Despite a compelling combo of two clubs with no recent World Series history, many industry pundits are predicting miserable ratings for the Astros/White Sox World Series, the NY Daily News’ Bob Raissman amongst them.
Right now, by the Foxies’ own devices, more of America knows about next month’s season premiere of “That ’70s Show” than it does about tomorrow’s Game No. 1.
“I think Game 1 of this World Series – if you go back three years or four years – will do better (ratings wise) than we did back then,” Ed Goren, Fox Sports president, said yesterday. “I think (in terms of ratings) this World Series will hold up extremely well.”
No matter how anyone tries spinning, er, analyzing it, MLB’s establishment knows the casual fan, the one needed to drive ratings into the promised land, does not see Astros-White Sox as a glamour matchup. So, on a Saturday night in October, many of these valuable viewers may opt for a night on the town rather than a night in front of the tube watching a baseball game.
That would mean the beginning of a ratings descent into the toilet for Fox’s World Series presentation.
Not so privately, the suits will admit they would rather have more of a marquee matchup. One that packs a ratings punch. The air went out of some programmers’ balloons after the White Sox punctured Boston. And when the Yankees went down to the Angels, boxes of Kleenex likely were passed around the Foxies’ Hollywood bunker.
If Fox and MLB suits want Houston-Chicago to approach the healthy 15.8 rating last season’s Red Sox-Cardinals Series averaged they’d better roll up their sleeves and, over the course of the next 72 hours, remind America how much juice the 2005 World Series has. Now is the time for some urgency. Commercials are not enough. Fox should mobilize all its assets.
When you turn on Fox News Channel, do you see any World Series panel discussions? And how come MLB does not already have a small army of MLB stars – past and present – promoting the Series matchup on talk radio, early and late-night TV gabfests, MTV and various regional sports networks? Both the NBA and NFL have this strategy down to a science.
It is Fox’s job to ignore ratings doubts and look on the bright side. Ed Goren, president of Fox Sports, said yesterday during a conference call, “We keep saying the White Sox are this year’s version of the Red Sox, minus the sexy curse.”
Sexy curses make for lovely albatrosses, especially if you’re shedding an 86-year-old one. Last year, the Red Sox’ sweep of the Cardinals produced an average of 25.5 million viewers a game, the most for a World Series since 1999.
Whatever has kept the White Sox from winning the World Series since 1917 will not be dwelt upon. The Foxians insist that they will stay largely in the present and not reminisce about 1959, or the 1919 Black Sox scandal, but, as the Fox announcer Joe Buck suggested, the network could still make use of the cast of “Eight Men Out”.
That’s a great idea. Who amongst us isn’t dying to find out what D.B. Sweeney has been up to?