own sports consulting firm.
With ad rates running at about $400,000 per 30-second spot and a typical game having 70-some such spots, that can add $28 million or more to Fox's coffers per game. While most ad slots in the first five games are sold, a short series or low ratings in a longer series could hurt.
A lot of that is dependent on how long the series is and also how late these games are played, said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at ad buyer Horizon Media.
Ratings during the first five games will help determine rates for Games 6 and 7. Low ratings would force Fox -- which in 2006 agreed to pay baseball $1.75 billion over seven years for TV broadcast rights -- to offer advertisers make-good ad spots as compensation.
While analysts said Fox, which has televised 11 of the last 13 World Series, probably would have preferred a final between the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers -- who lost in the National league finals to Philadelphia -- the bottom line is how many people watch overall and the ad revenue raised.
Fox Sports executives are not worried.
If we get the caliber of games in the World Series that we got for the ALCS, we don't have to worry about the ratings, Fox Sports President Ed Goren said Monday of the American League final between the Yankees and Los Angeles Angels. We don't have to worry about anything.
He pointed to Philadelphia's effort to win consecutive titles and how more people tuned in for the National League finals in the smaller Philadelphia TV market than Los Angeles. He also said two East Coast teams would not hurt ratings.
Fox has nowhere to go but up, however, after last year's record low ratings for the Phillies-Tampa Bay Rays matchup that also saw two games interrupted and delayed by bad weather. That series had an average household rating of 8.4 and average viewer totals of 13.6 million, according to Nielsen.
A ratings point is a percentage of U.S. television households that watched the game.
This year's matchup also is likely to top 2003, when the Yankees last appeared in the World Series. That series had average ratings and viewer numbers of 12.8 and 20.1 million, respectively.
Adgate thinks final viewer numbers may finish in the 21 million to 22 million range.
Pilson pointed to strong TV ratings for Fox Sports during the AL finals as a good sign. That series saw average ratings rise 35 percent over last year.
All the indicators seem to point to good ratings, Pilson said. The real issue as always is do we get six or seven games? A great matchup with a four-game sweep is a ratings disaster.