Fox World Series Ratings Slump Eased by $200 Million in Sales

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The 2021 World Series will go down in the books as the second least-watched MLB title tilt in the modern Nielsen era, trailing only last season’s asterisk-freighted event.

The six-game set between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros averaged 11.74 viewers on Fox, and while that marked a 21% improvement compared to last year’s Rays-Dodgers series, it’s the lowest turnout for a Fall Classic convened after a complete regular-season campaign.

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The previous low-water mark for a pre-pandemic series was 12.6 million viewers, which Fox scared up over the course of the Giants’ four-game cruise past the Tigers in 2012.

Fox earned its highest delivery of the series with Game 6, a 7-0 Braves rout that featured three home runs, including a two-out Jorge Soler moonshot in the top of the third that came to rest on the sidewalk by the left field gate of Minute Maid Park. Despite the lopsided score, the decisive frame was Fox’s biggest draw of the series, averaging just under 14 million linear TV viewers, making it the year’s 73rd most-watched broadcast thus far.

If the Game 6 numbers hold up through the next two months of NFL and college bowl action, baseball will be one of a select number of non-football sports to have cracked the top 100 list. In addition to Tuesday night’s MLB capper, broadcasts still in the mix include the Kentucky Derby, a pair of college hoops games and as many as 14 Olympics airings on NBC. (With an average draw of 12.5 million viewers, Game 6 of the NBA Finals is likely to be squeezed out between now and the end of the year.)

As much as the World Series ratings aren’t anywhere near as robust as they once were—Atlanta’s last championship turn, a six-game showdown with Cleveland that was split between ABC and NBC back in 1995, averaged 29 million viewers—the TV turnout wasn’t a surprise to anyone who’s kept an eye on the Nielsen data. While Fox’s deliveries will be accompanied by the usual surfeit of ratings Guernica, all that molar-gnashing apocalypticism promises to be as goofy and myopic as it’s always been … especially in light of how the rest of television is performing.

While the World Series can’t hold a candle to the NFL (and nothing can), the ratings will still outshine just about everything else on the dial. Reach aside, Fox’s average draw of 3.47 million adults 18-49 is nearly five times the size of the average primetime broadcast demo (756,000).

In spite of what the Nielsen meters spat out, Fox was able to begin celebrating the World Series outcome on Sunday night, when the Astros forced a return trip to Houston. Game 6 is generally what separates a profitable World Series from a bust, and the extra evening of baseball generated on the order of $35 million in ad sales revenue. Not bad for a night’s work.

All things being equal, Fox should pocket around $200 million in World Series sales, a final tally that will be adjusted in light on the volume of make-goods it may offer its top-tier advertisers. And because ratings are dependent on the size of the media markets served by the representative franchises (and whether or a global brand is in the mix once the sales process begins), this year’s deliveries won’t necessarily have an impact on pricing for the 2022 series.

Which is to say that should Fox luck out and finally get the Yankees-Dodgers showdown it’s been salivating over for the last 20-some-odd years, the sky’s the limit.

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