Opening Frame of the World Series Delivers 15 Million Viewers

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Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in game one of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium.
Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in game one of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Fox's coverage of the 2017 World Series got off to a strong start Tuesday night, when game one averaged just under 15 million viewers and an 8.7 household rating. Discounting the opening frame of last year's epochal Cubs-Indians showdown, which drew 19.4 million viewers, the turnout for the Astros-Dodgers broadcast gave Fox its most-watched opening night performance since 2010.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Tuesday's fast-paced game beat out the 2015 Mets-Royals opener by the merest dermal-dental layer (24,000 total viewers), though that doesn't include out-of-home viewers or fans who accessed the game via the Fox Sports Go app or YouTube.

Again setting aside last year's Cubs-Indians opener, it wasn't since the Giants topped the visiting Rangers in front of a TV audience of 15.01 million viewers in 2010 that Fox delivered so many game-one viewers. And that hair-splitting 42,000-viewer advantage for the game of seven years ago is expected to be wiped out once the digital and out-of-home numbers are baked into Fox's linear TV deliveries.

Ratings peaked during the final inning, when some 17.4 million viewers watched Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen shut down the Astros in a 14-pitch effort.

While the first salvo of World Series data looks promising, the Astros and Dodgers thus far are reaching a slightly older audience than the last two MLB title tilts. The median age of game one viewers was 55.2 years, up from 53.2 years for the Cubs-Indians opener and from 52.7 years for the 14-inning Mets-Royals squabble. The slight greying of the World Series crowd is evident in the audience demos. Tuesday's game averaged a 3.9 rating, or 5.04 million adults 18 to 49. By comparion, the first meeting between New York and Kansas City in 2015 drew a 4.6, or 5.83 adults 18 to 49.

Obviously, the overall ratings picture will depend on the number of games Fox broadcasts and the relative intensity of the competition, but if recent history is any guide, the ratings for game two should be fairly consistent with game one. Unless it proves to be the deciding frame, game four is generally the low-water mark for the World Series, as it now airs on Saturday night, when TV viewership is at its weekly nadir.

Fox should get a boost from the hometown markets, as Los Angeles represents the second-largest media market behind New York and Houston is No. 7. Per Nielsen, an estimated 1.3 million of L.A.'s 5.32 million TV homes tuned in for the first Astros-Dodgers game, while the Houston market accounted for around 700,000 households. Together, they comprised around 19 percent of the broadcast's national household rating.

As any baseball fan who ossified in front of the tube for one of those grotesquely slow-moving Yankees-Red Sox ALCS brawls of the early aughts can attest, the pace of last night's pitchers's duel was exhilarating. From the opening pitch to the final out in the top of the ninth, game one claimed just two hours and 28 minutes of airtime, making the broadcast breezier by an hour than this year's playoffs average.

Among the most visible advertisers were YouTube, T-Mobile, Geico, Chevrolet, Progressive, Taco Bell and Budweiser. YouTube made a splash right before Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw fired off the first pitch, running a two-minute spot for its streaming-TV service that incorporated live footage from the Fox broadcast booth. A subsequent YouTube spot featured clips from Fox's Wednesday night drama series "Empire" and the network's coverage of Big Ten football.

As is generally the case with the Fall Classic, automotive was the night's preeminent category, as carmakers like Chevrolet, Lincoln Motor Co., Audi, Ford and Volkswagen invested in airtime. The insurance category was well-represented, as were beverages, tech and wireless services. Studios that bought time in the Fox broadcast included Marvel ("Thor: Ragnarok"), Twentieth Century Fox ("Murder on the Orient Express"), Warner Bros. ("Justice League") and Universal Pictures ("Thank You For Your Service").

On the network promo front, Fox allotted a handful of units to get the word out for "The Orville," "The Gifted," "Lethal Weapon," college football and its Sunday NFL coverage. The network offered the biggest chunk of time to its upcoming medical drama "The Resident," which is set to premiere in January.

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