There is still a game to play in this high-profile, four-game Dodgers-Angels Freeway Series. But we already have a big winner.
Fox Sports West.
It's more than a sweep. It's a rout. It's Mike Tyson boxing a jockey, Secretariat racing a Clydesdale. There hasn't been anything this one-sided since Shelly Sterling took on Donald.
Thursday morning, as he has done the previous two mornings, Steve Simpson will get up early — and eagerly — to check his iPhone. On it will be the overnight Nielsen ratings for TV viewership of the series. He anticipated they would be good, but hardly this good.
Simpson is vice president and general manager of Fox Sports West, which carries the Angels telecasts. What he has seen on his iPhone, inducing a wide smile, is as follows:
The first night of the series, the first of two at Dodger Stadium, Fox Sports West drew a 4.02 rating, which translated to 228,000 homes and 346,000 viewers. Then, Tuesday night, the numbers produced the second highest ratings ever for a Fox Sports West Angels telecast — a 4.60 rating, 261,000 homes and 382,000 viewers.
The Angels' average households this season is 84,000, up from 71,000 a year ago.
"We expected a peak with the Dodgers and Angels," Simpson said. "We were hoping for between a 3.0 and a 4.0."
It wasn't just that it was the Dodgers and Angels, two teams separated by different leagues and 40 miles of freeway. It was so much more.
Both teams are good, among the best in baseball this season. The Dodgers entered the series 63-49, the Angels even better at 67-43. Then, the first night, the Angels got a rare complete-game shutout from Garrett Richards and Yasiel Puig got punked by Albert Pujols. The second night, it was Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw against Angels phenom Mike Trout, and eventually a one-run game the Dodgers won on a bang-bang play at the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
It was good, entertaining baseball, no matter who the teams were.
"We are just glad we could bring the games to Southern California baseball fans," said Simpson.
He didn't gloat or giggle, but then, it was a phone interview. A Kirk Gibson fist-pump would not be inappropriate.
Anybody who knows a hook slide from a fishing hook knows there is more to this story. It isn't that the Dodgers don't have a telecast outlet of their own. It's just that not everybody can get it.
It's called Time Warner Cable, which paid $8.35 billion for 25 years of Dodgers telecasts, starting this year, and then couldn't convince the other cable carriers, especially powerhouse DirecTV, to pay the rates it asked for the Dodgers signal. Think of it as corporate bottom-line feeding. So if you have Time Warner Cable, you get the Dodgers. If not, you don't.
Obviously, a lot don't.
Monday's numbers for Time Warner's SportsNet LA were a 1.01 rating, 57,000 households and 88,000 viewers. Tuesday, with Kershaw facing Trout, they were 1.35, 77,000 and 127,000.
None of that, of course, measured how many Dodgers fans used the Fox picture merely as background for Vin Scully's radio broadcast. But then, they only got the first three innings of that, because the rest of the time he is on phantom TV.
There are several interesting angles to all this.
Fox had the Dodgers television rights from 1997 to 2013. Going into 2014, it was active in the bidding for a new Dodgers' contract, but Time Warner Cable left Fox's $6 billion-plus bid well behind.
Now, Time Warner Cable probably is going to need to either refund some money to its advertisers or give them free makeup ads. The latter doesn't sound like a great deal, just more ads reaching the same smaller audience.
Simpson said the Fox audience for Angels games was growing even before this Freeway Series and is especially finding traction in the 18- to 34-year-olds demographic.
Much of that, of course, can be attributed to Trout, who many consider to be the best player in baseball. Trout turns 23 Thursday.
"The momentum is growing," Simpson says.
So, too, might the Angels. fan base. People have watched who never bothered with the team from Orange County, a team that had the audacity to change its name a few years ago to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, usurping an entire city's name. Television exposure does funny things.
Fox, of course, wasn't always a heroic name in Los Angeles sports. It owned the Dodgers from 1998 to 2004, and it wasn't always pretty. It was under Fox ownership that Mike Piazza was traded. Enough said.
It was also Fox's pressure on baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig to sell the Dodgers that brought us Frank McCourt, the only serious bidder at the time.
But now, at least for four games, the West Coast cable unit of Fox is in the catbird's seat.
The extent of the TV rout is yet to be determined. The best indicator will be the look on Simpson's face Thursday and Friday morning, as he checks his iPhone.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times