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World Series Ratings Off to Worst Start on Record

The Kansas City Royals were a great story in baseball this year, but as a team with little star power that hails from a small market, their surprise run to face the San Francisco Giants in the World Series may not be resonating with more casual sports fans.

Fox attracted a still-sizable audience to Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Tuesday — 12.2 million — but this left it tied with the 2012 Texas-San Francisco opener, which previously had been the smallest audience to kick things off. Last year’s World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox averaged about 15 million, jumping 23% from 2012.

And in the adults 18-49 demo, Tuesday’s game did a 3.4 rating to win the night for Fox. This was down 19% from last year (4.2) and 6% from 2012 (3.6) for a new low.

(By comparison, the NBA Finals averaged a 6.0 demo rating and 14.9 million total viewers on ABC for Game 1 of its series between San Antonio and Miami in June.)

The World Series opener did a huge 48.2 overnight household rating in Kansas City and a 29.3 in the Bay Area, but this meant that the two markets involved accounted for 12.6% (or about 1 in 8) of U.S. homes tuning in — a much higher percentage than seen with teams in the playoffs of the NFL or NBA, both of which enjoy broader viewer interest across the country. Kansas City and the Bay Area make up only about 3% of the country’s TV homes.

It didn’t help that the game seemed over almost from the start, with the visiting Giants scoring three runs in the top of the first inning en route to a comfortable 7-1 victory behind dominant pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Viewership was under 9 million for the final inning.

Major League Baseball didn’t exactly ride into the World Series with ratings momentum.

The best-of-seven League Championship Series were both quick (one ended in four games, the other in five) and low-rated (the most-watched contest was Game 3 of the ALCS on TBS with about 6 million viewers).

Fox can hope that more competitive games and a more sensible World Series schedule — one that minimizes head-to-head showdowns with the ratings-heavyweight NFL — will help it as the series progresses.

Under the old format, as many as four World Series games could be played against the primetime NFL games on Monday, Thursday and Sunday. Now, though, only one game is scheduled to face the NFL (Game 5 opposite NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”).

Game 2 is set for tonight in Kansas City on Fox.

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