World Series Could Go Up Against 'Sunday Night Football'

Fox Needs Six Games to Break Even, but That Means Outdrawing the NFL

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With the St. Louis Cardinals taking a commanding 3-1 lead over the Detroit Tigers in the best-of-seven World Series last night, News Corp.'s Fox finds itself in a precarious position. Not counting last night's 5-4 win by the Cards in game four, the games played so far have been the lowest-rated in World Series history. The network needs the Series to go at least six games to break even, or make-goods to advertisers and sponsors appear to be in order. And now it's got to outdraw the NFL too.
The Tigers might be playing the Cardinals in the World Series, but Fox faces a scrimmage with football on NBC and ESPN.
The Tigers might be playing the Cardinals in the World Series, but Fox faces a scrimmage with football on NBC and ESPN. Credit: AP

Another issue
Thirty-second spots during the World Series have cost advertisers between $350,000 and $385,000, according to media buyers, and Fox runs approximately 60 spots per game. But if the World Series does go six or seven games, then Fox has another issue to contend with.

Rain is predicted to fall on tonight's game five. If the game is postponed due to the weather, the action will be pushed to Saturday night, and games six and seven (if they're necessary) would be Sunday and Monday nights -- that means the World Series could go head-to-head with the National Football League, first on Sunday with NBC's game and then possibly against ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

And Fox is not going to adjust the schedule. "There won't be any scheduling done to avoid football," said Fox spokesman Lou D'Ermilio. "Historically, when there have been high-profile baseball games, the network carrying the competing NFL game has posted a season low."

Not on cable anymore
That's true, but that doesn't necessarily mean that baseball won the night. Baseball postseason games on Sunday nights traditionally beat "Sunday Night Football" -- but that was when the games were on cable's ESPN.

Between 1996 and 2005, baseball's postseason knocked heads with "Monday Night Football" on ABC a total of 12 times. Football won the ratings battle nine times, including an embarrassing effort for baseball in 2001 when game five of the American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics drew an 8.4 rating on Fox compared to a 9.9 for ABC's "MNF" that featured the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins -- two teams that were 0-4 at the time.

The situation isn't all gloom and doom for Fox, however. Games one and two of this year's Series -- played last Saturday and Sunday -- gave Fox nightly wins in the 18- to 49-year-old demo. And, traditionally, as a series goes longer, it produces more eyeballs and better ratings.
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