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Baseball still a major draw on television

The Giants’ Game 7 victory Wednesday night drew a 15.2 overnight rating for Fox.CHARLIE RIEDEL/ASSOCIATED PRESS/Associated Press

Fans who stayed up to watch Fox’s prime-time-and-beyond broadcasts of the World Series had a reason — seven reasons, as it played out — to be tired. But they’re not nearly as tired as the stale gripes that baseball is dying.

Baseball’s diminished ratings are the result of circumstance, some self-inflicted (the late start times are absurd, and the late finish times exhausting and some unavoidable). The NFL is a ratings powerhouse in spite of itself. Viewing options are more abundant than ever. Cable programs reach and draw audiences that would have been unfathomable even three years ago.

Compared with the ratings it used to draw, baseball’s Nielsen numbers look puny, akin to Jose Altuve standing next to Madison Bumgarner. But in the current sports and media culture, Major League Baseball and Fox have to be satisfied.


The Giants’ 3-2 victory over the Royals Wednesday night in Game 7 drew a 15.2 overnight rating for Fox. While that was down a point from the last World Series that went to seven games, the Cardinals’ victory over the Rangers in 2011, it was the highest-rated non-NFL program to air on Fox since the Cardinals clincher three years ago.

It helped Fox win prime time for the sixth time during the Series. Given that Royals-Giants wasn’t perceived as a marquee national matchup, the 9.1 overnight rating for the series wasn’t terribly far off from the 10.1 the network drew for the six-game Red Sox-Cardinals series last year.

Baseball doesn’t draw like it used to. It doesn’t draw like the NFL. Those days are gone. But there’s a reason Fox, ESPN, and Turner are in the first year of a combined $12.4 billion rights deal through 2021. As a television show, baseball is still a major draw.

Neumeier suffers stroke

Longtime Boston sports media personality Bob Neumeier was hospitalized after suffering a stroke Wednesday night. Neumeier, known as “Neumy” to colleagues and viewers alike, made his name as a sports reporter and anchor for Channel 4 for 20 years, and he also co-hosted a midday show on WEEI for a time. Neumeier gained national prominence while at NBC for his expertise on horse racing, but the Weymouth native has been a well-liked, credible, and respected member of the Boston sports media scene for more than three decades. He has worked as an anchor at Comcast SportsNet New England since December 2010. The network provided a statement on his condition that said in part, “[We] are keeping Neumy and his family in our thoughts and prayers.” . . . NBC and the Breeders’ Cup announced a 10-year broadcast rights extension to keep the events on the network through 2025.


Making a switch

I’ll miss the simulcast of WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” (and Minihane) program on NESN, which began its run in November 2010 and wraps up Friday morning as the network prepares for the launch of a morning highlights show.

It made for entertaining viewing on the occasions when the hosts were bickering and the anger was genuine and visible. Which was often.

Of course, I’ll reserve formal judgment until I actually get a few episodes’ worth of a look at “NESN Sports Update,” the show that is replacing D&C. But I’ll admit to advance skepticism that it will be an upgrade.

“NESN Sports Update,” which debuts Monday, is a 20-minute news and highlights program that will feature the network’s cast of anchors and reporters.


Recorded after the final late games the previous night, it will air from 5 a.m.-9 a.m. Monday through Sunday. So within a four-hour span, the same program will air a dozen times.

The calls and commentary of NESN’s Bruins and Red Sox play-by-play teams will be used prominently.

Perhaps it’s not a revamped version of “SportsDesk.” But that’s what it sounds like, before we see it.

Shifting gears

ESPN won’t televise NASCAR Sprint Cup races beyond this season for at least the next 10 years. NBC and Fox Sports agreed to deals over the summer to carry the races for the next 10 years at a combined rights rate of $8.2 billion.

ESPN has assured fans it plans to still cover Sprint Cup thoroughly. Judging by some recent personnel transactions, the network intends to live up to its word.

The network announced this week that Maine native Ricky Craven has signed a long-term deal to remain at the network. Craven, a former driver on the circuit, appears regularly on “SportsCenter” among other programs as a studio analyst and has also done some on-site reporting as well as color analysis for Nationwide events.

Brad Daugherty is also sticking around. The five-time NBA All-Star and lifelong auto racing fanatic has signed a new deal that brings different, if familiar, responsibilities. A staple on ESPN’s racing–centric programs such as “NASCAR Countdown” and “NASCAR Now,” he will switch over to the role of NBA and college basketball analyst.