NEW YORK (AP) – Baseball has been very, very good to Fox.

Classic seven-game league championship series and the start of a World Series involving two storied franchises led Fox to its best week in prime-time ratings in 2½ years, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday.

The climactic game of the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees American League series drew 31.5 million television viewers, the most-watched baseball game since Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

The thrilling sixth game of the ALCS, the third of four straight do-or-die games won by the Red Sox, had 25.1 million viewers, Nielsen said.

The World Series between the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals also started strong. Saturday’s first game was the most-watched World Series opening game since 1996.

Baseball didn’t hurt ABC’s new hit, “Desperate Housewives,” which pulled in 21.5 million viewers Sunday despite competition from the World Series’ second game. It did deflate the season premiere of NBC’s “The West Wing,” however, which had only 12.3 million viewers.

Fox averaged 22 million viewers for the week (13.6 rating, 22 share). CBS averaged 11.6 million (7.8, 12) and narrowly beat NBC for second place among viewers aged 18 to 49.

NBC had 9.6 million (6.5, 10), ABC had 8.9 million (5.8, 9), UPN 3.8 million (2.5, 4), the WB 3.6 million (2.4, 4) and Pax TV 490,000 (0.3, 1).

NBC’s “Nightly News” won the evening news ratings race, averaging 9.5 million viewers (6.7, 13). ABC’s “World News Tonight” had 8.6 million viewers (6.0, 12) and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.7 million (4.8, 9).

A ratings point represents 1,096,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 109.6 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Oct. 18-24, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: American League Championship Series, Game 7: Boston vs. N.Y. Yankees, Fox, 31.5 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 26.5 million; World Series Game 2: St. Louis vs. Boston, Fox, 25.5 million; American League Championship Series, Game 6: Boston vs. N.Y. Yankees, Fox, 25.1 million; World Series Game 1: Boston vs. St. Louis, Fox, 23.2 million; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 21.5 million; National League Championship Series, Game 7: Houston vs. St. Louis, Fox, 19.8 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 19.8 million; “Survivor: Vanuatu,” CBS, 19.2 million; “Without a Trace,” CBS, 18,5 million.

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