Monday, May 18, 2009
WS games to start 40 minutes earlier
NEW YORK -- For those dozing off by the fifth inning come October, help is on the way.
Following record-low ratings for last year's World Series between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, Major League Baseball and Fox are moving up the start times this year.
Weeknight games in the World Series and AL Championship Series will begin at 7:57 p.m. EDT, more than a half-hour before last year's first-pitch times, Fox said Monday.
The moves figures to give children a chance to watch more on school nights, and should benefit adults who need to set the alarm clock for work.
"At least they're moving in the right direction, I think," Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman said. "I think the weird part is seeing young kids in the stands at 1 in the morning watching ballgames. Or if you're at home watching on television you kind of want to not lose that younger generation because they've got to go to bed."
The start of Saturday night games could be even earlier, and Sunday games will continue to begin following the conclusion of the network's NFL coverage.
"Over the last few years, games have been ending a bit later than we'd like," Fox Sports president Ed Goren said in a statement. "This new schedule, made possible through the cooperation of our stations, affiliates and Major League Baseball, should help fans of all ages see weeknight games from start to finish."
Last year's World Series had scheduled starts from 8:29 p.m. to 8:35 p.m. ET, and times ranged from 3 hours, 5 minutes for Game 2 to 3:41 for rain-delayed Game 3 in Philadelphia, which began at 10:06 p.m. and didn't end until 1:47 a.m.
Philadelphia's five-game victory averaged an 8.4 rating, down 17 percent from the previous low, a 10.1 for the five-game St. Louis-Detroit series in 2006.
"Our goal is to schedule games to allow the largest number of people to watch, and this change puts our games in the window we believe will work the best for our fans," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "I expect that fans of all ages will respond favorably to this adjustment."
This year's Series will have the earliest start time since Game 6 between the Florida Marlins and New York Yankees in 2003 began at 7:57 p.m., according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"If this permits more kids of the younger part of our nation to be able to see this, I think it's a good thing," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's a positive step."
MLB said it will be the earliest start for a regularly scheduled Monday-to-Friday Series game since Game 5 between Baltimore and Pittsburgh in 1971, which was a day game.
Fox games will have a network air time of 7:30 p.m.
"It'll help in the Midwest and the West, for sure," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "What do those 40 minutes get you? Maybe an inning. Who knows?"
Selig had said since last October's World Series that he hoped for earlier game times.
No announcement was made about the NL Championship Series or the division series, which are televised by TBS. The earlier start does not apply to the All-Star Game on Fox, Fox spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said.