October 11, 2011

The Sked: The Importance of Game 2 in a 7-Game Series

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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This afternoon and evening, FOX broadcast a thrilling playoff game which was tied 3-3 through the 11th inning, when Texas Ranger Nelson Cruz hit the first walk-off grand slam in MLB postseason history to defeat the Detroit Tigers 7-3.  Tonight TBS aired a rather ho-hum game in which the St Louis Cardinals led the whole way, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 12-3.  Which network is happier tonight?

Both games were the second in their respective League Championship Series, and the outcome of Game 2 has an enormous impact on the course of the entire seven-game series and ultimately on the broadcaster’s bottom line.  When a series is 2-0 after two games, there is only a 43% chance the series will go six or seven games.  But if the series is tied 1-1, the chance balloons to 75%.  Games 6 and 7 represent a huge dividend for the broadcaster.  The ratings usually rise dramatically late in a competitive series (regardless of the teams involved), and Games 6 and 7 are treated as a revenue bonus since most series are expected (and planned financially) to go 5 games.

Tonight FOX is crying at the prospect of a short series without a marquee team like the Red Sox or Yankees.  The Rangers are now up 2-0 over the Tigers.  Adding insult to injury, because of length of the game, anyone in the Eastern or Central time zone (76% of the population) who recorded Terra Nova will be treated to the final 55 minutes of the game and the first five minutes of their show.  Anyone who DVR’ed House, will be able to view 55 minutes of Terra Nova and the first five minutes of the prickly doctor drama. 

Down in Atlanta, TBS executives are pleased they had the inferior game in terms of drama.  St Louis tied the series 1-1 with Milwaukee.  They are one big step closer to a Game 7.

                    Based on Status after Game 2

                            Probability of MLB Series Length
                             4-game  5-game  6-game  7-game
         Series 2-0 lead      33%     24%     19%     24%

         Series tied 1-1      —     24%     33%     42%        

         Source: based on results of 95 World Series and 
           50 League Championship Series in MLB postseason

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."