Game 3 victory could avert Series ratings derailment

Fox’s ratings for the World Series picked up a bit on Sunday — including even bigger gains outside of New York — enabling the Fall Classic to remain within striking distance of Nielsens for recent seasons.

Despite a game that was short on drama until the ninth inning, Sunday’s 6-5 Yankees victory delivered a 15.2 rating/23 share in overnights, according to Nielsen — up 9% in rating from Saturday’s 14.0/25. Perhaps more encouraging for Fox is that the Subway Series rating for markets outside Gotham improved even more (by 13%).

Tonight’s Game 3 at Shea Stadium is key to both the Mets’ chances in the series and Fox’s fortunes in the ratings. If the Mets win, it could go a long way toward continuing the momentum both in New York and across the country.

However, a Yankees victory tonight (it would be their 15th straight in the World Series) would pretty much put a padlock on the best-of-seven series. And a Yankees sweep would also likely challenge for the lowest Series ratings average on record.

Mixed bag

Through two games, the World Series is averaging a 14.6/24 in overnights — 5% behind last year’s 15.4/25 on NBC (Yankees-Braves) and 2% better than the 14.3/24 for the 1998 Series on Fox (Yankees-Padres).

How these will translate into national numbers when Nielsen issues them today is unclear. This year’s overnights are inflated relative to other years since New York — which represents about 10% of Nielsen’s overnight survey — has contributed by far the biggest ratings of any market (42.1/56 on Sunday; 41.6/62 on Saturday).

Although reliable demographic breakdowns for the first two games of the World Series were unavailable prior to today, Fox’s big scores among adults 18-49 on both Saturday and Sunday are projected to leave the net with roughly a 4.8 or 4.9 weekly rating in the key demo.

While that won’t be enough to catch NBC (with a projected 5.1), it would be Fox’s best weekly 18-49 rating since February. ABC, which will take the week in total viewers, is projected to finish right behind Fox in the demo (about 4.7), with CBS a distant fourth (3.4).

‘Ed’ improves

Elsewhere Sunday, NBC’s “Ed” showed gains opposite the World Series, improving by 4% in adults 18-49 (to a prelim 5.2/12) and by 21% in viewers (to 12.9 million) from the prior week. The first-year series topped its drama competition, CBS’ “Touched by an Angel,” by 30% in the demo.

Also, ABC’s first try with Olympic athletes as contestants on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” boosted the quizzer to its best ratings since August among kids, teens and adults 18-34. Net’s “The Practice” (prelim 19.0 million, 6.9/17 in A18-49) logged its best numbers in three tries this season.

If Game 3 fails to be competitive tonight, NBC is poised to take advantage of wandering baseball viewers. Among tonight’s primetime alternatives are the series premiere of “The Michael Richards Show” as well as the one-hour season premiere of “Frasier.”

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