All Gotham Series fails to attract national aud

It may be a helluva town, but New York-New York didn’t make for a very attractive World Series matchup for the rest of the country.

According to final Nielsen ratings for Fox’s coverage of the five-game Mets-Yankees series, this season’s Fall Classic (12.4/21 average in homes) goes down as the lowest-rated in history, 23% behind last year’s 16.0/26 on NBC and 12% lower than the previously lowest-rated Series (14.1/24 for the Padres-Yankees on Fox in 1998).

Thursday’s fifth game, won by the Yankees to give them their third straight World Series, netted a 13.1/21 homes rating — the best of the series but still 21% below the previous lowest-rated fifth game for a Series (16.5 in 1971 for Orioles-Pirates).

Fox’s low ratings for the World Series come on the heels of even steeper ratings drops for baseball’s divisional playoffs and league championship series. Net earlier this year shelled out $2.5 billion for exclusive rights to air the next six years of post-season baseball.

The Series vs. series debuts

If there’s one encouraging sign for Fox, it’s that it limited year-to-year losses among men 18-34 (its strongest demo overall) to just 2% (8.3 vs. 8.5 in 1999). Its biggest losses came in women 25-54, among whom competition from the likes of “Frasier,” “ER” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” among others, sent this year’s rating to a 5.3 — down 27% from last year, when NBC carried the Series.

It was also an atypical post-season amid a wacky start to the fall season in general. With the Summer Olympics pushing back the start of the season to Oct. 2, many of the top series on NBC, ABC and CBS premiered opposite the League Championship Series and World Series.

New York gave Thursday’s final game a whopping 42.8 rating/61 share, the best of the series. Only seven TV events of the past 10 years have rated higher in Gotham, led by the “Seinfeld” series finale on NBC and the women’s figure skating finals of the 1994 Winter Olympics (Harding-Kerrigan) on CBS, which both rated a 49.1.

Elsewhere Thursday, NBC’s new laffer “Cursed” (17.85 million, 9.5/25 in A18-49) got off to an OK start, retaining 81% of its demo lead-in from “Friends.” That compares with an average 78% retention for the first three outings for “Jesse” in the slot a year ago.

Peacock hits home run

NBC didn’t mind the dropoff at 8:30, topping Fox’s World Series coverage by 90% in adults 18-49 (11.2 vs. 5.9) and by 26% in total viewers (21.0 million vs. 16.7 million). Victory is the first that any net has achieved in both 18-49 and total viewers opposite the final game of the Series since Oct. 28, 1989, when NBC’s Saturday sked (led by “Golden Girls”) topped Game 4 of the earthquake-impacted Giants-Athletics series.

The Peacock also won Friday and Saturday (tied with Fox) in adults 18-49, according to prelim nationals from Nielsen.

CBS made things tough on NBC on Friday, pulling to within two-tenths of a ratings point in adults 18-49 (3.6 vs. 3.8) and tying NBC in adults 25-54. The Eye net (prelim 11.8 million) also came very close to the Peacock (12.0 million) in total viewers.

UPN’s new Friday drama series got off to a strong start, with “Freedom” delivering a 3.6/6 in overnights (up by 29% over last season’s average in the 8 p.m. hour) and “Level Nine” scoring a 3.3/6 (18% better than last year’s slot average).

Contest pays off

On Saturday, NBC fared pretty well in its first try with a newfangled movie night. Net has employed a host for its Saturday pic night (Los Angeles radio personality Ryan Seacrest) and is also awarding $100,000 to one of its viewers through an NBCi.com online watch-and-win contest.

A repeat of “Maverick” kept the net tied with Fox in adults 18-49 (prelim 3.0/10 for both). ABC was close behind (2.9/10), with a “World’s Scariest Ghosts” spec winning the 10 p.m. hour in 18-49 (3.9/12).

CBS edged past NBC to win among viewers (prelim 9.8 million to 9.6m) but looked sluggish at 8 p.m. with “That’s Life” (prelim 6.8m), which drew a smaller aud than all but one episode of “Early Edition” in the hour a year ago. Rookie series, not facing baseball for the first time in four Saturday outings, plummeted by 20% week-to-week in viewers and by 26% in 18-49 (2.0 from 2.7).

Net’s other Saturday rookie, “The District,” continues to look strong, winning its hour in viewers (13.2m) and adults 25-54 (4.9/13) despite weak lead-ins.

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