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Original Issue

Under Review

FOX'S BEAR MARKET The Cubs broke the hearts of baseball fans
across the country last week, but no one got stung harder than
Fox. Thanks to the lovable underdog Cubs--as well as the Red
Sox--Fox's 13 telecasts of the LCS averaged a 10.7 rating, an
increase of 65% over 2002. So powerful was baseball's pull that
rival networks postponed new episodes of CSI and Without a Trace
(CBS) and Friends and West Wing (NBC) rather than go head-to-head
with LCS Game 7s. (A CBS spokesperson did not anticipate any
change in programming during the World Series.)

So what would have happened if the well-known curses had not
kicked in again? In a ratings study of the four possible World
Series matchups, Initiative Media, a media buyer for large
corporations, projected a 16.7 rating for a Cubs-Red Sox
Series--the highest of the matchups. The Cubs-Yankees were
projected at 15.7 and the Red Sox-Marlins at 14.1. The
Marlins-Yankees drew just a 12.4 projected rating, which would
equal the Yankees-Mets in 2000, the second-lowest-rated World
Series of all time behind last year's Angels-Giants matchup.

Games 1 and 2 of the Series drew overnight ratings of 10.9 and
15.0 respectively--up a bit from last year--and Fox Sports
president Ed Goren refused to dwell on the loss of the Cubs,
instead focusing on the "wonderful story lines" of the
Marlins-Yanks Series, adding, "We're not hanging our heads here."
Others aren't buying his optimism. "It went from one of the
greatest matchups of all time to a major disappointment for Fox,"
says Tom DeCabia, a longtime media buyer and now a consultant for
advertisers. The real losses, DeCabia notes, will come in 2004
because World Series ad rates are based on the previous year's
ratings. --R.D.