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Why Baseball Playoffs Need Media, Viewers' Support

The New York Yankees
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

THR's chief TV critic argues that even without the Yankees, there are plenty of compelling stories to be told no matter who makes the World Series.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

Maybe the baseball gods didn't like all that network and media bitching last year when the San Francisco Giants played the Texas Rangers in the World Series. After all, it was the fifth- vs. sixth-largest U.S. market. Nothing to whine about -- unless, like people who obsess about ratings, you were hoping for, say, first vs. fourth. Oh, those Nielsen media markets. They can make a lot of TV people lose sleep.

And now? In the American League Championship Series, you've got the Texas Rangers (Dallas-Fort Worth, fifth-largest market) vs. the Detroit Tigers (11th-largest). In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals (21st-largest) face the Milwaukee Brewers (34th-largest). This isn't pleasing to Fox and TBS. Any sports lover and, in particular, baseball lover will tell you they don't give a damn who gets to the World Series (beyond their own team). The purity of the sport takes precedence over how many people watch and how much money Fox makes from advertising. Of course, from an industry standpoint, the goal is to sell product and make money. Everything airing in between is filler. That's why the annual hand-wringing over large-market teams versus total viewers and national interest ends up sounding a lot like being on the wrong end of the Occupy Wall Street issue.

Detroit: Is there a city more in need of a feel-good story? Of the teams in the hunt, the Tigers are poster boys of the economic collapse versus redemption-through-sports ideal. And Milwaukee? A feel-good team and city, even if they aren't, in the parlance of those with an eye on ratings, very "sexy." Detroit vs. Milwaukee? (That sound you heard was the head of Fox Sports collapsing in a heap.) If it's Texas vs. St. Louis -- well, plenty of good stories to mine there, too. Whichever teams make it, a little enthusiasm and support are in order. Even from Fox. And the New York media.

WORLD SERIES RATINGS: Series in big media markets earn better ratings. Although Boston is not among the top five markets -- it's No. 7 -- its storied history (it won in 2004 after an 86-year drought) also helped draw viewers in 2007

2007

  • Boston Red Sox: 4 wins
  • Colorado Rockies: 0 wins
  • Viewers per Game: 17.2 million

2008

  • Philadelphia Phillies: 4 wins
  • Tampa Bay Rays: 1 win
  • Viewers per Game: 13.7

2009

  • New York Yankees: 4 wins
  • Philadelphia Phillies: 2 wins
  • Viewers per Game: 19.3

2010

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
  • San Francisco Giants: 4 wins
  • Texas Rangers: 1 win
  • Viewers per Game: 14.2