Tag Archives: TV Ratings

If You’re a Baseball TV Ratings Geek, You Will Really Enjoy This Story

I will totally cop to being a ratings geek.  Even when I was a kid and they would publish local TV or radio ratings once a quarter in the entertainment section of the paper, I would immediately glue myself to the story and memorize the numbers and rankings. I love ratings so much, I selected my college major and career path just so they could be a part of my work.  So when I see an article like Maury Brown’s in Forbes from the other day, it’s like handing me a pound of peanut M&Ms and saying, here you go, chow down.

Brown takes a good look at the Nielsen TV ratings for the 29 clubs based in the U.S. (Toronto is in Canada and thus is not measured by Nielsen, so they’re not included here.) I would recommend you go on over and read his story for yourself, but if you can’t make time, here are a few high points from it:

  • Local baseball telecasts continue to dominate their markets during prime time (defined as 8p-11p Eastern and Pacific, and 7p-10p Central and Mountain). Ten teams rank #1 in their markets, led by Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Another six come in at #2 or #3. This is amazing because almost all the telecasts run on cable regional sports networks, which do not have penetration into all the TV households in their markets, yet they routinely outpull even broadcast (aka “over-the-air”) stations in total viewers.
  • If you exclude broadcast stations from the analysis, baseball ranks #1 for 24 of the 25 local TV markets (except only Houston, who are handicapped by having to overcome a horrible TV situation with Comcast Sportsnet  from last year).
  • The Royals are riding their surprise World Series appearance and fast start this year to a +114% ratings increase versus last year, which puts them at the top with an astounding 12.7 household (HH) rating.  This means that 12.7% of all TV HH in Kansas City are tuned to the Royals at any given time. The Royals have both the highest rating and the greatest increase over last.  The Cardinals are second with a 10.2 HH rating. The Tigers (7.7), Pirates (7.6) and Mariners (6.3) round out the top five in ratings.
  • After the Royals, the  Cubs are riding a similar surge in win-loss record, plus exciting new young players, to a similar increase in ratings: +112% over last year, up to 3.1 from 1.5.  The Padres (+52%), Cardinals (+35%) and Nationals (+29%) round out this top five.  On the flip side, the White Sox are disappointing on TV as well as on the field, losing viewers at a -42% clip over 2014.  The Indians (-36%), Braves (-32%), Brewers (-27%) and Reds (-25%) have had similarly horrifying ratings losses, and yet, these latter four teams are still the #1 ratings grabbers in their markets.
  • In terms of total average viewers, big markets rule: The Yankees (206,000) and Mets (180,000) are 1-2, with the Red Sox (146,000), Tigers (141,000) and Cardinals (125,000) coming in at #3 through #5.

Here is the table from the Maury Brown story.  You can click through it to go directly to his story over at Forbes.

h/t Forbes.com and Maury Brown.
h/t Forbes.com and Maury Brown.

Two Things You Should Know Today About Major League Baseball on TV

 

1: Televised baseball is not dying.

Several times each year over the past several years, we have been treated to predictions of the demise of baseball in America, and the main proof of that always comes in the form of comparative TV ratings.  Just last year, for instance, we were informed that the opening tilt of the Royals-Giants World Series was the lowest rated Game 1 in history.  “[The World] Series is on, and everybody is watching … football”, gloated the New York Times headline.  Not only that, but more people watched “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS: New Orleans” than the World Series, which was outdrawn even by “The Walking Dead”, a cable show about zombies, for crying out loud.  In case you were too thick to understand the implication, the Times made it clear in so many words: “Baseball is no longer the center of attention in a new landscape”.  Translation: Baseball is dying.

So what are we to make of Maury Brown’s article in Forbes yesterday: that in most of the largest markets in the country, baseball is actually outdrawing the NBA and the NHL in TV viewers?  You can see from these ratings in 14 markets from last Wednesday night, when two top NBA playoff games and the NHL’s Rangers-Capitals overtime win competed against the Mets and Cubs on ESPN, that baseball won the night against basketball and football:

RSNRatings1
h/t Forbes. Click through graphic to full article.

Isn’t this going against the narrative we’ve become so accustomed to hearing lately?

Yes, it is, but the thing is that that narrative always contemplates baseball’s national telecasts versus those of the other sports, particularly football, and especially in October.  Here is the thing to remember, though: baseball is a local and regional sport.  People care about their teams.  So when their team is on their local regional network, people will watch those games over playoff games in other sports involving out of town teams.  And that’s what we see in the chart above: baseball on regional sports networks beating other sports on the national sports networks.

Granted, none of the markets above had any local teams in the NBA or NHL playoffs, so there was no competition between multiple local teams in different sports in any of these markets.  And the NBA and NHL national telecasts did beat the baseball national telecast.

But really, that’s the point: baseball, and all league sports in this country, are a local and regional obsession.  People are naturally more interested in their local team than in out of town teams.  And people are naturally more interested in playoffs games than in regular season games.  If the Mets did not beat the Rangers in New York, or the Braves did not beat the Hawks in Atlanta, that’s really understandable, isn’t it?  After all, the Rangers and Hawks are in the playoffs fighting for their lives.  In baseball, it’s still mid-May.

But if televised baseball really were dying, it would be losing to televised basketball and televised football every time, regardless of the team involved.  That’s the central conceit of the (admittedly strawman) argument.  But it doesn’t, because baseball is a local and regional sport, and a thriving one at that.

Just remember the part in italics above next time anyone suggests to you that baseball is no longer important in the “new landscape” of American sports.

2: The potential removal of the MLB blackout restriction took an important step forward on Friday.

Judge Shira Scheindlin, the judge from the Southern District of New York who is hearing the suit against MLB and the NHL brought by a group of fans, has allowed the suit to advance to class action status.

The fans claim that the leagues engage in anticompetitive behavior by forcing out of market fans to purchase a high-priced complete bundle of every game except those involving their local teams, which forces those fans to also subscribe to their local regional sports network through a cable or national provider in order to be able to see their local teams, which from the plaintiffs’ view must be the worst of both worlds.  This circumstance mainly hurts the fan choosing to see their baseball on MLB.TV who, unless they are smart cookies, may never be able to see their local team on TV while they’re at home.

By allowing the suit to be heard as a class-action suit, fans can now fight the leagues in court collectively rather than on an individual basis, which makes it easier and cheaper for the plaintiffs to pursue the suit at all.  The plaintiffs are seeking lower prices for streamed games resulting from greater competition; to be able to pick and choose which out of town teams whose games they want to purchase rather than buying a bundle; and to be able to watch their local teams via streaming.

This is a fairly slow moving case that will probably take a period of time measured primarily in years to resolve, but the suit is moving apace.