What does FOX say about playoff baseball?

By Austin Miller

The 2014 Major League Baseball playoffs have been more interesting than in recent years. Teams like the Royals and Orioles have experienced decades of losses and misery but made it to the playoffs. The Royals swept the Orioles Wednesday to keep their World Series hopes alive.

The Cardinals and Giants, two of the more popular and successful teams in baseball, have had close games throughout their series and have been victim to the shuffle of television broadcasting.

FOX has braodcast post-season baseball for more than 10 years. Incredible memories like Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run to send the Yankees to the World Series in 2003, Steve Bartman’s catch that still haunts Cubs fans, and David Freese’s extra-inning walk-off home-run in the 2011 World Series to force a Game 7 have all been televised on FOX.

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So why would FOX banish this year’s National League Division Series and Championship Series to the abyss that is cable, and its year-old network FOX Sports 1?

FOX Sports 1 launched in August 2013 in nearly 90 million homes to compete with ESPN. FOX is a broadcast television network and reaches more homes than FS1, which is only accessible through certain cable packages.

FS1 has primarily been used to show UFC events held in small Brazilian towns, drag racing events and some college football games. (Don’t take this as me slighting the UFC; I’m a fan of mixed martial arts and am frustrated that I can’t watch those events either).

The channel has averaged 292,000 viewers since it launched, according to Street and Smith’s Sports Business Daily’s website. The program Crowd Goes Wild, FS1’s answer to ESPN’s “SportsCenter” was a panel show hosted by America’s favorite grandpa, Regis Philbin. The show was cancelled earlier this year – indicative of the network’s unpopularity.

One of the only reasons cable is even needed in a world of Internet streaming and DVR is because of live sports. Understandably, FOX is trying to connect FS1 with playoff baseball and raise awareness about the new channel.

FS1 has enjoyed success from broadcasting these games. This year’s playoff games have become the most watched programs in the one-year history of the channel, according to the website TV By The Numbers. Games have brought an average of 3 million viewers-per-game.

Sunday night’s Game 2 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and Giants was a close one, where the Giants tied it in the top of the ninth. Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong answered by hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth.

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Instead of this game, FOX broadcasted “The Simpsons,” a re-run of “Family Guy,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and its new show, “Mulaney,” which had less than 2 million viewers the week before, according to Deadline, an entertainment news website.

Game 2 brought more than 4 million viewers, which is almost double what the cartoon brought the network, according to TV by the Numbers.

FOX has known for years when the playoffs will happen and they are delivering the games. The network should have delayed the start of their new fall programming. At the very least, they could have put the shows on different nights, just to accommodate baseball for a couple weeks. There are more fans of baseball than there are fans of a former writer for “Saturday Night Live,” which Mulaney was.

It is not like ESPN or CBS was supposed to broadcast baseball, and then all of their equipment was stolen and FOX became the de facto home for the playoffs. FOX has broadcast postseason baseball before. FOX has shuffled its original programming around before. FOX has done a good job broadcasting these games before.

The MLB needs to take the reins back on its own product. They need to ensure the games are accessible to fans; not more accessible for FOX. Of course FOX wants to increase its advertising revenue by creating another channel. But MLB should have been weary that the general public would become confused and that fewer people could watch the games.

These are the most important games of the year, and MLB needs to fight for that. Fans should be worried about how their teams are performing, not filtering through hundreds of channels to find the game.

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @AMiller_DE, or 536-3311 ext. 254

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