While there are many factors that contribute to a big World Series turnout -- chief among these being the size of the markets represented by the two competing franchises, and whether the team in pinstripes with the interlocked "NY" on their caps is taking part -- it turns out that austerity also can be quite a shot in the arm. And with a 178-year championship drought between them, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians are the poster children for baseball futility, which went a long way toward boosting the ratings for Game 1.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Cleveland's 6-0 blanking of the visiting Cubs on Tuesday night delivered 19.4 million viewers and an 11.3 household rating for Fox, making it the most-watched, highest-rated Game 1 since the 2009 Phillies-Yankees opener. Philadelphia's 6-1 victory over the Bronx Bombers averaged 19.5 million viewers and an 11.9 household rating.
The Cleveland shutout delivered a 5.6 in Fox's target demo, which translates to 7.19 million adults 18 to 49. That gives Fox its third-highest Game 1 demo in a decade, trailing the 6.3 rating the Phillies-Yankees broadcast drew seven years ago and the 5.8 delivered by the Rockies-Red Sox skirmish in 2007. (The demo gap is a function of the gradual greying of the World Series audience. Fox example, while the analogous Colorado-Red Sox broadcast reached a relatively apple-cheeked audience with a median age of 49.7 years old, the median age of last night's viewer was 53.2 years old.)
Not only was the Cubbies-Tribe table setter the biggest Game 1 in seven years, but it now stands as the third most-watched/highest-rated opening frame in the last 20 years. The 2004 World Series, which featured another team that was overly familiar with calamity, the Boston Red Sox, launched to a national audience of 23.2 million viewers and a 13.7 household rating. For the record, Fox notched its biggest opening night draw on the very first year it hosted the World Series. Game 1 of the 1996 Fall Classic, which ushered in the Derek Jeter Era in New York, averaged 23.7 million viewers and a 15.7 household rating.
Tuesday night's broadcast was up 30% in overall deliveries compared to the year-ago Royals-Mets showdown, which delivered 14.9 million viewers and a 9.0 household rating. That game was decided in 14 innings and ended at 1:18 a.m. EDT.
The prime-time broadcast featured 93 paid commercial messages and seven promotional spots for Fox and FS1. During the tail end of the pre-game show, just moments before Cleveland's Corey Kluber took the mound in the top of the first, Fox aired a 90-second trailer for its upcoming thriller "24: Legacy." The new-look CTU activates on the night of Sunday, Feb. 5, immediately after Fox's presentation of Super Bowl LI.
Among the most visible advertisers in Game 1 were official pre-game sponsor Chevrolet, which also aired three 60-second spots, including one featuring its 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback; first-ever World Series presenting sponsor T-Mobile, which also backed a special ad-free block at the top of the third inning; and Bank of America. All three of the aforementioned brands are official sponsors of Major League Baseball.
Other high-profile advertisers included Verizon, AARP, Honda, Cisco, Best Buy and DirecTV. Taco Bell reprised its popular "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion, which paid off almost immediately for viewers when Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor swiped second base in the bottom of the first.
Game 2 was set to start about an hour earlier than usual, around 7:08 p.m. EDT, as MLB and Fox looked to sidestep the worst of the soaking rain forecast to come down on Cleveland later Wednesday evening.