The World Series is over. Fox won.
Wednesday night’s marathon of a baseball game captured 100 million eyes at during one 15-minute block in the 11 o’clock hour. The 50 million viewers tuned in just after Indians outfielder Rajai Davis blasted a ball over the left field fence and just prior to the rain delay.
The thrilling 8-7 extra-innings victory by the Chicago Cubs brought the most viewers to any baseball game in a quarter of a century. A similarly thrilling 1991 Game Seven, which witnessed Minnesota Twins ace Jack Morris pitch a complete-game, 10-inning shutout of the Atlanta Braves, drew a few hundred thousand more viewers than the ultimate game of the Cubs-Indians series.
The series itself averaged more than 23 million viewers. This beats every Fall Classic since the Boston Red Sox reversed its curse in 2004 by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals. Game Five beat Sunday Night Football in the first victory for baseball over the NFL in five years.
The competitiveness of the games, personal storylines involving Kyle Schwarber returning from injury and Corey Kluber pitching on three days’ rest, and the matchup of the two teams suffering through the longest championship droughts in major-league baseball combined to heighten interest in the 2016 World Series.
The ratings bonanza comes amid claims by the NFL that online viewing rather than on-field, anti-American protests drags its ratings down. Why the march of technology stomps on the Nielsen numbers of the NFL but not MLB remains unexplained. One additional explanation for MLB’s boost involves sports fans disgusted by Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling for the national anthem looking to baseball as an apolitical alternative to the NFL.