Midweek Series start could leave Fox, baseball in the cold
By Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY
Major League Baseball and Fox will make it official Monday: the World Series on Fox this fall will start on a Wednesday — not the usual Saturday.
For the first time, a potential Series game will be scheduled for November.
And if you thought the Detroit Tigers' week-long layoff before last year's Series seemed long, get this: The potential wait for the National League champion this fall could be as long as a record nine days.
The Series is also ready to go one-on-one with Monday Night Football
The idea is to make the Series, which produced its lowest-ever ratings the past two years, more media-genic. It's like a TV mini-series, where it's critical to hook viewers from the get-go. With its first two games on Wednesday and Thursday, rather than Saturday and Sunday, it will debut in the sports world's spotlight — not competing for attention with football (and NASCAR and golf) on the weekend. Says Fox Sports president Ed Goren on starting mid-week: "It's very simple. You're immediately helping yourself."
In the new schedule, the Series will skip Friday night, TV's second least-watched night after Saturday. Bob DuPuy, MLB president, says MLB considered starting the Series on Tuesday, rather than Wednesday. But a Tuesday Series start would have meant a Friday game — and avoiding Friday was a key priority.
The Series rejiggering revolves around Saturday night not
being all right for the Series' opening night. It will start Wednesday, Oct. 24, four days after what would have been its usual Saturday debut. Not only is Saturday TV's least-watched night — its overall TV viewership is 15% lower than Wednesday night — but it's also become increasingly competitive. ABC last year began routinely moving marquee college football to Saturday primetime, when ESPN and ESPN2 also carry games, and got seven of last season's eight most-watched college football games.
Avoiding Saturday night football is also a reason why baseball might eventually play a late-afternoon Saturday game — all Series games are in East Coast primetime now — and give more kids a chance to see the Series.
Sunday nights, when the Series' second game used to air on TV's most-watched and most-competitive night, aren't what they used to be. Now, the NFL's lead primetime TV package — with, on paper, the best game schedule — is on NBC Sunday. Now the Series will jump into the Sunday night TV mosh pit with a potentially pivotal fourth game. Monday Night Football
, which MLB used to skirt when it was on ABC, isn't as daunting now that it's on ESPN and now will face the Series' fifth game, if necessary, this fall.
The Series, if necessary, would play its biggest games — Game 6 on Wednesday and Game 7 on Thursday — apart from the weekend sports competition it used to face when those games were played on Saturday and Sunday.
Game 7 is scheduled for Nov. 1. (Only once have Series games gone into the same month as Thanksgiving when 9/11 forced postponements in 2001.) While prolonging the postseason means more off days to reduce complications from rainouts, it also increases the chance MLB will be ridiculed for playing in a November snowstorm. Maybe Commissioner Bud Selig, à la Bowie Kuhn, will be in the stands without a topcoat.