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FOX gearing up for Series broadcast

FOX gearing up for Series broadcast

BOSTON -- Baseball's new postseason schedule has been a boon to TV and to the sport itself; late-game finishes aren't nearly the problem you might think they are; Joe Torre is the best TV-analyst candidate out there and probably will take a year off from managing; Tim McCarver belongs in the broadcast wing of the Hall of Fame; and the world is going to love this particular World Series.

Those are some of the topics that were discussed by FOX's key players in a wide-ranging media conference call, as the network prepared for its annual rite of October and its broadcast of the 103rd World Series starting at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday between the Rockies and the Red Sox from Fenway Park. It's the eighth consecutive Fall Classic to be broadcast by FOX, and the 10th since 1996.

The schedule
The World Series began on a Saturday every year from 1991-2006. This is the first year of a seven-year deal Major League Baseball struck with broadcast partners FOX and TBS, and as part of that the postseason schedule was rearranged. It added an extra day off before the start of the postseason and before Game 5 in each of the Division Series, built in a day off between Games 4 and 5 of the League Championship Series (not needed in the National League), and most notably it moved the start day of the Fall Classic to Wednesday.

"It does a couple of things," said Ed Goren, president and executive producer at FOX Sports. "It gives baseball the sports-page buildup leading to Game 1 of a World Series. When you're starting a World Series on a Saturday, you're competing in the sports page against college football, the NFL. It's a sports weekend. With a Wednesday start, Monday recaps Game 7 of the ALCS, a college football weekend, the NFL. Tuesday and Wednesday, it's all about baseball. So that's a positive.

"One of the other issues is a business issue. No matter what the sport, when you have a seven-game series, you cannot sell commercials very effectively for Game 6 and 7 on the come, until they happen. In the past scenario with the schedule, you wouldn't know you had a Game 6, for many years, until Friday. So you had one day to sell 6 and 7. On this schedule, you have two days. You'll have a Tuesday and a Wednesday to sell out 6, and go ahead and sell 7. The irony is, the sales environment is so hot right now for baseball, for the first time in my career, whether at CBS or FOX, I have sales guys not worried about a 6 or 7, they're asking me, 'Is there any way to get an eight-game World Series?' They are lined up that far deep in the sales area looking to buy into the World Series."

Goren said Game 7 of the ALCS did an 11.7 rating and an 18 share, which is eight percent higher than last year's NLCS Game 7 on FOX that did a 10.8 and a 17 share. He said the seven-game average of this ALCS was 17.4 and a 13 share, which was 37 percent higher than last year's ALCS and 14 percent higher than last year's ALCS and NLCS combined on FOX. Goren also said FOX "sold out at a record pace for the first five games" of this World Series, more than $400,000 per game.

"The sales environment, which is what the real business is about, is as healthy as it has ever been. Not just in television sales, but in corporate sales. [MLB executive vice president of business] Tim Brosnan and his team, they have delivered more corporate baseball sponsorships to our broadcasts than ever before. It's a very healthy environment."

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Trying to stay awake?
Sure, there are times when you are fighting the eyelids and trying to tough out a late game. It happens to everyone at times. But when asked if the start time for these games are too late, Goren had an answer that might surprise many fans.

"If you go back to last Saturday, the extra-inning game in Boston, the game ended so late that bars were closed by the time we left Fenway," Goren said. "But ratings for FOX from 11 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. [ET] were higher than the rating from first pitch to 11 o'clock. You can say, 'Well, it's a Saturday.' Trust me, the ratings go up after 11 o'clock.

"You want to talk about a younger demographic. Network television sells on the 18-49 demo. From 18-49, those ratings go up the longer you go -- if it's a competitive game. It's a myth [that people don't watch late at night]. We're not that bright in television. But we do love ratings. If someone told us our ratings would be higher if we started at 7 o'clock at night, then we would do it. Years ago, somebody told ABC, 'Your ratings would be higher if you kick off Monday night a little after 8 instead of a little after 9.' They tried that one year, failed miserably, and went back to 9."

Torre: Back to the booth?
Now that Torre has declined the Yankees' offer to return as manager, the question was put to FOX World Series announcers Joe Buck, Eric Karros and McCarver: What will Torre do next?

"I don't think he'll manage next year, but I think he'll manage again," McCarver said. "I haven't talked to him, but I think he will definitely manage again. But I think he will take next year off."

"For Torre, who is great, obviously, with the microphone in front of him, and who was a very good announcer for the Angels, it's intriguing to me: What he would be like now as an analyst," Buck said. "I think he would be sensational. So I think if he did jump into the announcing business, wherever it would be, I can't think of a better option for somebody hiring than a guy who has been in the wars here with the Yankees the last 10 years and done what he's done and become a TV star along the way. He's as marketable a guy as anybody who could be out there as a television analyst."

"He doesn't take a managing job just for the sake of managing," Karros said. "Because of the success he's had, I don't know if there's really an opportunity out there that presents itself. But if a large-market team comes up, whether it's the Dodgers or the Cubs or the Mets ... but just to get back into managing, no way."

McCarver and the Hall
The very first thing discussed on the conference call was an unprompted plug by Goren for McCarver as a deserving recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award as a member of Cooperstown's broadcast wing.

"Most impressive to me is 18," Goren said. "McCarver's 18 World Series. If that doesn't qualify for the broadcasting wing of the Hall of Fame, nothing does. He's our Mr. October. Just an amazing career."

This year will be Buck's 10th World Series. As for FOX's pregame and postgame hosts, it will be the seventh for Jeanne Zelasko and the eighth for Kevin Kennedy.

Buck said he and McCarver each took off his headset at one point during the ALCS Game 7 telecast and mused about how they each knew what the other was thinking.

"Of all the people who put on a headset, Tim McCarver is a couple of things," said Buck, the son of the late and great Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck. "He is the best at forecasting what's going to happen or should happen. He's not always right, just the business we're in. There is no better example than Game 7, the last pitch of the World Series in 2001, when he said the danger of bringing the infielders in when you have Mariano Rivera on the mound is you get a lot of balls off the hands and you get little flairs. The World Series ended on the next pitch on that very type of play. There is nobody, line them all up, the best of the best, at doing that, looking ahead and making an educated guess as to what we're about to see.

"Beyond that, he's not scared. He's not scared of what people write about him, he's not scared about what people have to say about him, he's not scared about call-in shows, and most importantly he's not afraid of players. ... So, yes, he belongs in the Hall of Fame, no doubt about that."

McCarver told MLB.com later: "It's obviously very personal when you go into someone's home on a regular basis. It's different than a Super Bowl where it's just one game. It's similar to any heightened sporting event over time. You're in their living room and bedroom and kitchen. That's never gonna change."

Rockies vs. Red Sox
"This is an exciting young team," Goren said of Colorado. "There's a new world in Major League Baseball where markets like Denver, San Diego, Phoenix, Milwaukee ... everybody has a chance to show up for the big dance. This is a young, exciting team that we have spent some time over the last week trying to introduce in our pregame show and during games to the American audience. In a way, it's an investment in the future of baseball, because this team is going to be around for a long time."

"Once the country gets an opportunity to see these Rockies, to watch them play, I think they're going to be taken by them," Karros said. "This is an exciting series. For me, it comes down to this: The preseason, everybody's picking the Red Sox. So arguably, that's your best team. The best team is playing against baseball's hottest team. And that's the way it should be for the world championship."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["world_series" ] }
{"content":["world_series" ] }