Fox’s World Series hits ratings high

Obama infomercial draws 33.5 million viewers

Fox’s broadcast of the conclusion of Game 5 of the World Series garnered the net’s highest number by far for the 2008 Fall Classic.

But the Philadelphia Phillies’ win wasn’t the only big story in primetime Wednesday. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama pulled in 33.5 million viewers for his half-hour infomercial that aired on seven nets (CBS, NBC, Fox, MSNBC, Univision, BET and TV One) at the start of primetime.

And Obama capped the night with an appearance on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” that pushed the 11 p.m. Comedy Central series to its best-ever ratings, with 3.6 million viewers. (The Obamas have been good to “Daily Show.” The skein’s previous high-water mark of 3 million viewers was set earlier this month with the Oct. 7 appearance by Michelle Obama.)

Unfortunately, the overall numbers for the Philadelphia Phillies-Tampa Bay Rays series — which resulted in a five-game rout by Philly — were the lowest in televised World Series history. 

According to Nielsen estimates, 19.8 million total viewers saw the finale of Game 5, which was suspended in the middle of the sixth inning on Monday night due to heavy rain.

That figure lifted the Series’ five-game, six-night average to 14.3 million viewers, which somewhat obscures the truly dismal performances of the first five nights. Worst of all was Saturday’s Game 3, which was delayed 90 minutes by a downpour. It finally concluded at 1:45 a.m. and notched an abysmal 9.8 total viewers. 

“These last four series have been disastrous, and nothing seems to be done to halt the retreat of the audience,” said Rick Gentile, director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll. “They have to look at the fact that these postseason games take more than three hours, and if you start at 8:37, you’re looking at an earliest finish of 11:30 Eastern, and that’s late.”

Not helping matters, Gentile said, is that none of the past five editions has gone longer than five games, which prevents drama — and viewer interest — from peaking.

From a broadcasting perspective, he said, “Anything under six games and you’re looking at trouble.” Advertisers, he added, will eventually start to take notice: “I don’t think it’s affected prices yet, but I’m sure it will.” 

As the lone major-net alternative to the Obama infomercial, ABC saw its sophomore fantasy skein “Pushing Daisies” log its best numbers in weeks, with a 6.7 million viewers and 2.3 rating/6 share in the adults 18-49 demo, per Nielsen.