By Tim Baysinger

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Chicago Cubs' World Series victory on Wednesday night not only ended the team's historic 108-year championship drought but attracted the biggest U.S. television audience for baseball in 25 years.

Despite the final game of the World Series going well past midnight on the East Coast, plus a 17-minute rain delay, more than 40 million viewers watched on Fox, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen.

That was the most since 50.3 million tuned in to see the Minnesota Twins defeat the Atlanta Braves in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series. Fox topped its own record of 39.1 million who watched the Arizona Diamondbacks cap a two-run ninth-inning rally over the New York Yankees in Game Seven of the 2001 World Series.

The Cubs’ 8-7, extra-inning win over the Cleveland Indians was the franchise’s first title since 1908, when Theodore Roosevelt was U.S. president.

It was the most-watched broadcast on TV in 2016 other than February’s Super Bowl, outpacing the NBA Finals, every night of the Rio Summer Olympics, and the Oscars, annually the most-watched non-sporting event. The three presidential debates drew more viewers, but they aired across 13 TV networks and did not feature any advertising.

In terms of household rating, the metric by which ad sales for sports are sold against, the game drew a 21.7 rating, the highest since the 2001 World Series (23.5 rating).

Household rating measures the percentage of TV homes that are tuned into any given program. The seven-game series averaged 22.8 million viewers and a 12.8 HH rating, the best average for Fox in both measures since 2004.

Nielsen will release final ratings and viewership numbers later on Thursday, which may have a slight adjustment to the numbers.

(Reporting by Tim Baysinger; Editing by Peter Cooney)