Baseball’s Final Four is loaded with good teams and better DMAs.
TBS has markets No. 2 and 4, with the National League Championship Series pitting the LA Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies. Fox flaunts DMAs 1 and 2 with the love-em or loathe-em New York Yankees meeting their postseason nemesis, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, in the American League Championship Series.
The question is whether the bicoastal semifinals will yield a coast-to-coast Fall Classic.
While a Freeway Series might be fun for Californians, just at those in the northeast might appreciate cruising up and down I-95 in a modern-day rematch of the 1950 contest between the Whiz Kids and the Bronx Bombers, hardball historians, Fox executives and MLB officials would favor a renewal of the Dodgers-Yankees rivalry.
A bout between the former borough-battlers would bring the added storyline bonus of the first trip to The House The Boss Built by ex-skipper Joe Torre, whose contributions to the most recent run of Yankee success are conspicuously absent from their new palace. Having a cross-country battle between the Angels and Phils wouldn’t be such a bad consolation prize, either.
Indeed, same-state World Series of recent vintage — Angels-San Francisco Giants in 2002 (11.9 rating, 19.3 million viewers) Yankees-New York Mets in 2000 (12.4 rating, 18.1 million viewers) — produced steep drop-offs from their predecessor Fall Classics (15.7, 24.5 million for Yanks-Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001) and Yanks-Atlanta Braves (16.0, 23.7 million in 1999).
There are also weather issues to consider in rooting for a cross-country confrontation. Remember, Bud Selig’s phoolhardy decisions and proclamations, inspired by the rain and wind, last October. Mother Nature played havoc with Games 3 and 5, contributing mightily to Philly’s five-game Series win over the Cinderella Tampa Bay Rays resulting in the least-watched World Series ever with an 8.4 national rating and 13.6 million viewers.
This year, the Series schedule will turn the Boys of Summer into the Men of Early November. While the City of Brotherly Love and Big Apple (local metereologists indicate that Game 1 of Yanks-Angels could wash-out) might not present the most inviting forecasts at this time of year, sunny SoCal would be in play for either the Series opening and closing chapters (Angels) or middle three contests (Dodgers).
Looking back, the four Division Series played big for TBS, propelling the network to its best Nielsen performance in its 33-year history from Oct. 5 through 11, when it averaged a 3.9 household rating and 5.4 million viewers on average to lead all of cable.
For its 13 games of exclusive coverage, TBS lined up a 3.6 cable rating and 4.77 million viewers on average, gains of 9% and 11%, when gauged against its 15 DS games in 2008.
Turner president of sales, distribution and sports David Levy told Sports Business Journal, TBS would have been sitting on a 15%-20% audience advance if the series had been extended longer (only the Phillies-Colorado Rockies matchup wasn’t a sweep). Indeed, TBS, if Angels-Boston Red Sox and/or Dodgers-St. Louis Cardinals – which, on paper were LCS-caliber series – had gone the distance instead of the minimum would have already clinched the top perch in cable for a second straight week.
Now at least, TBS will get to showcase the defending world champions, in lieu of positioning them in the afternoon (2:30 p.m. (ET) for the first two games in Citizens Bank Park), the nightcap slot (9:30 p.m. for the postponed Game 3 at Coors Field that was moved to Sunday, Oct 11) and the 6 p.m. window for the Phillies’ Game 4 clincher in Denver Monday.
With the NLCS, TBS will showcase all of the Phillies-Dodgers contests in East Coast prime, save for Game 2 on Friday Oct. 16, when first pitch is scheduled for 4:37 p.m. (ET).
Last year, TBS notched a 4.6 national rating, 5.4 cable mark and 7.44 million viewers with the seven-game Tampa Bay Rays-Bosox ALCS. The decisive contest reached 13.4 million, a cable record for baseball.
While the fan base for the Phils and Dodgers may not match the fervor of Red Sox Nation, the upstart Rays didn’t exactly capture the national fancy. If LA-Philly goes deep, TBS should surpass its 2008 ALCS averages.