SBD/Issue 20/Sports Media

MLB Regular Season: Fox Saturdays Flat; ESPN, TBS Audience Down

Fox averaged a 1.8 final Nielsen rating and 2.7 million viewers for its Saturday MLB telecasts this season, flat with last year's record-low figures. Ratings and viewership had declined the previous five seasons for Fox' regular-season package. The net finished on a high note last Saturday, earning a 2.2 rating and 3.4 million viewers, up 83% from a 1.2 rating and 1.7 million viewers for last year's finale. Fox' primetime telecast on May 22 was the net's highest-rated and most-viewed coverage of the season with a 2.7 rating and 4.3 million viewers. Among afternoon telecasts, coverage on May 8 featuring Yankees-Red Sox was tops with a 2.5 rating and 3.7 million viewers.

FOX MLB SATURDAY REGULAR-SEASON TREND
YEAR
GMS
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
'10
26
1.8
2,700
'09
26
1.8
2,700
'08
26
2.0
2,900
'07
26
2.3
3,312
'06
18
2.4
3,348
'05
18
2.6
3,606
'04
19
2.7
3,727
'03
18
2.7
3,600
'02
18
2.5
3,445
'01
18
2.6
3,377

BRISTOL BALL: ESPN averaged a 1.4 U.S. rating and 2.2 million viewers for its 24 "Sunday Night Baseball" telecasts this season, down 13% and 12%, respectively, from a 1.6 rating and 2.5 million viewers for the net's 23 telecasts last season. The net's Red Sox-Yankees telecast on August 8 was the highest-rated and most-viewed "SNB" with a 2.3 U.S. rating and 3.5 million viewers. ESPN averaged a 1.0 U.S. rating and 1.4 million viewer for 66 MLB telecasts this season, including non-exclusive Monday and Wednesday telecasts. That is down from a 1.1 rating and 1.6 million viewers last season.

MLB REGULAR-SEASON GAMES ON ESPN
YEAR
GAMES
VIEWERS (000)
'10
66
1,386
'09
66
1,607
'08
63
1,693
'07
64
1,775
"SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL" ON ESPN
YEAR
GAMES
VIEWERS (000)
'10
24
2,177
'09
23
2,458
'08
24
2,617
'07
23
2,752

FUNNY BUSINESS: TBS averaged a 0.4 U.S. rating and 557,000 viewers for 26 telecasts during the third season of its non-exclusive Sunday afternoon MLB telecasts, even in ratings but down 11% in viewership from last season. That does not include the '09 Twins-Tigers AL Central tiebreaker. The net's first season of telecasts in '08 averaged 0.5 U.S. rating and 624,000 viewers, excluding that season's White Sox-Twins AL Central tiebreaker. None of the net's telecasts this season topped the 1 million viewer mark despite the net airing 12 Yankees games. Just one regular-season, non-tiebreaker telecast on TBS has topped 1 million viewers in the three years -- an Indians-Yankees game from April 19, 2009.

TBS SUNDAY MLB TELECASTS TREND (EXCLUDES TIEBREAKERS)
YEAR
TELECASTS
VIEWERS (000)
'10
26
557
'09
27
614
'08
25
624

STRASMAS PRESENT: Nationals P Stephen Strasburg's MLB debut on June 8 marked MLB Network's highest-rated and most-viewed game this season, the first year that the net was rated by Nielsen. MLB Network from April to September saw a 51% increase in average primetime viewers, with August marking the best two months in the net's history with an average of 150,000 viewers. Weeknight games from August 2-6 also marked the net's most-viewed week ever with 220,000 primetime viewers per night. MLB Network saw spikes in its audience when it cut to major performances, including 300% bumps for the finishes of perfect games by A's P Dallas Braden on May 9 and Phillies P Roy Halladay on May 30. The net also saw a 330% increase in audience when it cut to Tigers P Armando Galarraga's near-perfect game on June 2.

MLB NETWORK PRIMETIME AVG. VIEWERSHIP DURING '10 MLB SEASON
MONTH
VIEWERS (000)
April
97
May
89
June
107
July
131
August
150
September
148

AND NOW YOUR LOCAL NEWS: FS Midwest topped all MLB RSNs this season with a 9.5 local rating for its Cardinals game telecasts, up from a 7.97 rating last year. The A's had the lowest local average rating with a 1.16 on Comcast SportsNet California, which was actually up from a 0.82 rating on the net last year. The Nationals saw the biggest percentage increase among all MLB teams, up 136% for its telecasts on MASN/MASN2. The Reds (+95%) on FS Ohio and Rays (+77%) on FS Florida/Sun Sports also saw significant bumps in TV numbers on their way to their respective division titles. The Cubs saw the sharpest drop among MLB clubs, down 39% on CSN Chicago. The Red Sox were not far behind, down 38% for games on NESN (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

TOP MLB RSN REGULAR-SEASON RATINGS
NET
TEAM
'10 AVG.
PREV.
% +/-
FS Midwest
Cardinals
9.50
7.97
19.2%
FS North
Twins
8.77
6.25
40.3%
CSN Philadelphia Phillies
8.30
7.13
16.4%

PENNANT FEVER: CSN Bay Area averaged an 11.83 local rating and over 300,710 HHs for its telecast of the Oct. 3 Padres-Giants game, during which the Giants clinched the NL West. The game is the net's highest-rated Giants game ever, besting the Oct. 1 game against the Padres, which averaged a 10.55 rating. Twenty of the 24 Giants games that aired on the net beginning on September 1 were the highest-rated program for the day (CSN)....In California, John Maffei notes Channel 4 San Diego averaged a 5.4 local rating for its Padres telecasts this season, up 42% from last year, and averaged a 6.6 for its primetime Padres broadcasts, up 57%. Each ratings point "represents about 11,000 viewers." Channel 4 averaged a 9.4 rating for the Oct. 1 Padres-Giants game, with the postgame show "posting a solid 2.5." KSWB-Fox averaged a 7.7 for the Oct. 2 Padres-Giants game, while the Oct. 3 game, which aired on Channel 4 -- "without the conflict of a blacked-out Chargers game -- did a 10.3 rating" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 10/8).

RATINGS ROUNDUP: CSN Philadelphia averaged an 8.3 local rating (247,000 HHs) for its Phillies game telecasts this season, up 16% from a 7.14 rating last year (CSN)....FS Ohio officials said the '10 season was the "highest-rated Reds season" ever for the RSN. The Reds ratings "could be one reason the Bengals' TV audience is down 1.5 ratings points -- or 4 percent -- after four games this season," as "three times the Bengals aired head-to-head with Reds' pennant race games" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 10/7)....MASN averaged a 1.4 local rating (33,000 HHs) in the DC market for its Nationals telecasts this season, up 100% from a 0.7 last season. The net averaged a 0.4 rating in the Baltimore market for the telecasts, even with '09. Meanwhile, MASN averaged a 3.3 local rating in Baltimore for its Orioles telecasts, up 10% from a 3.0 in '09. Orioles telecasts averaged a 0.7 rating in DC, even with '09 (MASN)....FS Wisconsin averaged a 4.9 local rating for 136 Brewers game telecasts, down 19% from a 6.1 last season. WMLW-IND averaged a 4.4 rating for 16 telecasts (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 10/8).

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