World Series Kicks Off With High Ratings Stakes

Fox and the MLB are no doubt hoping for a repeat of 2004's audience surge.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Fox's best case scenario has come to fruition.

After 9.7 million viewers tuned into Fox Sports 1 to watch the Chicago Cubs defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers and secure a spot in the World Series, a first since 1945, the MLB stands to wrap up 2016 on an increasingly rare high note.

The matchup between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, which kicks off Tuesday night, stands to give Fox a much-needed ratings lift — with some predicting a ratings climb on par with 2004. That was the year the Boston Red Sox nabbed their first World Series win since 1918. (The Cubs haven't won the ring since 1908.) The year 2004 still stands as the last series to average north of 20 million viewers, pulling 25.4 million over four games. It also ranks as the most-watched World Series of the 21st century, edging out a very competitive 2001. (The end of that series, which climaxed with 39 million viewers in game seven, averaged 24.5 million viewers.)

A full seven-game series is the most desirable scenario for Fox. Sources have 30-second ad spots going for more than $500,000, a 30 percent boost from 2015, and that could translate to an additional $20 million to $30 million in revenue if the series goes all the way.

Only two World Series in the last decade have managed to make it to game seven. Ratings have suffered because of it. The five lowest-rated World Series of all time all took place in the last decade — with 2012 setting the low bar at an average 12.7 million viewers.

Frequent appearances from big franchises haven't helped matters. The San Francisco Giants have appeared in half of the last six World Series, while the Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers have all made repeat performances in the last decade.

And while it shouldn't be ignored that Cleveland also has a lot at stake — its last World Series appearance was nearly 20 years ago, its last win being 1948 — the size of the Chicago market is reason alone to be optimistic. It's No. 3 in the entire U.S.

For a primer, see below for the last decade's worth of Super Bowl ratings.

World Series Average Viewership (Peak Game) 
2015: 14.7 million (Game 5: 17.2 million)
2014: 13.8 million (Game 7: 23.5 million) 
2013: 14.9 million (Game 6: 19.2 million)
2012: 12.7 million (Game 4: 15.5 million) 
2011: 16.6 million (Game 7: 25.4 million)
2010: 14.3 million (Game 4: 15.5 million) 
2009: 19.4 million (Game 6: 22.3 million)
2008: 13.6 million (Game 5: 15.8 million) 
2007: 17.1 million (Game 4: 20.9 million) 
2006: 15.8 million (Game 5: 16.3 million)