TV ratings: World Series pulls Fox to the top

Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals takes a swing against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning of Game Two of the 2019 World Series.
(Elsa/Getty Images)

Viewership for the first five games of the World Series set a record low, but each of the first three games averaged more viewers than all but three non-NFL prime-time programs during the 2019-20 television season.

Fox’s coverage of the series between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals averaged 11.64 million viewers, helping Fox to have the most-watched week by any network since the Super Bowl, according to live-plus-same-day figures announced Tuesday by Nielsen.

The previous low for the first five games of a World Series was 12.12 million for the 2014 Series between San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals.

Washington’s 5-4 Game 1 victory over Houston last Tuesday was the most-watched of the opening five games, averaging 12.3 million viewers, third among prime-time programs airing between Oct. 21 and Sunday.

The Astros 4-1 victory in Game 3 Friday was fourth for the week, averaging 12.22 million viewers. The Nationals 12-3 victory last Wednesday averaged the smallest audience for a World Series Game 2, 12.01 million viewers, but was still fifth for the week. The previous Game 2 low was 12.34 million in 2012 for the Giants 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers.


Since the 2019-20 prime-time television season began Sept. 23, other than NFL programming, only the Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 episodes of the CBS action drama “NCIS” (12.58 million and 12.52 million) and the Oct. 13 episode of the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” (12.41 million) averaged larger audiences than any of the first three games.

Houston’s 8-1 victory in Game 4 averaged 10.22 million viewers, to be Saturday’s most-watched prime-time program and 11th for the week. The Astros 7-1 victory in Game 5 opposite NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” was seventh for the week, averaging 11.39 million viewers. The World Series has aired on Fox every year since 2000.

Viewership for most forms of programming is down compared with the past primarily due to higher viewership of streaming programming, including the same programs shown on traditional television.

With all but two of its 21 hours of prime-time programming devoted to sports, Fox averaged 10.94 million viewers for the week, the most for any network since CBS averaged 20.91 million viewers between Jan. 28-Feb. 3 when it aired Super Bowl LIII.

CBS was second, averaging 6.54 million viewers, aided by the 41-minute run-over of its afternoon NFL coverage into prime time in the Eastern and Central time zones that averaged 22.71 million viewers. The run-over is not considered a separate program but is included in the weekly average.

NBC was third, averaging 6.45 million, followed by ABC, which averaged 4.3 million. ABC was the only major broadcast network without prime-time NFL programming. CBS, NBC and ABC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.

“Sunday Night Football” was the week’s most-watched program, averaging 18.32 million viewers, 60.9% more than the World Series game opposite it. The percentage difference was the largest between “Sunday Night Football” and a World Series game.

An NFL game on NBC has been the most-watched prime-time program seven of the eight weeks of the NFL season. Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” was second for the week, averaging 13.77 million viewers.

“NCIS” was the most-watched non-sports program for the fourth time in the five-week old season, finishing eighth overall, averaging 11.35 million viewers. CBS’ “Young Sheldon” was the most-watched comedy for the fifth time this season, averaging 8.67 million viewers, 14th overall.

“The Unicorn” was the most-watched new series for the fourth time, averaging 5.88 million viewers, 36th overall, following “Young Sheldon.” CBS has had the most-watched new series each week of the season.


The most-watched cable program was the New England Patriots’ 33-0 victory over the New York Jets on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” Oct. 21, which averaged 11.33 million viewers, 10th overall behind two other NFL games, four World Series games, the nine-minute “Sunday Night Football” kickoff show, “NCIS” and “60 Minutes.”

“Monday Night Football” has been the most-watched cable program for each of the first seven weeks of the NFL season.

Fox News Channel ended ESPN’s three-week streak as the most-watched cable network in prime time, averaging 2.44 million viewers. ESPN was second, averaging 2.38 million. MSNBC was third, averaging 1.8 million.