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TBS 'ecstatic' over Mets-Cubs matchup

The Chicago Cubs work out at Citi Field

The Chicago Cubs work out at Citi Field on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Everyone who follows baseball and/or the media business naturally has been assuming that Turner executives are ecstatic about the ratings gift basket that has been dropped at their door this postseason.

But assuming is a dodgy business, so let's just go ahead and ask Scooter Vertino, Turner Sports' senior vice president of programming, directly whether this is true.

"I can confirm we are ecstatic," he said Friday as TBS got set for an NLCS between the Cubs and Mets that surely will be among the highest-rated of this century, especially if it lasts six or seven games.

The contrast could not be greater with what Fox is dealing with in the American League -- a small market in Kansas City and a big city in Toronto that happens to be in a country with its own television networks and ratings.

It was the luck of the draw, with this being Turner's turn to cover the NL. (The networks rotate, kind of like the leagues used to do for World Series home-field advantage before the All-Star Game took over that function.)

So now it can be told: Was Turner rooting for this pairing on the heels of two ratings-friendly NL Division Series matchups?

"When it comes to any of these series, we are rooting for the audience, rooting for the story, rooting for long series," Vertino said.

"The fact [Thursday] night was a fantastic Game 5 with record-setting numbers for us is a huge bonus, and the fact we've got the Mets, who have become a compelling story, one could argue since the [Yoenis] Cespedes trade, and the Cubs, who are annually a compelling story, one way or the other, it is fantastic."

Of course, TV executives find nice things to say to reporters about matchups no matter how awful they are. But in this case, it's all true.

MLB took the unusual step of scheduling the first five games of the NLCS for prime time. The only non-prime-timer currently slated for Cubs vs. Mets is Game 6 at Citi Field. But even that one will slide into nighttime if the ALCS does not go seven games.

Vertino said a Cubs-Dodgers series would have had him "ecstatic," too, but while he would not say which opponent for the Cubs would have more ratings power, he did point out the difference in Game 5 between New York and Los Angeles -- 18.4 percent of homes to 11.0.

"I assume that answers what you're asking," he said.

As many eyeballs as the Mets will deliver, though, it is the Cubs who are the real key to the series' national appeal.

"You have the fact they're not there very often and have the lovable losers label and the wait 'til next year bunch, a historical bucket of things," Vertino said. "You're going to get that casual viewer that maybe isn't watching if other teams are involved."

The postseason so far has been a theatrical success in both leagues, something that naturally makes for good TV.

"We always plan for all kinds of contingencies and assume the craziness will occur," Vertino said. "We are fans of craziness."


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