How the Chicago Cubs Could Boost World Series Ratings (and Give Fox a $30M Advertising Windfall)

With the team looking to end its 108-year drought and finally win another World Series, Fox execs salivate as viewership spikes and the perennial losers could become baseball TV's  heroes.
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Chicago Cubs' third baseman Kris Bryant.

As Chicagoans Bill Murray and John Cusack know well, it has been 108 years since the Cubs won the World Series. But now the team could be headed to its first Fall Classic since 1945 — and Fox Sports is as happy as any long-suffering fan.

The Cubs' Division Series clincher Oct. 11 delivered a record 6.4 million viewers on FS1. Now the team is playing the L.A. Dodgers for a berth in the World Series — which begins Oct. 25 on Fox — against the Cleveland Indians or Toronto Blue Jays. And though the Cubs are down 2-1 in their series while the Indians hold a 3-1 series lead, ad sales for the World Series are pacing 30 percent ahead of 2015, with a 30-second spot costing more than $500,000, say sources.

The increase, notes Fox Sports president Eric Shanks, owes largely to the Cubs. "It has all the makings of a great Hollywood script," he says of the drought. In a bid not to oversell, Fox approaches the World Series as though the best-of-seven matchup will run five games, with airtime 80 percent taken. Fox could earn $20 million to $30 million in additional revenue if Chicago advances and the Series goes to a Game 7.

Baseball hasn't been a big national ratings draw in recent years (the five lowest-rated World Series have taken place during the past decade), but when the Boston Red Sox ended an 86-year title drought in 2004, the Series averaged an impressive 25.4 million viewers. Now it could happen again. Says Shanks, "This has the potential to be one of the biggest World Series in the last decade."

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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