NEW YORK -- The World Series will be back on FOX starting on Wednesday night, when the Phillies visit the Yankees for Game 1 at 7:57 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium. If the matchup lives up to its billing and follows the viewership trends this postseason, it may seem like everyone is watching.
"This is going to be the greatest year-to-year improvement in ratings in World Series history," FOX Sports executive producer Ed Goren said on Monday.
Ratings for the entire American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Angels were up 35 percent over FOX's 2008 LCS broadcast, and Sunday night's Game 6 clinch broadcast dominated viewership in the New York market for the competing NFL broadcast featuring the local Giants, Major League Baseball and FOX announced Monday.
Game 6 was watched by 26.4 percent of that market's homes with televisions and 40 percent of households with TVs in use at the time. The numbers for NBC's "Sunday Night Football" were 9.3 and 14. Phillies fans awaiting their next opponent were watching in huge numbers as well, recording a 20.6 and 31 in the Philadelphia market.
Nationally, the entire ALCS averaged a 6.5/12, up 35 percent from the 4.8/8 for the five-game Phillies-Dodgers National League Championship Series broadcast by FOX a year ago. The ALCS Game 6 drew 39 percent more viewers than the previous ALCS Game 6 FOX televised between the Red Sox and Indians in 2007.
"Our ratings last night were spectacular," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "To get a 26.4 in New York while the Giants got a 9.3 on 'Sunday Night Football' is stunning."
It also was FOX's most-watched LCS game, excluding Game 7's, in five years, dating to Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS (25.1 million for the "bloody sock" game between the Red Sox and Yankees). It projected to be FOX's highest-rated Sunday night since Super Bowl XLII in February 2008. This is the latest in a pattern of similar announcements this postseason from TBS throughout its four Division Series and its NLCS broadcasts.
Including the Division Series, both LCS and the AL Central tiebreaker between the Twins and Tigers, viewership for MLB postseason coverage on both TBS and FOX is up 15 percent over 2008.
Goren said in a conference call on Monday that the stage is set for still more dramatic audience numbers, now that the defending champions are lined up against the 26-time World Series champions in a powerhouse and marquee matchup.
Ultimately, it comes down to what actually happens on the field, of course. There has not been a seven-game World Series since it happened back-to-back in 2001-02, with the D-backs beating the Yankees and then the Angels topping the Giants.
"If you take that ALCS, and we get that in the World Series, you don't have to worry about the ratings or anything," Goren said. "We just came off a great ALCS, now we have to do it one more time.
"The good news is that we're looking at a great World Series. The bad news is that we're coming off a World Series that didn't rate very well."
This will mark the 12th World Series broadcast by FOX since it started in 1996, and the same number of times Joe Buck has done play-by-play for the jewel event. That will tie him with legends Curt Gowdy and Vin Scully for most in MLB history.
In typical Buck style, he responds to the milestone with self-deprecating humor and modesty.
"I don't say this to try to be funny, but I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," said Buck, whose father, the great Jack Buck, called 11 World Series. "I've been the lucky guy. Longevity doesn't equal greatness. In my mind, greatness is the other two guys. Certainly, it continues with Vin to this day. I'm not even in that same sentence. Twelve times is not that big of a deal to me. I just feel fortunate."
Tim McCarver, meanwhile, is returning for his record 20th year as a World Series color commentator. When Buck was informed that the pair are the World Series to a generation of young fans, he replied: "All they know are Tim and I calling the World Series." Then with tongue in cheek he added: "To that generation, I say, 'Sorry.'"
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen also was introduced to mass media on the FOX conference call, as an "on-site guest for each broadcast" who will provide analysis on each World Series pregame and postgame show. Guillen also will provide exclusive analysis and content for FoxSports.com and appear on the Spanish-language broadcast as well.
"It's an honor and a great opportunity to be working with all the group who have been working so long," said Guillen, a Venezuela native. "Obviously, it will be my first time. ... It is a privilege. Our ratings will be up, because all the people in Venezuela and Puerto Rico will be listening to me, to see what I'm going to say.
"Believe it or not, people back in my country are really excited about it. I'll just try to be myself, do what I do best, and hopefully, everything will be all right. Like everyone else on the first time, you have butterflies, you think about it. The group I'm working with will be more relaxed than me. I'll spend time with them. I'll be fine. We're just going to talk about baseball. And the only thing I know in my life is baseball, so that will make it easier."
Goren said another upward-trend metric has been ad sales this postseason, as a nation slowly climbs out of a recession.
"We will generate sales that outpace our sales a year ago," he said. "We're basically sold out. You sell through the guaranteed games, so when you get down to 6 and 7, advertisers tend to stay back and not commit before knowing there is a 6 or 7. We're very, very comfortable with where we are, we've had a great LCS from a sales perspective and this is going to be one of our best World Series ever."
Goren said he thinks both of these World Series participants have powerhouse ratings potential, with the disclaimer that "it's hard to get a great World Series when you get only four or five games." Last year, the Phillies beat the Rays in five, and Philly weather played a starring role.
"A seven-game World Series for the Phillies, that would elevate them, and their players become greater national personalities. I think Ryan Howard to me is a class kid, you see him at the plate and he's intense, but he has this infectious smile and he's just a good kid. You've got [Shane] Victorino in center field, who's just a lot of fun to watch. Jimmy Rollins. They have personalities. And, of course, they have Pedro [Martinez]."
It will be those Phillies trying to become MLB's first repeat champion since 2000, facing the last team to repeat, Derek Jeter and the Yankees. There has not been a seven-game series yet in this postseason, but the games that have been played have drawn spectacular ratings for the national pastime. Now comes the 105th World Series, and the familiar booth team of Buck and McCarver are back in the homes of the curious masses.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.