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Fox scores with baseball

With plenty of big story lines heading into the playoffs, Fox Sports' baseball coverage has scored higher ratings, and Fox Sports Net regional cable channels are coming off a strong run during the regular season.

It's a different story at Fox Family Channel. It averaged an anemic 0.4 rating with its weekly regular-season games and a 1.8 rating/4 share in households for its eight Division Series games. Last season, ESPN's eight-game package averaged a 2.3/6.

But the Fox broadcast network is doing much better. Its prime time ratings during the Division Series games jumped 25% from last year, and the network's overall coverage was up 6%—while pro and college sports in general were tumbling.

The New York Yankees-Seattle Mariners opening game of the American League Championship Series slumped in the ratings, against a comparable contest last year.

The Yankees' 4-2 win produced a metered-market rating of 6.2/13. That was 20% lower than NBC's second ALCS game, which received a 7.6/17 in the same 4 p.m. starting slot.

The 17 regional Fox Sports Net cable channels saw a 10% increase during the regular season, averaging a 3.3 metered-market household rating. Last season, the regional nets averaged a 3.0 Nielsen rating.

"Especially in these times, post-Sept. 11, the sport really seems to fit where the American psyche is now," says Fox Sports Net President Tracy Dolgin. "It's patriotic and very American."

Riding Barry Bonds' home-run record, Fox Sports' prime time coverage (five games) averaged a 6.4/11, up 25% from last year's combined NBC and Fox prime time coverage.

This season is the first for Fox in its new six-year, $2.5 billion deal that brings all post-season baseball to Fox and its cable properties. Its 10 Division Series games (five daytime, five prime time) averaged a 5.3 household rating, up 6% from 2000.

—Additional reporting by Richard Tedesco