Now that the MLB ALCS and NLCS are set and the schedules are out, it looks like Fox got favored status on start times. Of the three days that the MLB has publicly scheduled start times — up to game five of both series — the NLCS received prime time late night starts in all three games. That means the 8:00 p.m. ET game is always going to be Cubs v. Dodgers. No one could blame MLB, it’s the series with the bigger markets, bigger star power, and what is going to be bigger ratings.
The teams aren’t the only thing that’s considered according to an MLB executive in Richard Deitsch’s mailbag. There’s obvious considerations such as time zones and travel schedules. The trip from Cleveland to Toronto is much shorter than Chicago to Los Angeles. Cleveland and Toronto are both in the eastern time zone. Chicago and L.A. are in the central and pacific. Simply put MLB and its TV partners are not going to schedule a 5:00 p.m. ET game with the Dodgers hosting the Cubs. That is 2:00 p.m. PT and 4:00 p.m. CT.
Still an 8:00 p.m. ET game isn’t unheard of in baseball. In fact, it will happen in the World Series. So the Indians and Blue Jays always playing the early game is a convenient issue that allows MLB to schedule its marquee matchup during prime time.
It will surely help ratings. Ratings were down across the board for the ALDS and the NLDS. Chicago and Los Angeles should help rectify the situation. Two of the five biggest markets in the United States with historical teams and young star players is going to help. The story lines for the Cubs are endless. Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS will draw in casual viewers. Even if MLB came out and said the NLCS is a bigger match up and that is why it is constantly in prime time, people would understand.
We’ve already reviewed how Turner is losing out due to the teams that ended up in the ALCS. When there aren’t back to back games, the ALCS will have the 8:00 p.m. ET start time. Bad news for all of MLB TV partners, the third and final presidential debate is scheduled for October 19. That is game four of the NLCS and game five — if necessary — of the ALCS.
The real fun test will actually be October 16. That will be when the Cubs v. Dodgers goes up head to head against Texans v. Colts. It is doubtful that the NLCS will beat Sunday Night Football in ratings, but if there is ever any shot of that happening it will be this week.