FOX'S BEAR MARKET The Cubs broke the hearts of baseball fans
across the country last week, but no one got stung harder than
Fox. Thanks to the lovable underdog Cubs--as well as the Red
Sox--Fox's 13 telecasts of the LCS averaged a 10.7 rating, an
increase of 65% over 2002. So powerful was baseball's pull that
rival networks postponed new episodes of CSI and Without a Trace
(CBS) and Friends and West Wing (NBC) rather than go head-to-head
with LCS Game 7s. (A CBS spokesperson did not anticipate any
change in programming during the World Series.)

So what would have happened if the well-known curses had not
kicked in again? In a ratings study of the four possible World
Series matchups, Initiative Media, a media buyer for large
corporations, projected a 16.7 rating for a Cubs-Red Sox
Series--the highest of the matchups. The Cubs-Yankees were
projected at 15.7 and the Red Sox-Marlins at 14.1. The
Marlins-Yankees drew just a 12.4 projected rating, which would
equal the Yankees-Mets in 2000, the second-lowest-rated World
Series of all time behind last year's Angels-Giants matchup.

Games 1 and 2 of the Series drew overnight ratings of 10.9 and
15.0 respectively--up a bit from last year--and Fox Sports
president Ed Goren refused to dwell on the loss of the Cubs,
instead focusing on the "wonderful story lines" of the
Marlins-Yanks Series, adding, "We're not hanging our heads here."
Others aren't buying his optimism. "It went from one of the
greatest matchups of all time to a major disappointment for Fox,"
says Tom DeCabia, a longtime media buyer and now a consultant for
advertisers. The real losses, DeCabia notes, will come in 2004
because World Series ad rates are based on the previous year's
ratings. --R.D.