Postseason MLB hit, miss
EmptyDon't break out the crying towels for Turner Sports, which learned the hard way in its first year how fickle postseason baseball ratings can be.
The divisional series were exclusively Turner's for the first time, and they featured such ratings-friendly teams as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. Even though all but one of the best-of-five series were sweeps, ratings for the inaugural time baseball's first-round playoffs were exclusively on cable boosted Turner. TBS saw its best ratings ever, and the League Divisional Series as a whole were up 18% compared with last year on ESPN and Fox.
But fast-forward to the National League Championship Series, a battle between two smaller-market teams without large national followings: the Arizona Diamondbacks (from the No. 12 market in the country) and the Colorado Rockies (No. 18). It was the lowest-rated LCS in history.
Turner Sports president David Levy believes carrying the playoffs was a huge success, even with the down side of the NLCS.
"The NLCS would have been low-rated on any channel," Levy said, citing the smaller-market teams. "This wasn't a Turner thing, this wasn't a cable thing."
Turner agreed in October 2006 to pay $310 million for the seven-year rights deal that includes all of the League Divisional Series, alternating LCS and regular-season Sunday afternoon games beginning next year. Turner isn't denying that the Rockies' four-game sweep didn't hurt — TBS had to issue make-goods for ratings deficiencies for the LCS — but Levy is looking at the bigger picture.
"Look, if this were a one-year deal, we would certainly be disappointed," Levy said. "But the law of averages is going to tell us that we're going to have some five-game series, four-game series, down the road."
He said the ratings will likely go up next year and then Turner has overdelivered on last year's numbers.
Fox Sports president Ed Goren agrees.
"There were three sweeps and one four-game series; it's not a surprise," he said. "But it's a seven-year deal. These things have a way of evening out."
Fox carried the American League Championship Series.