- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2000

It's Ed Goren's job as executive producer of Fox Sports to sell the Subway Series west of the Hudson River. And if the first two rounds of baseball's playoffs are any indication, he has his hands more than full.
While New York is whipped up into a froth at the Yankees and Mets producing the first Subway Series since 1956, baseball's underbelly shows two troublesome trends: games are getting much longer and far less viewed than previous playoffs.
The average length of the 26 playoff games played this year is 3 hours, 31 minutes. That's 21 minutes longer than last year's playoff average and more than a half-hour longer than a typical regular-season game. And the average playoff game so far this year is drawing fewer than 6 million TV households, a whopping 27 percent lower than the first two rounds of the 1999 playoffs, which already were the second worst-rated in history.
But befitting many eternally optimistic TV executives, Goren insists the 2000 World Series still stands a good chance of becoming the next Big Event sports fans talk about for years.
"The only number I'm offering up is 7," Goren said. "If we get a seven-game series, this will bring a huge [ratings] number. It's obviously a huge, huge deal here [in New York], but I think it has the real potential of developing into an absolute juggernaut that brings in the rest of the country, much like any hot series or mini-series on the entertainment side."
Because the Yankees-Mets clash is a same-market affair being played in the media capital of the world, predictions about TV ratings are diametrically opposed. For every bullish opinion from Fox or an ad executive buying time during the series, there's a rival network executive or industry analyst bashing the matchup for being too provincial.
"I don't think it's the ideal matchup at all for Fox. But they will give it their best effort and promote these two teams as hated rivals and [Yankee owner George] Steinbrenner's competitive nature," said Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president and now an industry consultant. "But these ratings usually need to build upon the earlier rounds, and the earlier rounds weren't good."
In either case, the other networks aren't lying down. NBC still holds TV's strongest one-day lineup with its Thursday night programming, which should take some viewers away from Game 5, if there is one, next week. ABC is countering with new episodes of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" featuring U.S. Olympians.
The patience of viewers is already being taxed with the marathon playoff contests. The Yankees and Seattle needed more than four hours for Games 5 and 6 this week, both nine-inning affairs. Only three games so far this postseason have clocked in under three hours, with Roger Clemens' 15-strikeout, one-hit masterpiece for the Yankees last Saturday slipping in at 2:59.
TV, of course, is largely to blame for the longer games. Ad breaks during Fox's baseball coverage clock in at 2 minutes, 25 seconds each, about a half-minute longer than breaks in typical regular- season local broadcasts. The 17 half-inning breaks and a handful of pitching changes tack on about 15 minutes beyond a normal regular-season game.
But with this year's playoffs already averaging 21 minutes more per game than last fall, slow play definitely factors in as well something NBC analyst Bob Costas addressed during the Yankees-Mariners game Tuesday night.
"I mean no disrespect to [Yankees designated hitter] Chuck Knoblauch, but what you're looking at here is part of baseball's problem. After every pitch, Chuck Knoblauch steps out, does some sort of personal inventory, and then gets back in unchanged from the previous pitch," Costas said. "You put it all together, along with the lengthy breaks between innings, and during pitching changes, and this is how you have 2-0 games that last almost four hours."
Goren took particular umbrage with popular notions that World Series games end too late each night and are inaccessible to children.
"When does 'Monday Night Football' end? When does the NCAA championship end? Eleven, 11:45, midnight. How did we get to be different with baseball? All of the so-called media experts pushed for an 8 p.m. start for 'Monday Night Football,' so [ABC] tried it, and you know what? It was a disaster. And our ratings actually get better after 11."

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