Fox Sports reaped the benefits of Major League
Baseball's resurrection this year in the form of double-digit ratings increases over
Fox Sports Net posted a 0.9 rating for its weekly
Thursday-night national baseball telecast, a 29 percent increase over the 0.7 rating that
it tapped in 1997, the network group said. FX finished the regular season with a 0.6
rating, a 50 percent jump over the 0.4 rating that it generated in 1997, the network said.
"Fox made a bet on baseball when it was down and went
against the trend by supporting the sport. This year, our ratings make that bet look very
good," said Tracy Dolgin, chief operating officer of Fox/Liberty Networks.
"Every way that we sell baseball, from basic cable to regional cable, was up from
Dolgin attributed the ratings increase to the phenomenal
stories that baseball told throughout the season, from the chase for the home run record
by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, to the American League record-breaking wins total by the
New York Yankees
Several Fox owned or affiliated regional-sports networks
outside of the Chicago and St. Louis markets -- where Sosa and McGwire, respectively, play
-- recorded significant ratings increases for baseball coverage:
Fox Sports Southwest increased ratings for its Texas
Rangers telecasts by 52 percent and for its Houston Astros telecasts by 53 percent.
Ratings for Fox Sports Detroit's telecasts of
the Detroit Tigers rose 44 percent over games telecast last year by PASS Sports.
Ratings on Fox Sports Rocky Mountain for Kansas City
Royals games grew by 75 percent.
Fox Sports Midwest, which carried many of the Cardinals
games featuring McGwire, saw its rating jump by 51 percent over 1997's numbers, Fox
Fox's baseball-ratings increase mirrored that
experienced by rival ESPN, which posted a 27 percent increase in its 1998 baseball
coverage compared with last year.
Dolgin predicted that as fans forget about past player
strikes and the strife that surrounded baseball in the mid-1990s, the sport's
momentum -- along with its cable ratings -- will continue to increase into next year.
"Baseball needed people talking about the game, and
not the business," he said. "I believe that next year's numbers will be up
over this year's numbers because people are thinking about the game like they used