Forget matchup, Fox just wants a long World Series

Tue Oct 21, 2008 3:28pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman and Paul Thomasch

CHICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - What Fox Sports wants more than anything when it airs Major League Baseball's World Series starting this week is a competitive -- and long-lasting -- affair, the kind that draws maximum television ratings and advertising dollars.

While the championship matchup between the National League's Philadelphia Phillies and the American League's Tampa Bay Rays may not offer the appeal of teams from Boston, Los Angeles or Chicago, avoiding a short series is paramount for News Corp's Fox network, analysts and industry officials said on Tuesday.

"What gets overstated is the importance of the matchup and what gets understated is the importance of volume," Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said.

"If you're asking, would you rather have a four-game series between the (Boston) Red Sox and the (Los Angeles) Dodgers versus a seven-games series between the Phillies and the Rays? We'd rather take a seven-game series," he added.

While analysts said Fox, which has televised 10 of the last 12 World Series, would have preferred a final between the Red Sox and the Dodgers or Chicago Cubs, the bottom line is how many people watch overall and the ad revenue raised.

"When the World Series is going seven games, it can be the biggest story in sports. When it's a sweep, it's a little bit of a dog," said Jeff Gagne, a vice president with MPG North America, responsible for national sports negotiations. MPG is a media buying and planning division of France's Havas SA.

Analysts said Tampa, with a compelling story of going from the worst record in baseball last season to the finals this year, could draw even casual fans, should the series last seven games. The seventh game of the American League Championship Series between Tampa and the Red Sox on Sunday was the most watched baseball game in cable TV history.

A typical World Series game contains about 70 30-second ads, which this year will cost $400,000 apiece. That totals $28 million dollars a night, welcome money in a seven-game series.   Continued...

<p>The Fox logo is pictured on signage at the Fox TV network summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 14, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>