- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

Score a clear knockout for baseball in Tuesday night's war of the remote control between the World Series and Michael Jordan's return to the NBA.
Granted, it was never a fair fight. Game 3 of the World Series ran on over-the-air network Fox, while the Washington-New York NBA contest featuring Jordan was broadcast on TBS, a cable network that trails Fox's domestic reach by nearly 20 million TV households. And the World Series clash between New York and Arizona featured nearly two hours of taut playoff action after Jordan finished his often lackluster effort in the Wizards' regular-season opener.
But Fox Sports executives were beaming yesterday when Game 3 registered a 15.4 national rating and 24 share, 24 percent higher than Game 3 of last year's Series. The marks soundly trounced the 3.3 rating registered by TBS for the Wizards-Knicks game.
"People are watching the World Series, and [Tuesday] night's game was fantastic," Lou D'Ermilio, Fox Sports vice president, said of the Yankees' 2-1 victory. "That's what we're happy about. And we're obviously pleased at the chance to have more games since we know Arizona won't sweep."
Coverage of the marquee games, which aired simultaneously for nearly two hours Tuesday night, represented one of the most prominent head-to-head clashes for the attention of sports fans in recent years.
"This isn't really a surprise. The baseball game was by far the more significant sporting event," said Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president and now a TV industry consultant. "The American sports public is pretty knowledgeable and know Jordan is going to be around. A lot of people got an early look at Jordan, saw him make a few early baskets and then switched over."
Each national ratings point represents about 1 million TV households. The share represents the percentage of TVs in use tuned to a particular program. Viewers switching back and forth between the two games would be registered on both. Nielsen records viewership data once a household watches a program for one minute.
Locally, the story was similar. The World Series game registered a Washington area rating of 15.0, representing about 320,000 TV households. The Wizards game, airing on both TBS and Comcast SportsNet in most of greater Washington, drew a combined mark of 9.85, translating to nearly 202,000 TV households. In New York, viewers preferred baseball by more than a 5-1 margin.
The TBS rating for Jordan represented a disappointment for the cable outlet, even though it tripled its average NBA marks from last season. Parent group Turner Sports had expected a minimum rating of 5.0, and held out some hope of a challenge to its best-ever NBA mark of 7.1, set during the first game of Magic Johnson's 1996 comeback.
"We're very pleased. This is in line with the projections we gave to our partners and our advertisers," said Turner Sports senior vice president Greg Hughes. "Clearly some factors that could have helped us, such as Michael having 30 points at halftime or the Diamondbacks grabbing a big early lead, didn't play out. But this is an excellent start for us. Both sides, really, should be happy."
Baseball's showing also provided a shot of good news for commissioner Bud Selig and the sport's other leaders. Playoff games on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 failed to beat the audience draws for sloppy "Monday Night Football" games featuring the underachieving NFC East quartet Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants. The 13.8 average rating for the World Series through three games tops last year's record-low Series by 14 percent, and is the highest three-game average for the event since 1996.
Jordan vs. the World Series will have a Round 2 tonight, as Game 5 of the Series on Fox will compete against the Wizards playing at Atlanta on Turner-owned TNT.


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