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Cubs and Indians are a World Series ratings hit for Fox

The marquee above Wrigley Field shines after the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2, during Game Five of the 2016 World Series on Sunday.
The marquee above Wrigley Field shines after the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2, during Game Five of the 2016 World Series on Sunday.
(Getty Images)

The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians are making the World Series a ratings hit for Fox.

The Fox telecast of the fifth game of the World Series, in which the Cubs staved off elimination with a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians, had an average audience of 23.6 million viewers on Sunday.

It was the first time since 2013 that Major League Baseball’s fall classic topped NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” when the two have aired head-to-head. The game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles was watched by 18 million viewers.

The Cubs, appearing in their first World Series since 1945 and seeking their first title since 1908, have become a national story that has reached well beyond baseball fans. The Indians are playing for their first championship since 1948.

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Through five games, this year’s World Series is averaging 19.3 million viewers, putting it on track to be the most-watched matchup since the Boston Red Sox sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. That series, watched by an average of 25.4 million viewers, was the first championship for the Red Sox since 1918.

The audience for Sunday’s game was the largest for the fifth game of a World Series since 1997, when 24.2 million viewers watched Cleveland Indians and the Florida Marlins.

MLB’s ratings victory over the NFL comes in a year when football is already under scrutiny for an overall decline in viewership. Reasons for the drop have ranged from increased viewing of cable news during the dramatic presidential campaign to backlash against San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem.

But the NFL can take some solace in the “Sunday Night Football” data. The 18 million viewers who watched the Cowboys top the Eagles in overtime was in line with the last six games that aired against World Series contests. Out of the seven Sunday night games that have had series competition, the Cowboys-Eagles contest ranks third, according to Nielsen data.

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The World Series tends to do best in the teams’ home markets. Chicago, which is the third-largest TV market in the U.S, has averaged a 35.5 rating. In Cleveland, the games have averaged a 42.5 rating.

In Los Angeles, where the Dodgers lost the National Championship Series to the Cubs, the series has averaged a 9.2 rating.

A rating point is equal to the percentage of TV homes in a market.

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stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio


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