What’s the Answer?

By RobG

World Series ratings down – a constant refrain on the airwaves and in print. It’s a hot point for me, enough to share with you and to hear your thoughts.

I heard about World Series ratings again yesterday on Sportsnet 590 The FAN (boy that’s a mouthful). Jeff Blair ended his interview with Bob McCown in the 4:00 segment on Prime Time Sports on Monday with “nobody’s watching”. This has been a familiar theme on PTS. Last week when Darren Rovell and McCown were having their weekly chat, we heard that the average age of this year’s World Series viewer is 53 years old.

The point is we keep hearing that World Series ratings aren’t good, but when is someone going to do some heavy lifting on this issue. It’s too easy to lob the “nobody’s watching” softball. The common theme is the dreaded lack of big market team in the series. Translation – no Yankees or no Red Sox means nobody will watch. You hear a similar argument when golf ratings are questioned – the Tiger Woods factor. Frankly, the casual viewer that drops in to watch when the Yankees are in the World Series, or when Tiger is on the tube aren’t the core fan that baseball or golf need to worry about.

Baseball’s ratings problem is deeper then the lack of a sexy World Series matchup. On one side of the equation is the empirical data, such as the expanded channel universe, the resulting fragmented viewing habits, and an aging demographic. On the other side is what is MLB doing to answer these challenges? We hear little from them about it. The media could do a better job of holding Bud Selig’s feet to the fire regarding the negative trend. Is MLB considering earlier start times in an attempt to secure younger viewers? What other tactics, if any, are under consideration? They still have time to right the ship, as there are plenty of boomers still tuned in, but the challenge is clear.

This is the “heavy lifting” type of interview and analysis McCown is capable of. I think baseball is near and dear to him. We’ve heard him reflect on being a Dodger fan when they were in Brooklyn. He has many strong contacts in baseball – Faye Vincent, Stan Kasten, and Paul Beeston to name a few. Stephen Brunt certainly brings much to the table with his perspective. Rovell and Michael Hiestand are excellent weekly guests on PTS. All involved could add more to the discussion instead of the usual banter followed by stating the obvious.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 29
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    mike (in boston) 8 years ago

    RobG — why do you, as a fan, care about the WS ratings? What difference does it make to your life?

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    Part of the problem w/ PTS and a lot of the FAN590 hosts and guests in general, is that nobody they have can speak for, or at least speak as part of the younger demographic. Whenever they talk about “kids these days” I just end up yelling at my ipod because they sound like they’re nature channel scientists wondering just what animals are thinking. We actually exist, and there have to be some younger people they could talk to. So far the closest person they have that “gets it” is Bruce Arthur (and he’s on TSN). He at least gets twitter, and he gets the effects of video games (though he’s wrong that the SNES debuted at the same time as the MLB lockout… he missed it by about 4 years) and at least when he speculates, he’s closer than the others, and he doesn’t go grumpy “I DON’T GET TWITTER”. But rather than constantly handwringing about why baseball is losing the younger generation and interviewing more and more older people who will also handwring and act as if fantasy sports, video games, and the internet are all these weird strange things, why not interview somebody who might be closer to it? (I don’t know who this might be… but I’m sure people who know the industry better might have some ideas. Perhaps some high profile bloggers? Obviously I think they should interview me, cuz I’m AWESOME, and I’m full of theories, but let’s be realistic XD )

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    Raptors Devotee 8 years ago

    I am part of the demographic, late 40’s, who grew up in Montreal with baseball as my first love, way ahead of hockey. It was due mainly to my playing it all the time, be it wallball, hitting fly balls out with my friends, and actual baseball/softball games. I never learned how to skate properly and stopped playing competitive ice hockey in grade 3, so this was another reason why I never had the same passion for hockey as baseball.

    By far the most important reason was my love of the Expos, which sadly I have no more to live on a day to day basis. Having said that, I still follow the game, but theh main reason why I have lost interest in it is due to the length of the games. In the 70’s I can recall games when Steve Carlton would pitch against the Expos and the game would be under 2 hours!

    Yes, there were less commercial times, but even so, the game moved swiftly along and it also made for a better game, with the fielders totally into the game with no time for their minds to wander.

    In today’s fast moving world the average person’s attention span has been speeded up. The NBA and NCAA gets it for professional and college basketball, with their games taking around two hours to play and although the two sports season do not overlap too much, just in the Spring, MLB has to find a way to cut the times down with significant rule changes and times between half innings. The Red Sox/Yankees make for compelling baseball, but when every game goes at least 3 1/2 hours there is a problem.

    Rob, I agree 100% on the starting times. Some of my fondest memories as a kid was being able to watch afternoon World Series games on the weekend, something we have lost due to the networks milking the advertising revenue, but at what cost with the future looking bleak as the kids can’t stay up to midnight to watch the games.

    Can McCown do more in his show and with his contacts to lobby for change. Of course he can, but I am afraid you are looking at the wrong person in McCown to lead the charge. Bob is in it for Bob, and whatever passion he has for the game, which I believe is sincere from his younger days, will not transcend over to fighting the good fight on our behalf. He is happy talking about it, but to take it to the next step and beyond, it ain’t happening.

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    Bob Roper 8 years ago

    Most casual sports fans are not prepared to devote four hours a night (and ending at midnight) to watch teams with players they don’t know. There is far more to life. Time is too valuable.

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    I heard Mike Eppel on the Fan this morning and he said that game 4 of the WS beat Sunday Night Football pretty handily (yes, that game was obviously a dog), and game 5 was expected to beat Ravens-Jags last night. This was after everyone predicted it wouldn’t. It really bothers me when people like Blair claim that this is “a World Series for the hardcore fan” when the Cards have a deep fanbase, the Rangers reached the World Series last year, guys like Hamilton and Pujols are two of the biggest stars in the game, etc. It’s like the media is telling us what is and should be popular beforehand.

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    Shawn 8 years ago

    Honestly, I’m used to watching the Jays start at 7pm, finish up by 10. If it started earlier, I’d watch. But ask me to keep watching past 11 is ridiculous for two teams I don’t care about. And I’m in the under 30 demo.

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    The reasons for baseball’s devolving into a regional sport as well documented (as are well-thought out strategies to reverse this long-term trend).

    What interests me is how the Toronto sports media is discussing the issue. I have some general points:

    (i) I don’t think that Bob McCown has the interest or factual knowledge to lead the charge and do the “heavy lifting”. It appears to me that anything that has occured post-1993 in baseball is outside his comfort zone (disdain for modern statistical analysis, not watching games, not knowing lineups, etc.). Being a fan of the sport in childhood is not sufficient to being a knowledgable observer in 2011.

    (ii) The PTS co-hosts (Brunt somewhat excluded) have no real knowledge of the game either, as shown by Cox’s numerous attempts to stir the pot with idiocy (Bautista on steroids, Cards won the Rasmus trade, etc.). We should all listen to sports radio in many markets in the U.S. to truly understand what real baseball talk is all about.

    (iii) The aging and emotionally prickly nature of PTS is of limited value in discussing in-depth topics. First of all, there is a huge knowledge gap on most sports amongst the various participants on PTS, and secondly (and perhaps most importantly), no one on PTS appears to understand modernity in sports (McCown is an “old” 60 and Cox is an old “50” when it comes to sports, culture and entertainment.).

    Just my 2 cents worth.

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    Al from Burlington 8 years ago

    The answer is it is so boring. It takes way to long to play the game and neither the Yankees or Red Sox are playing! The time between pitches is brutal, and just turns me off.

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    (Another) Andrew 8 years ago

    Game 4 on Sunday got a 9.2 rating. That’s not bad in this day of media fragmentation, especially without a team from the north east.

    I don’t think that Bob McCown has the interest or factual knowledge to lead the charge and do the “heavy lifting”. It appears to me that anything that has occured post-1993 in baseball is outside his comfort zone

    I think anything after 9pm is also outside his comfort zone.

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    mike (in boston) 8 years ago

    great comment by Lee (oakville). Nice analysis.

    the losses of Shulman and to a lesser extent Law to to TSN1050 were bad for PTS. There is really nothing like listening to Shulman talk about baseball.

    Jonah Keri is good but you can tell Bob is already tuning him out for the same reasons he tuned out Keith Law (except when Law was bashing JP Riccardi). Bob’s disdain for modern baseball analysis would be interesting if there was any evidence he had tried to understand the thing he rejects.

    I’m willing to listen to a discussion of why BABIP is a flawed statistic, but i have little time for people who still think that RBI totals and W-L record give you a measure of the value of a player.

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    William 8 years ago

    RobG — why do you, as a fan, care about the WS ratings? What difference does it make to your life?

    Oh, so well said, Mike! Absolutely true. I don’t understand why people are so interested in who/what the masses like. Celine Dion is one of the top selling artists of all time. Does that mean I should be listening to her music? American Idol is the top TV show — so I’d better be watching it!

    Different strokes for different folks. If no one else is watching the World Series (which is false, by the way), who cares? I like baseball and I’ll watch it regardless of if anyone else joins me or not.

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    The demographics of MLB and PTS nicely dovetail (screwing over 18-34 demo).

    I don’t think Bob is as bad as say, Francesa or Russo, of dismissing baseball analytics, but he still does. At least Blair, as a former beat guy, embraces them to an extent. And since Blair has a good relationship with Keri, you can bet he will be on regularly.

    I’m not a fan of “lowest Series ever” talk, since there’s no point in comparing ratings in 2011 with even ratings from 2006. You really should only compare things in the present or recent past. Is it more relevant that this will be “the second lowest WS ever” or “World Series beat NFL game twice in a week?”

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    Gerry (Burlington) 8 years ago

    I don’t really worry or care about the ratings. I have loved this World Series, has been a great series.

    What I tire of is Bobcat saying no one cares. Well I do, maybe I am a purest, but I can’t stand the arrogance of him and others assuming because Yankees or Red Sox not there that no one else should. To me Bob really isn’t much of a baseball fan and if he is, he is missing a good series.

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    Steve 8 years ago

    If you believe the interwebs and (anti)social media, 3 or 4 hours of Buck & McCarver every night ain’t helping the #’s in the U.S. Lots of Rogers bashing on this board and elsewhere, but if you’re a fan I think it’s great that they give you the option of hearing Thorne and Sutcliffe. My affection for baseball has dwindled over the years, but if I want to watch the FOX guys chase me away fairly quickly.

    @William – I use that same analogy with those examples regularly when people equate popularity with quality.

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    I do agree with those that think speeding up the game would help though. One of the things that bores me so much about watching baseball on TV is the length between innings and all the stepping off/stepping out that happens. You get an at-bat and it’s exciting.. then… you sit around waiting for the next one. And if what Bob says is accurate, it’s not just “kids these days” that find it boring, it’s longer a wait than it was when the adults were kids too, so this isn’t about young people these days growing up on fast things and being too hyperactive to appreciate baseball.

    Honestly, I think the way the MLB and MLBPA has handled their video game licenses has hurt them too. Who knows if this has anything to do with dwindling world series numbers, but I do know that how *I* learned the rules of every sport is by playing video games,and I doubt I’m the only one. Not everybody grows up being taught the game by their dads anymore, and I think video games are a big way where people learn the rules of a game and get a feel for the game now, and by doing the exclusive 2K license, and taking out the big brand name of EA (plus they had the better game engine too) they may have limited how many people are interested in their product, at the very least, they didn’t help it.

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    “I do agree with those that think speeding up the game would help though. One of the things that bores me so much about watching baseball on TV is the length between innings and all the stepping off/stepping out that happens. You get an at-bat and it’s exciting.. then… you sit around waiting for the next one. And if what Bob says is accurate, it’s not just “kids these days” that find it boring, it’s longer a wait than it was when the adults were kids too, so this isn’t about young people these days growing up on fast things and being too hyperactive to appreciate baseball.

    Honestly, I think the way the MLB and MLBPA has handled their video game licenses has hurt them too. Who knows if this has anything to do with dwindling world series numbers, but I do know that how *I* learned the rules of every sport is by playing video games,and I doubt I’m the only one. Not everybody grows up being taught the game by their dads anymore, and I think video games are a big way where people learn the rules of a game and get a feel for the game now, and by doing the exclusive 2K license, and taking out the big brand name of EA (plus they had the better game engine too) they may have limited how many people are interested in their product, at the very least, they didn’t help it.”

    I don’t know, the game is what it is. It’s not a game about speed. I do think the ads over homeplate that are localized are pretty cool

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    “If you believe the interwebs and (anti)social media, 3 or 4 hours of Buck & McCarver every night ain’t helping the #’s in the U.S. Lots of Rogers bashing on this board and elsewhere, but if you’re a fan I think it’s great that they give you the option of hearing Thorne and Sutcliffe. My affection for baseball has dwindled over the years, but if I want to watch the FOX guys chase me away fairly quickly.

    @William – I use that same analogy with those examples regularly when people equate popularity with quality.”

    I tend to tune out when watching. Everything is so over-hyped in world series telecasts I find. It’s the superbowl 10x

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    “I don’t really worry or care about the ratings. I have loved this World Series, has been a great series.

    What I tire of is Bobcat saying no one cares. Well I do, maybe I am a purest, but I can’t stand the arrogance of him and others assuming because Yankees or Red Sox not there that no one else should. To me Bob really isn’t much of a baseball fan and if he is, he is missing a good series.”

    it’s funny the rating for the other night were HUGE. People only care when the ratings suck or, when their HUGE. Ratings have to be looked at in context. Can’t compare to years back when there weren’t as many options as before. TV isn’t the only choice anymore

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    “The demographics of MLB and PTS nicely dovetail (screwing over 18-34 demo).

    I don’t think Bob is as bad as say, Francesa or Russo, of dismissing baseball analytics, but he still does. At least Blair, as a former beat guy, embraces them to an extent. And since Blair has a good relationship with Keri, you can bet he will be on regularly.

    I’m not a fan of “lowest Series ever” talk, since there’s no point in comparing ratings in 2011 with even ratings from 2006. You really should only compare things in the present or recent past. Is it more relevant that this will be “the second lowest WS ever” or “World Series beat NFL game twice in a week?””

    I don’t think you live by the ratings, but it makes for interesting chatter.

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    “RobG — why do you, as a fan, care about the WS ratings? What difference does it make to your life?

    Oh, so well said, Mike! Absolutely true. I don’t understand why people are so interested in who/what the masses like. Celine Dion is one of the top selling artists of all time. Does that mean I should be listening to her music? American Idol is the top TV show — so I’d better be watching it!

    Different strokes for different folks. If no one else is watching the World Series (which is false, by the way), who cares? I like baseball and I’ll watch it regardless of if anyone else joins me or not.”

    Well, this is a sports media website, so ratings are fair game here. Again, not the most important thing, but still relevant.

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    “great comment by Lee (oakville). Nice analysis.

    the losses of Shulman and to a lesser extent Law to to TSN1050 were bad for PTS. There is really nothing like listening to Shulman talk about baseball.

    Jonah Keri is good but you can tell Bob is already tuning him out for the same reasons he tuned out Keith Law (except when Law was bashing JP Riccardi). Bob’s disdain for modern baseball analysis would be interesting if there was any evidence he had tried to understand the thing he rejects.

    I’m willing to listen to a discussion of why BABIP is a flawed statistic, but i have little time for people who still think that RBI totals and W-L record give you a measure of the value of a player.”

    You lost me afer the word why in the last paragraph 🙂

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    “Game 4 on Sunday got a 9.2 rating. That’s not bad in this day of media fragmentation, especially without a team from the north east.

    I don’t think that Bob McCown has the interest or factual knowledge to lead the charge and do the “heavy lifting”. It appears to me that anything that has occured post-1993 in baseball is outside his comfort zone

    I think anything after 9pm is also outside his comfort zone.”

    Actually, I think McCown is a bigger fan of baseball than any other sport. Listen to him talk Blue Jays. He is way more passionate about the Jays than any other team.

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    “The reasons for baseball’s devolving into a regional sport as well documented (as are well-thought out strategies to reverse this long-term trend).

    What interests me is how the Toronto sports media is discussing the issue. I have some general points:

    (i) I don’t think that Bob McCown has the interest or factual knowledge to lead the charge and do the “heavy lifting”. It appears to me that anything that has occured post-1993 in baseball is outside his comfort zone (disdain for modern statistical analysis, not watching games, not knowing lineups, etc.). Being a fan of the sport in childhood is not sufficient to being a knowledgable observer in 2011.

    (ii) The PTS co-hosts (Brunt somewhat excluded) have no real knowledge of the game either, as shown by Cox’s numerous attempts to stir the pot with idiocy (Bautista on steroids, Cards won the Rasmus trade, etc.). We should all listen to sports radio in many markets in the U.S. to truly understand what real baseball talk is all about.

    (iii) The aging and emotionally prickly nature of PTS is of limited value in discussing in-depth topics. First of all, there is a huge knowledge gap on most sports amongst the various participants on PTS, and secondly (and perhaps most importantly), no one on PTS appears to understand modernity in sports (McCown is an “old” 60 and Cox is an old “50″ when it comes to sports, culture and entertainment.).

    Just my 2 cents worth.”

    Lee, that’s an awesome comment. Thanks! I don’t agree with it all, but great job.

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    “Honestly, I’m used to watching the Jays start at 7pm, finish up by 10. If it started earlier, I’d watch. But ask me to keep watching past 11 is ridiculous for two teams I don’t care about. And I’m in the under 30 demo.”

    They can’t make the games earlier. They can’t really make them any faster either.

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    “I heard Mike Eppel on the Fan this morning and he said that game 4 of the WS beat Sunday Night Football pretty handily (yes, that game was obviously a dog), and game 5 was expected to beat Ravens-Jags last night. This was after everyone predicted it wouldn’t. It really bothers me when people like Blair claim that this is “a World Series for the hardcore fan” when the Cards have a deep fanbase, the Rangers reached the World Series last year, guys like Hamilton and Pujols are two of the biggest stars in the game, etc. It’s like the media is telling us what is and should be popular beforehand.”

    St. Louis is an old school team. Texas? Not so much. It’s certainly not a series of natural national interest (how’s that for a mouthful?)

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    “Most casual sports fans are not prepared to devote four hours a night (and ending at midnight) to watch teams with players they don’t know. There is far more to life. Time is too valuable.”

    Not sure if time is too valuable, but there are so many other options that are say, commercial free for example

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    the hard core fans will always watch and care, the casual fans will only watch when a star player has proven to transcend the sport. People like Ali, Pele, Jordan and Tiger Woods are special because they have qualities that goes beyond their own sports. the human will to triumph and bend fate into their destiny, this is the trait few people ever have. sports in general finds too many human failings, the so call “great ones” choke all too often. when someone special comes along, like Mr. October Reggie Jackson, then they draw ordinary fans in like a light to fireflies. look at the great New England Patriots that choked 1 win from a perfect season. the subtleties of each sport is why true fans watch, but it takes a proven stud to bring ordinary fans to watch.

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    robinaurora 8 years ago

    Lee in Oakville is saying the exact same thing I have been for a while. Glad I’m not alone…Listening to PTS makes me feel old and I am 50 (that is pretty old anyway, but I still feel 40-“ish”).

    Mccown (et al) are curmudgeonly old men who think they know everything. That gets tired very quickly for me as a listener. The old axiom I have heard over and over is “if something, or someone is holding you back as a negative force or with their negative attitude, you need to cut them out of your life” – That can be hard to do if its a spouse or a family member or close friend. I found it easy to do with radio personalities.

    Cybulski with all his warts (I hate all the MMA and UFC talk) at least makes me feel dialed in or more connected with younger people, to the point that I feel I can relate to someone 30 or under. I can’t relate to McCown and his gang of old farts (They remind me of the cranky old guys sitting in the balcony seats on the Muppet show) Oh! there…see? I just dated myself…(!). Dag-yo!!

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    Mike in Boston, always appreciate reading your comments, be it to TSM or to me. To be clear, the ratings make no difference to my life. I watch baseball, and always will, because I like the game. Rating are of interest to me from the standpoint that they have an affect on all factions of the game . My concern is McCown and Blair blurt out a negative soundbite without diving into the details, and I think that’s lazy.