Grin and (Panda) Bear It

Sandoval homer barrage eats into Fox’s World Series ratings

While it may be a lot of fun to watch Kung Fu Panda swat dingers over the fence at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Pablo Sandoval’s historic performance in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series may have hampered Fox’s ratings.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the first set of the San Francisco Giants-Detroit Tigers showdown drew 12.2 million viewers and a 3.6 in the 18-49 demo. The game also notched a 7.6 household rating, making it the lowest-rated Game 1 in World Series history. The previous low-water mark arrived in 2006, when the Cards and Tigers averaged an 8.0 household rating. That particular broadcast happened to air on a Saturday night when HUT levels are at their lowest.

Some of the blame may be laid at the feet of Sandoval, who smacked homers off Detroit ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first and third innings, before going yard on Al Alburquerque in the fifth. At that point, Sandoval had set up the Giants with a commanding 6-0 lead.

As the game outcome became academic, viewers began tuning out. At 8 p.m. EDT, Fox was reaching some 12.6 million viewers; by 9:30 p.m., nearly 2 million fans had churned away. Despite the slow start, Fox managed to put together its highest-rated, most-watched night since the Season 11 finale of American Idol drew 21.5 million viewers and a 6.4 in the demo.

It's worth noting that the 2011 World Series also got off to an unpromising start—before an 11th-inning walkoff homer forced a Game 7. When the smoke cleared, the Cards-Rangers classic averaged 16.6 million viewers, a 10.0 household rating and a 4.8 in the demo.

World Series inventory continues to command a premium, as Fox is pricing 30-second in-game spots at as high as $500,000 a pop.

Fox’s coverage of Game 2 begins tonight at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with the first pitch set to cross the plate at 8:07 p.m. The Giants’ struggling righthander Madison Bumgarner will square off against Tigers southpaw Doug Fister. Detroit hopes to even up the Series behind Fister’s four-seam fastball and off-speed pitches; in his last five postseason starts, he’s compiled a 2-0 record and a 1.75 ERA.