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Fox sure loser in Series
Network says even 7-game Marlins-Yankees series won't put it in the black.
October 17, 2003: 5:11 PM EDT
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money Senior Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Even with the best year ever for Fox's postseason baseball viewership and ad sales, the network will lose money on its baseball broadcasts this season.

Those broadcasts will culminate with the 2003 World Series that begins Saturday when the New York Yankees host the Florida Marlins.

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"Big-time sport on free over-the-air television is a wonderful product but, nevertheless, we're all facing the situation that the cost of the product is still an issue," said Fox Sports President Ed Goren.

Fox, a division of News Corp. (NWS: down $0.33 to $34.26, Research, Estimates), took a $225 million charge two years ago for future losses it anticipated through the 2006 season on its $2.5 billion, six-year broadcast deal with Major League Baseball.

When asked if the network would finally be able to be in the black if he got the seven-game World Series he is hoping for, Goren said it wasn't likely.

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"We probably could use nine games based on our financial history over the years," he said.

Baseball's six-year contract with Fox packages together its broadcasts during the regular season, including the All-Star game in July, with its post-season coverage. The network also saw improved ratings for its Saturday afternoon regular-season broadcasts this year, with a 2.7 rating, up from a 2.5 average in 2002. The All Star game drew a 9.5 rating, the same as 2002.

Part of the problem for Fox is it doesn't necessarily see a lot of extra money for the strong ratings in the early games of each round of the playoffs, for which commercial time is sold before the match-ups and ratings are known.

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"Those who bought in advance made the best buy they could make in the television season over the last two weeks," he said.

The network has seen a windfall from the extra games in the two championship series, which each went to the maximum seven games.

"Our phone has been ringing off the hook with advertisers trying to get on last (Wednesday) night's game and tonight's (Thursday's) game," he said. "There can't be enough pitching changes (during which extra commercials can be aired) to satisfy all of them."

Goren said he's not worried about a drop off in ratings just because the sentimental favorites to go to the World Series -- the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox -- were knocked out in devastating fashion.

"You just hope for volume. If we get a six- or seven-game World Series, this thing will build naturally," said Goren, when asked if he was worried about low ratings for a Yankees-Marlins match-up.

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Goren said the first five games of the World Series have their ad time essentially sold out, but that it's tough to sell games 6 and 7 until it's clearer to advertisers that the games will be played. Fox has said it's getting about $325,000 for a 30-second spot, which is up about 8 percent from last year, according to Advertising Age.

The playoff series have seen the best ratings since 1999, when Boston and New York also met in the American League Championship Series, and another New York team, the Mets, played the Atlanta Braves, which has many of its regular season games broadcast nationally. The Braves are owned by Time Warner (TWX: down $0.34 to $15.58, Research, Estimates), the parent company of CNN/Money.

Wednesday night's National League Championship Series Game 7 between the Cubs and the Marlins was watched by 20 percent of U.S. homes and almost 30 percent of homes watching television during the game, according to Nielsen Media Research's preliminary rating based on the nation's largest television markets.

The Yankees-Boston ALCS Game 6 Wednesday, which started at 4 p.m. ET, was watched in 12 percent of homes and almost a quarter of all homes watching television during that time period, which was a better rating than any other network got during prime time Wednesday evening.

Thursday night's final game between long-time rivals Red Sox and Yankees, featuring two star pitchers who were involved in a brawl-filled game Saturday, did even better, watched in 21.1 percent of all homes and 32 percent of homes watching television at the time. NBC, owned by General Electric Co. (GE: down $0.47 to $28.55, Research, Estimates), pulled the original programing off its' "Must-See Thursday" lineup and aired reruns instead of competing with Fox.  Top of page

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