The Retrans Series


The bookmakers might be happy with the upset-forged match-up, but it’s not so easy to figure Fox executives’ feelings about this year’s Fall Classic.

The 2010 World Series lineup is set and it doesn’t include the New York Yankees and/or the Philadelphia Phillies as the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants made sure of that. Last year, the Bronx Bombers’ dethroning of the then-defending champion Phils averaged 19.4 million viewers over six games. That was almost a 6-million viewer jump from the 13.6 million average for the rain-doused, five-game Philadelphia-Tampa Bay mess, the least-viewed World Series ever.

Moreover, Yanks-Phils, representing DMAs No. 1 and No. 4, amassed the largest audience for the Fall Classic since 2004, when the Boston Red Sox buried the St. Louis Cardinals and the Curse of the Bambino before 25.4 million viewers on average.

A rematch of the game’s most storied franchise — if the love-em or loathe-em Yankees had sent the ALCS to a Game 7 on Saturday night, TBS would have no doubt scored cable’s largest MLB audience ever, eclipsing the 13.4 million for the ultimate game between Tampa and the Bosox in the 2008 ALCS — and the cultural phenomenon the Phillies have become in the City of Brotherly Love, certainly would have had its merits.

Just not so much of lock with the Nielsens because of Fox’s retransmission-consent battle with Cablevision. Out of contract with the MSO since Oct. 16, Fox swung and missed with its coverage of the Giants’ six-game elimination of the Phillies in the National League Championship Series on WYNW in New York and WTXF in Philadelphia (the MSOs’ customers are also learning to live without Fox Deportes, NatGeo Wild and Fox Business Network). Yankees fans didn’t have to worry about the ALCS because TBS was at the Dish.

Speaking of which, Fox owned-and-operated stations also face the prospects of a retransmission-consent World Series shutout with the nation’s No. 2 DBS provider on Nov. 1 — it’s been out of contract with Dish since Oct. 1 with FX, National Geographic Channel and 19 regional sports networks. Should the 2010 World Series prove to be competitive, Games 5, 6 and 7 are slated for Nov. 1, Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, respectively. If a renewal accord can’t be reached, Dish Network topper Charlie Ergen won’t be able to invite his subscribers to “let’s watch TV” and the concluding Fall Classic contests.

Although Fox’s MLB programming leverage in Philly and New York has been benched, the programmer and Cablevision now don’t have to worry about enduring louder Bronx cheers from consumers that would have co-mingled with the assorted constituency cries of  local politicians had the Yanks-Phils squared off again.

As such, maybe the upcoming Rangers-Giants battle, which is not exactly small town — Dallas-Ft. Worth is the fifth-largest DMA, while San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose ranks sixth  — doesn’t look so bad after all. Indeed, the story lines are straight out of Tinseltown.

The Rangers, recording their first two postseason series win to get there, have never been to a World Series since their forbear’s inception in 1961. Their new ownership group, headed by Chuck Greenberg and former Rangers fireballer, Hall of Famer and now team president Nolan Ryan, bought Tom Hicks’s club (A-Rod is still looking for his) out of bankruptcy this summer and later inked a $1.6 billion contract extension from Fox Sports Southwest with an $80 million upfront payment for next season that could keep ace Cliff Lee away from the New York Yankees and the YES Network.

For their part, the Giants haven’t won since 1954, when a fellow named Mays made his circus catch and throw against Cleveland’s Vic Wertz in the Polo Grounds. Four years later they took that piece of baseball lore and followed their nemesis — known in these parts as Dem Bums — west to throw out the first pitch on the modern era of baseball.  Although not nearly lamented or loathed as the erstwhile Brooklyn Dodgers, the Giants retain a place in the hearts and minds of some (including at least one MCNer on the publishing side) in the Big Apple.

Unless the parties reach a resolution (nine days in, there was no end in sight) Cablevision customers will have to make other arrangements to see the Fall Classic, when it starts on Wednesday Oct. 27. Rangers fans in Big D face those prospects as well with Fox-owned KDFW-TV likely to be staring at an 0-2 count with Dish when Halloween ends.

Hometown Giants fans will only have to fret whether the fourth time will be the Fall Classic charm since the club set up shop in the City By The Bay — KTVU in Oakland is a Fox affiliate, not part of its O-&-O roster. It will remain on the air throughout what could become known as the Retrans Series.