TBS is hoping its coverage of the Arizona Diamondbacks-Colorado Rockies National League Championship series will deliver the same ratings home run as its Major League Baseball's Division Series playoff telecasts.
The network's 12 Division Series games, which aired from Oct. 1 to Oct. 8, averaged more than 5.7 million viewers, up 26% versus the 4.5 million viewers delivered by the 2006 divisional round, which aired on the Fox broadcast network, ESPN and ESPN2.
In fact, TBS's Division Series coverage — its first year of a seven-year rights deal with MLB — set several cable and TBS network records. TBS's Oct. 8 telecast of game four of the New York Yankees-Cleveland Indians AL Division series game drew 9.2 million viewers, making the game the most-watched MLB Division Series telecast ever on cable TV, besting game three of the series, which drew 8.5 million viewers the previous night.
The audiences for both games exceeded all 2006 MLB Division Series telecasts. The other 2007 Division series included the Boston Red Sox-California Angels, Philadelphia Phillies-Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks-Chicago Cubs matchups.
“Ultimately, we knew we were going to have something special, but this was very special,” said Turner Sports president David Levy. “I'm sure a lot of people thought that we weren't going to overdeliver [ratings results from] last year, which had broadcast and cable [telecasts] combined.”
Levy said TBS posted strong ratings — the network averaged a record 4.0 household rating for the week of Oct. 1 to Oct. 7 — despite three of the four series ending in three-game sweeps. The Cleveland Indians triumphed over the New York Yankees in four games.
“What makes this unique is that three of the four series were sweeps, so as I look at this as a seven-year deal, I have to believe we have a lot of upside going forward,” Levy said.
Contributing to TBS's success was the league's flexibility in setting start times for each game, “which worked to make sure the fans got the most opportunity to watch the most amount of games,” Levy said.
In addition, he also pointed to Turner's aggressive cross-promotional efforts across all of its networks, alerting viewers as to when and where the games were played, as key to the network's success.
“Having all the divisional series games on one network where we were able to promote the next game and the next night's game also played a big role in the ratings,” he said.
The inclusion of several big-market teams such as the Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs also helped the ratings push. TBS, however, doesn't have that luxury with its National League Championship Series coverage, which began Oct. 11 and features teams from two midsized markets in the Arizona Diamondbacks (Phoenix) and Colorado Rockies (Denver). Fox will televise the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Indians.
“You never can tell what's going to capture the fans' interest, but we have the two hottest teams in baseball playing each other, and you're hoping that these two teams will play competitive baseball and that the series will go long,” Levy said.