The Tampa Bay Rays' Oct. 19 triumph over the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series set an audience record for a cable baseball telecast and gave TBS an overall ratings home run for its three-week October playoff coverage.
The game — a 3-1 Tampa win that thwarted Boston's bid to rally from a 3 games to 1 deficit in the ALCS for a second straight season and defend its World Series crown — drew a 7.9 national rating, 9.2 cable rating, 10.6 million households and 13.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
That topped ESPN's coverage of the Sept. 2, 1998, contest in which Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hit his 61st home run, to tie Roger Maris' then-Major League Baseball dinger record. That game scored 7.1 million households and 9.1 million viewers for the total sports network.
The Rays-BoSox viewers count trailed only the 18.6 million watchers for the Sept. 15 Monday Night Football matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles for most-watched show on cable in 2008.
That football contest, cable's top live event, ranks only 2,000 viewers behind Disney Channel's telefilm High School Musical 2 as the medium's most-watched show ever on a live-plus-seven-day basis.
Also lifted by the Saturday-night total of 8.9 million viewers for Game 6, TBS averaged a 4.6 national rating, a 5.4 cable mark and 7.44 million watchers over the seven-contest ALCS.
All told, TBS's ALCS national ratings average was up 64% from its coverage of the 2007 National League Championship Series, while the cable average also climbed 64% above the 3.3 generated by the network's coverage of the Colorado Rockies' four game sweep over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Viewership surged 73% above last season's 4.3 million NLCS average.
TBS officials said the 2008 ALCS outperformed the 2007 NLCS by 96% among persons 18 to 34, 83% among adults 18 to 49 and 86% among the 25-to-54 set.
The Boston DMA averaged a 26.1 household rating over the seven games, while Tampa-St. Pete scored a 20.2 household rating for TBS.
Bolstered by the strong finish of BoSox-Rays, TBS recorded a slight viewership advance from its coverage of the 2007 MLB playoffs and high single-digit gains with key demos. For 22 games — 15 Division Series contests and the seven ALCS affairs — TBS averaged 5.38 million viewers, compared with 5.36 million for 13 Division Series games and four 2007 NLCS tussles.
Among persons 18 to 34, TBS was up 8% in 2008 to 1.08 million from 995,000 last year; 8% among adults 18 to 49 to 2.42 million from 2.24 million; and 10% to 2.56 million adults 25 to 54 from 2.33 million.
With guys, TBS notched a 6% increase to 1.64 million 18-to-49 viewers and 9% to 1.74 million of the 25-to-54 crowd.