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Baseball scores for Fox

Series lifts network to victory over ABC, NBC

Fox Sports is riding a wave of momentum — and heightened advertiser interest — into the World Series after the seventh and deciding game of the Red Sox-Indians series scored big numbers Sunday night.

The Boston Red Sox will take on the Colorado Rockies in the Fall Classic beginning Wednesday night.

Boston has a large national following while the Rockies are a great Cinderella story: Left for dead for most of summer, the young team rallied to become the last squad to qualify for the postseason and then swept the opening two rounds of the playoffs.

The matchup has caught the attention of advertisers, who shell out big bucks to reach young adults for DVR-proof programming like live sports. Fox reported Monday that it has sold out the first five games of the World Series at a record rate of $400,000 a spot.

“I’ve never seen a sales environment that’s so hot for post-season baseball,” said Ed Goren, president of Fox Sports, in a conference call with reporters. “Advertisers are lined up so deep to buy time that my sales guys are asking me if we could come up with a Game 8.”

Nielsen estimates that an average aud of 19 million viewers watched the Boston Red Sox cap their rally in the best-of-seven series with an 11-2 victory on Sunday. That made it the most-watched program of the night — besting “Desperate Housewives” on ABC and “Sunday Night Football” on NBC — and will help Fox win the week’s primetime ratings race among young adults and total viewers.

For the entire American League Championship Series, Fox averaged 11.6 million viewers — 49% over last year (7.8 million for Detroit-Oakland). This makes it the most-watched ALCS since the boffo Red Sox-New York Yankees matchup in 2004, which also went seven games.

From Fox’s perspective, one of the big advantages this year is that the first game will take place on Wednesday instead of Saturday, as in previous years, Goren said. Viewing levels are higher on Wednesday than Saturday, and “we’ll get more of a sports-page buildup to the Series because baseball is not competing directly with weekend college football and the NFL,” he said.

Also, the Wednesday start means that if the Series goes to a sixth and seventh game on Wednesday (Oct. 31) and Thursday (Nov. 1), Fox’s sales staff will have two days to sell the time (Tuesday and Wednesday), not one day (Friday) when Game 6 takes place on a Saturday, as in previous years.

Goren said that Fox exceeded its ad-revenue projections for the 26 regular-season Saturday-afternoon games, as well as for the All-Star Game and the American League Championship Series, which went seven games this year.

TBS’ ratings were subpar for the National League Championship Series, in which Colorado drubbed Phoenix in four games, but Goren said TBS will be able to sell next year’s series off the Fox’s American League ratings: TBS and Fox alternate the league games each season, so TBS gets the American League in 2008.

Goren said Fox has come out ahead in relinquishing all of the primetime divisional playoffs and one of the two league championships to TBS for the first time. Move was made in part to avoid disrupting viewing patterns for Fox’s primetime lineup of shows, which were sidelined for a few weeks when Fox aired all three rounds of the postseason.

Instead of a problem, the World Series and one of the League Championships become a promotional vehicle for the Fox shows, which “come back stronger than ever on the back of baseball,” Goren said.

Sunday’s Game 7, meanwhile, figures to come in with about a 6.7 rating/16 share in adults 18-49 and 19 million viewers overall. While ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” scored a bigger demo rating (roughly 7.2/16), baseball drew more viewers than the sudser (17.9 million) as well as outdelivering the Denver Broncos-Pittsburgh Steelers nailbiter on NBC (roughly 13.3 million viewers).

Boston led all metered-markets with a 52.9 rating/71 share, with WFXT’s viewing peaking at a whopping 86 share at 11:45 p.m. when the game ended. Nearby Providence came in second with a 42.6/56, followed by Cleveland (37.9/53), Hartford (25.6/39), Columbus (18.7/29), St. Louis (15.7/22) and New York (14.9/23).

Game also did a healthy 14.3/20 in the Rockies’ hometown of Denver (vs. a 32.7/46 for the Broncos on NBC).

If there’s a fifth game of the best-of-seven World Series, Denver sports fans will be forced to choose between the Broncos and Rockies: Fox’s baseball coverage would directly oppose ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” matchup between the Broncos and Green Bay Packers — with both games played in Denver.