Game five of the World Series featuring the Chicago Cubs in a do-or-die situation against the Cleveland Indians destroyed the competition Sunday night. In Chicago, the game drew a 42.8 live-plus-same day rating and 60 share for Fox’s WFLD-TV, up tremendously from Game four’s 30.1 rating Saturday and game three’s 35.1 on Friday. The Cubs beat the Indians 3-2 to ensure a game six Tuesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Comparing this to past games involving Chicago championship teams, the Cubs topped the 42.5 rating the Chicago White Sox earned in 2005 when they beat the Houston Astros to win the World Series in a four-game sweep. The Cubs also topped game six of the Stanley Cup Finals in June 2015 when the Blackhawks clinched in third title in six years.
In Cleveland, Tribune-owned WJW-TV earned a 46.8 rating – the highest non-Super Bowl number the station has earned as a Fox affiliate, dating back 22 years (WJW was a CBS affiliate until 1994.)
Nationally, game five of the World Series beat the competing Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game on Sunday Night Football, marking the first time since 2011 the fall classic topped NFL’s premiere showcase. The Cubs-Indians game drew a total of 23.6 million viewers – the highest for a World Series game five since 1997 (also involving Cleveland) compared to 18 million for the football game. Fox was helped by a football lead-in and post-game show The OT (which was pre-empted in Chicago for a Cubs pre-game show), but the Cubs-Indians game would’ve draw just as many viewers on its own.
Among adults-18-49, it was much closer. According to preliminary numbers, The World Series drew a 6.2 rating compared to a 6.1 for SNF, who jumped in the ratings last week from a dismally-played 6-6 tie between Seattle and Arizona. The World Series beating a marquee NFL game will no doubt continue to generate even more articles on why the league’s ratings are declining. On the other hand, the World Series is seeing double-digit ratings increases from 2015’s Kansas City Royals-New York Mets matchup in viewers, households, and key demos.
As for the rest of the crowd on Sunday night, CBS and ABC just couldn’t compete – neither network achieved more than a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demo, with ABC failing to crack a 1.0 for any of its Sunday shows.
As for game six, viewership is likely to head higher as the Cubs fight to take this series to a game seven. If it goes that far – could we see record ratings? Although the records set by the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983 and a few recent Super Bowls may be out of reach – a game seven Cubs-Indians winner-take-all could come within striking distance.