Going one for two is a very good night for a ballplayer. The same can’t be said for the World Series’ Nielsen batting average against a pair of NFL primetime games, which underlines the strength of the pro football culture.
Fox’s coverage of Games 4 and 5 of the 2010 Fall Classic between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers went helmet to helmet with NBC’s Sunday Night Football battle, featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the defending champion New Orleans Saints, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football matchup, showcasing the Indianapolis Colts hosting the Houston Texans.
On Halloween night, NBC notched a 10.7 rating and 18.1 million viewers for the Saints’ 20-10 triumph in the Superdome, compared with 15.5 million – including eyeball contributions from Cablevision subs in New York and Philadelphia after the parties settled their nasty retransmission-consent disconnect — for the Giants’ 4-0 triumph at Rangers Park in Arlington that gave the NL champs a stranglehold on the 106th World Series. It marked the first time that the World Series had lost against pro pigskin action in primetime; the Fall Classic had not squared off against the NFL on a Sunday night since 2002.
Last night, the Giants — earning the franchise’s title since 1954 and their move to The City four years later, as Edgar Renteria slugged a three-run homer off Texas ace Cliff Lee — scored with 15 million watchers, 3.1 million more than ESPN’s average tally of 11.9 million for Indy’s 30-17 over Houston at Lucas Oil Stadium. But that was 11% less than the fifth game of the 2009 World Series in which the Philadelphia Phillies staved off elimination against the New York Yankees.
Presumably MLB and Fox can take some solace in that the WS tallied a combined audience of 30.5 million viewers over the two nights, versus 30 million for the pro pigskin contests.
Frankly, I’m surprised that SNF didn’t tackle the Series harder, what with the national following of the Steelers and the growing ranks of the Who Dat Nation?
But it would have been a tough pill to swallow if the final game of the World Series didn’t take out the cable contest, which featured Peyton Manning and Dwight Freeney and the Colts jumping out early and easily playing stump and dump Houston’s Matt Schaub.
Still, this was baseball’s marquee event, featuring DMAs No. 5 and 6, measured against a pair of NFL regular-season games, albeit high-profile contests. Considering that the Texas franchise was making its first World Series appearance since its forbear’s inception in 1961 and the Giants hadn’t worn the crown since they wore New York on the front of their jerseys more than half a century ago, Fox figured to ring up better final Nielsens than an 8.4 U.S. household average and 14.3 million viewers. The former matched the previous Series’ low of the rain-plagued 2008 affair in which the Phillies topped the Tampa Bay Rays, while the latter represented a 5% gain in audience over that Series.
Measured against the larger market matchup in 2009, when the Bronx Bombers and Hideki Matsui dethroned the then-defending champion Phils in six games, the 2010 Series fell 28% from an 11.7 ratings mark and 26% in viewership from an average of 19.4 million watchers.