MLB’s post-season is here, with TBS about to take its first crack as the exclusive home –no local stations are on the team under its seven-year deal — to the four Division series. The network got a dry run Monday night with its presentation of the Colorado Rockies’ thrilling 9-8, 13-inning victory over the San Diego Padres, as all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman appled his second attempt in three days to secure the National Wild card. The contest, facing off against ESPN’s Monday Night Football game in which the New England Patriots stomped the Cincinnati Bengals, drew a 2.9 rating and some 4 million viewers, the fifth-best for the network this year, according to MLB officials. However, that mark was down from the 5.3 household rating ESPN grabbed with the 1999 play-in game between the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds.
Still, coming off record attendance of 79.5 million fans, a spate of milestones — think Bonds, Glavine, Biggio, A-Rod, Thomas and Thome — and those persistent steroid/HGH matters, the erstwhile national pastime has plenty of buzz heading into the playoffs.
And the postseason storylines going are strong. The Rox won 14 of their last 15 to grab the NL Wild Card, while the Philadelphia Phillies went 13-4 to capitalize on the New York Mets historic collapse –up seven games with 17 to play – to wear the NL East diadem.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs (99 years) and Cleveland Indians (59 seasons) look to end long title droughts.
Elsewhere, the unexpected NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are all looking to claim their second World Series crown this millennium.
From a Nielsen perspective, it couldn’t get much better for TBS. For the first time, clubs from five of the top seven U.S. TV markets, including the top four (New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, plus the Red Sox in No. 7 Boston.), are in the postseason. Moreover, the Rox play-in win resulted in an upgrade to No. 18 Denver, from 27th-ranked San Diego and the Padres almost perennial first-round exit.
Yet, there is some Nielsen nay-saying from this corner. TBS’s tripleheaders the first two days and their scheduled 3:07 p.m. (ET), 6:37 p.m. and 10:07 p.m. start times may enable some of the nation’s youth — and present and future viewers — to see a couple of games played to their completion.
However, that scheduling also doesn’t place any of the games in what amounts to all of East Coast or West Coast primetime. And for a local and personal gripe, the Bronx Bombers, in all five of their potential games with the Tribe, have been relegated to late afternoon/ fringe positioning by TBS. Either a lot of Yankees fans in the Big Apple are going to be leaving work early, or watching from a local tavern, which doesn’t count on the Nielsen docket.
And good luck come this Sunday, when a trio of games will butt helmets across the NFL’s TV grid.
Finally, if past is prologue, particularly on the American League side (just ask Fox), a number of the ballgames are likely to run longer than their allotted 3.5-hour windows. The guess here is that Turner Sports executives should start warming up sister service TNT in the bullpen now: The drama network is going to be in play far more often than its one scheduled start, the Cubs/Diamondbacks on Oct. 7 at 1 p.m.