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Red Sox-Yanks boon for Fox

JOHN C. COTEY
Published October 15, 2004

Go Yankees!

Go Red Sox!

Seriously, just go ... seven games.

Please!

This may be the cry at Fox, which has been lagging behind the other three networks all summer but is expecting a big boost from the marquee matchup in the American League Championship Series.

The series opener on Tuesday drew 15-million viewers for a 10.0 rating, making it the most watched program of the night, a rarity for Fox, which hasn't accomplished that feat since the finale of American Idol. While the network's football games continue to post killer ratings, its prime-time offerings have been lackluster.

The home markets of Boston and New York posted the nation's highest local ratings, registering 37.0 and 25.9, respectively. New York's 25.9 is better than each of the first six games of last year's seven-game ALCS between the teams.

In Tampa Bay, the Yankees-Red Sox opener drew a 10.8 rating, dropping off to 9.1 when New York appeared to be running away with it around 10:45 p.m., but rebounding to post a 13.2 from 11-11:15 p.m. and a 12.3 from 11:15-11:30 p.m.

Fox is in good shape for the remaining games in the baseball postseason. The Yankees-Red Sox series is golden, and whoever moves on will help ensure that the World Series is at least silver. Providing the Cardinals can put away Houston (and don't think for a minute this isn't a fervent desire of Fox executives), the World Series will be loaded with history and tradition.

Wednesday, to the chagrin of Fox executives, Game 2 had to go up against the final presidential debate. "The baseball schedule isn't a surprise for the people in Washington," Fox Sports president Ed Goren told USA Today. "The debate organizers knew 6-8 months ago what the playoff schedule was. This was their decision. I can't explain it."

Of course, Fox didn't mind pitting the ALCS against the NLCS Wednesday night, a decision based purely on ratings that was heavily criticized. Fox says the last time it aired a LCS day game, the ratings were poor.

It's hard to determine the success of dueling games, with the presidential debate, watched by an estimated 51.2-million, cutting into viewership. But the numbers - an 11.0 overnight rating combined for both games - were still good, even if down 15 percent from a comparable split telecast last year.

In Boston, the game earned a 37.9; in New York, a 24.6. In Tampa Bay, it was 7.78 (but over a 10 when the debate ended) for Red Sox-Yankees, and only 1.2 for the NCLS.

More good news for Fox - the Astros-Cardinals earned a 24.6 in Houston and a 37.1 in St. Louis, almost identical to the New York-Boston numbers. With the debates over, and interest in both series booming in the local markets, Fox should enjoy the next few weeks as the rest of the country comes aboard.

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