More On Baseball Attendance

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but hey, you all raised the issue on ratings, not me, the McPaper, USA Today had a sports front cover story
on that very subject. Here are some bits from story:

“Yet outside the city confines of St. Louis and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, there has been precious little interest. None of Fox’s broadcasts has drawn better than a 9.2 rating, the second lowest since the Nielsen ratings started tracking the Series in 1984.”

“It is a problem baseball has wrestled with for decades: Programming options proliferate and attention spans shrink. But rights fees to broadcast baseball games have steadily increased, and Commissioner Bud Selig is highly confident that trend will continue. Fox’s contract to broadcast baseball games expires in 2013. Negotiations on a new deal would begin next year.

“Let me tell you, the people who count are the ones who are bidding for the rights,” Selig says. “And we’ve never had so much competition for our next postseason television contract”

“Indeed, baseball scored a modest victory by trumping the NFL head-to-head in ratings Sunday and Monday night; the Baltimore Ravens-Jacksonville Jaguars game was the lowest-rated in Monday Night Football history (5.8). Still, the TV ratings are barely ahead of last year’s Rangers-Giants World Series, which produced an all-time ratings low.”

“”The reality is that we continue to minimize the World Series,” high-powered baseball agent Scott Boras says. “It’s become something where there is no reason for even the industry to show up at the event. When that is happening and they’re doing other things that are more important, you know there is something wrong with the World Series.”

“Yet in baseball-crazed Boston, where the Red Sox have won two World Series titles since 2004, there’s more concern about who had the dark meat and who ate the white meat in the clubhouse this season than the outcome of the World Series.

The Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune skipped coverage of Game 5, opting not to replace news reporters dispatched to cover news conferences involving the Red Sox’s and Cubs’ new general managers.

“Boston is one of the most provincial towns in the country when it comes to their sports teams,” Globe baseball columnist Nick Cafardo said. “And right now, nobody cares about the World Series in Boston.”

“Carpenter says, “why don’t we build a ballpark just for the World Series, like in Las Vegas. It’ll be great weather. And everybody will get to come.

“And let’s change our playoff system, too. Everybody gets so excited about a do-or-die game. So what if we go ahead and allow twice as many teams in the playoffs, let 16 or 24 teams in, and you play the best-two-of-three all of the way through. Sudden death, bring it!”

“”Still, it’s not doom and gloom. We have won every night in prime time. Our sales guys sold our (advertising) earlier than ever. There is tremendous amount of value to a network having a World Series.”

The days of the monster rating, such as the 38.9 rating for Game 7 of the 1986 World Series between the Red Sox and New York Mets, likely are over. ”

So there you have it. Ratings are watched, not just on PTS but everywhere. The world has indeed changed, there is way more competition for the entertainment eyeball. I guess in a sense the networks are a lot like the owners themselves. Despite all the rhetoric, there’s an idiot out there who will overpay for an asset. In the end the used car salesman Selig laughs all the way to the bank. It’s the one time the fan doesn’t get screwed. Someone overpays for rights, we get coverage up the ying yang, but the truth is few really care.

I love the ideas for change. I loathe the Selig mentality of that’s not good for the fans. You want another reason why the NFL is the greatest show on earth? The NFL’s premiere event is it’s championship; the Superbowl. That’s where the parties are, that’s where the sponsors are. MLB (like the NHL by the way) blows it on the All Star Game. The All-star game is the event; a meaningless game.

Personally, I think the product is fine. I don’t think there are a ton of compelling characters anymore, but that could easily be a sign of my aging. I think the TV experience in most cases is better than that which you get live and as a result fewer people are all that interested in baseball. It used to be about going to the games. Now, in most cases (save for the big major markets) that’s not the case.

In the end it doesn’t appear to matter. Networks will pay top dollar and the owners will keep pocketing it.


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October 26, 2011 11:32 pm

My biggest issue with ratings talk is there is no point in discussing ratings from before 2006, let alone in a mostly pre-cable world of 1986.

American Idol may be the biggest show in TV in 2011, but it gets a fraction of the ratings of The Cosby Show or MASH or Cheers. Different Time.

I think baseball’s biggest problem is its demogrphics, with no eyeballs of youngsters and a median viewing age in the 50s. The World Series should be on CBS with those numbers.

October 27, 2011 9:42 am

If you are having to take a nap before a playoff game because it will end at like midnight or 1 AM is clearly a sign that you are not reaching your target audience. Think about the kids 15 or younger who are school aged – when was the last time you can recall someone that age bracket being able to watch a game from beginning to end.

MLB & the networks covering the games are clearly not doing it right and are targeting the guys in their mid 40’s & up. No wonder – baseball is behind football, hockey and basketball.

Steve from Waterloo
Steve from Waterloo
October 27, 2011 10:38 am

Just speed up the games – for the old and the young demographic.

Mike V
Mike V
October 27, 2011 12:24 pm

MLB ratings are a double sided sword. Nationally, they have been in a long term decline along with most other sports, except for the NFL (which is king), the NHL and Soccer (both of these were so low, the only place to go was up). Regionally, I think they are doing better than ever and frankly, are destroying most NBA and NHL teams. So people are watching the local teams more but aren’t interested in the final outcome once they are out.

I think the league is comfortable with that trade off from a revenue standpoint, considering how much more valuable the deals with RSNs have become (either owning them like YES and NESN, or signing a monster deal like Texas’ $80M/year and the upcoming deals for the LA teams which will be over 100M according to the numbers being thrown out now).

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
October 27, 2011 4:30 pm

TV numbers matter to: networks, advertisers, the commissioner’s office, lazy sports media
TV numbers DO NOT matter to: fans, players, managers, GMs

MLB should change a ton of things about the game, but they should change those things regardless of their TV numbers.

there is no risk of the MLB becoming unprofitable or uncompetitive or being cancelled. the only relevance of the number is for the next massive TV contract. and, as Alex points out, comparisons of current numbers to past numbers have little value. in other words, nothing to see here, move along.

Chef Mike in Burlington
October 27, 2011 6:01 pm

As a near 50 white guy, I have no interest in going to or even watching a baseball game anymore. 18 years of Blue Jay failure, slow moving games that never end, high ticket prices, too long a schedule and a hundred other distractions just make it too much work.

Rogers has little interest in their team winning, not much reason for me to bother either…

October 27, 2011 9:13 pm

Well I think the reason a lot of us fans do care about th ratings is they are a metric that shows at least partially that there is something either right or wrong with a sport as a tv product.

For example, as many have noted it seems baseball is a slow and overly long sport at the major league level. Since the ratings show declining interest, especially in the younger demographic, this is proven to at least be a possible factor among the general populace (as opposed to something that just bothers us few).

The impetus for the sport to see any real change or evolution is 100% going to be ratings, so they do have a very real impact on us fans.

Oh and I believe that the #1 best thing they could do to boost ratings for the back end of the season and playoffs especially would be to up the number of playoff spots. From the perspective of a jays fan in particular, if there even ONE more spot but preferably two then we would have a real chance to make it, and that would drive interest incredibly I believe giving the jays a real chance to become a first class prime time event once again.

That’s with just a chance to be in contention for a spot, making it would go a huge way for boosting interest, numbers, and attendance.

And do you think there is any chance of increased playoff spots if say ratings were better than ever across the league and growing exponentially? The answer is obviously no. The only real chance of change at this level is if the ratings demand it.

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