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Phillies force a Game 6, which is good news for Fox

November 3, 2009 | 11:32 am

UTLET The defending champion Philadelphia Phillies jumped out to a commanding early lead over the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the World Series and sent the audience fleeing. But viewers will likely return for Game 6 in New York Wednesday when the Yanks will be trying to win their first championship since 2000. 

With the series going at least six games, Fox would seem to be safe from losing money on baseball this season. A seventh game, however, would have Fox executives popping the champagne big time. News Corp.'s Fox has a seven-year, $1.8-billion deal with Major League Baseball.

A total of 17.1 million viewers tuned in Monday night, a drop of 25% from Sunday. Of course, Sunday's game also benefited from a huge lead-in from Fox's coverage of the Green Bay-Minnesota Vikings game, which attracted almost 30 million viewers. Furthermore, unlike Sunday, ESPN had a tight "Monday Night Football" match between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints that probably siphoned audience away from Fox once it became clear that the game was going to be a yawner.

For the first five games, the series has averaged 18.7 million viewers, and while the odds of it breaking the 20 million-average mark are long, it will be the most-watched series in five years and third-most-watched series of this decade -- unless for some  reason the bottom falls out on Wednesday.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Chase Utley hits one of his two home runs while the Phillies' mascot cheers him on. Credit:  Andrew Mills / The Star-Ledger via US Presswire.