TBS ratings soar for start of playoffs

TBS ratings soar for start of playoffs

Compelling storylines, competitive baseball and major markets added up to a ratings hit for the first two days of TBS' coverage of the Major League Baseball Division Series on Wednesday and Thursday.

The playoff-opening tripleheader featured two National League games and one American League game, starting with the Rockies at the Phillies, running through an early-evening Angels-Red Sox tilt and culminating with the Cubs and Diamondbacks at the end of the evening.

Those three games averaged 4.54 million viewers and a 3.6 HH rating, according to live plus same-day data from Nielsen Media Research. That was a tick up from the 2006 opening tripleheader on two networks, which averaged 4.48 million viewers. Making the numbers particularly striking was that baseball's best-known team, the Yankees, didn't open their postseason until Thursday.

And when New York did debut on Thursday, the ratings kept right on pouring in. The Day 2 tripleheader on TBS racked up another big day of numbers, averaging 4.6 million viewers over three games -- Game 2 of each National League series, plus the opener between the Yanks and Indians. Colorado and Philadelphia drew 3.3 million viewers, the Chicago-Arizona game drew 3.7 million, and the Yankees and Indians contest was played before 6.7 million television viewers.

Within TBS' coverage area, the Yanks-Indians game received a 5.3 HH rating, and nationally, the number was 4.5. The total viewer count topped any Division Series game that appeared on ESPN in 2006 and was the highest number of viewers for any program on TBS since June 2002.

The average of 4.6 million viewers on Day 2 is a 76 percent increase over the number of viewers of the second day of the 2006 postseason. The overall average of 4.6 million over two days counts as a 23 percent increase over the average from the first two days in 2006.

The Rockies-Phillies opener, featuring two potent offenses and two teams that had waited more than a decade since last playing in the postseason, delivered a 2.6 HH rating and 3.17 million viewers -- topping last year's ESPN playoff opener by a whopping 78 percent.

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When the Red Sox and Angels, two recent World Series champions, took to the diamond in early prime time, the numbers spiked to a 4.3 HH rating and 5.46 million viewers -- 115 percent above the second game in 2006. The game was the most-watched telecast anywhere on ad-supported cable television on Wednesday.

The night wrapped up with the always-popular Cubs and the emerging stars of the Diamondbacks, a game that drew a 4.0 HH rating and an audience of 5.13 million viewers.

For the time period of 8-11 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the prime of prime time, TBS averaged a 4.1 HH rating and 5.19 million viewers, putting it atop all of cable television for that coveted time period. A similar result occurred on Thursday, with TBS finishing 82 percent ahead of the second-most-watched cable network.

On Thursday, the three Division Series games ranked as three of the five most-watched programs on cable for the day -- the Yankees-Indians game came in at No. 1, the Cubs-Diamondbacks game third and the Rockies-Phillies game fifth.

The TBS coverage has been enhanced by the TBS Hot Corner on MLB.com, highlighted by a daily pregame show and the Chevy Around the Park Live Mosaic, a split-screen feature that allows a viewer to watch the game, track pitch locations and movement, watch an in-game studio show and keep an eye on the benches, all at the same time if he or she wishes.

All three games on Wednesday were tight and entertaining, pitching-dominated affairs, from the 4-2 Rockies win at cozy Citizens Bank Park to Boston's 4-0 triumph at Fenway Park, through the 3-1 duel of aces Brandon Webb and Carlos Zambrano under the lights in Phoenix.

Beyond the overall numbers, TBS and MLB were pleased with some of the specific demographic results. The telecasts showed increases over 2006 in numerous valued demographics -- including 48 percent among men 18 to 34, 44 percent among adults ages 18 to 34, 25 percent among men 18 to 49 and 30 percent among adults from 18 to 49.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.