SBD/October 26, 2011/Media

World Series Producing Drama On The Field, But Not The Ratings MLB, Fox Would Like

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig says he is satisfied with World Series ratings to date
The Rangers-Cardinals World Series is "producing the best Fall Classic drama since at least" '02, but the question is why there "aren't more folks watching," according to a sports section cover story by Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Outside of the home markets of St. Louis and Dallas/Ft. Worth, there "has been precious little interest." None of Fox' broadcasts "has drawn better than a 9.2 rating, the second lowest since the Nielsen ratings started trafficking 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." Selig said, "The people who count are the ones who are bidding for the rights. And we've never had so much competition for our next postseason television contract. Yes, I've talked a lot about postseason ratings, and I understand the concern. But I'm satisfied with where we are." Nightengale reports MLB "scored a modest victory by trumping the NFL head-to-head in ratings Sunday and Monday night." Cardinals P Chris Carpenter said, "We need to get people interested outside our own markets, but I'm not sure how we do that." Fox Sports Media Group Vice Chair Ed Goren indicated that it is unfair to "compare any TV ratings now to the days of Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola Sr. on the air-waves, when viewing options consisted of a handful of black-and-white channels." Meanwhile, Rangers P C.J. Wilson said, "The Nielsen TV ratings are completely garbage. It's a very unscientific representation of a true audience of any show, let alone a sports event" (USA TODAY, 10/26).

DIAMOND TOPS GRIDIRON: Fox finished with an 8.8 rating and 14.3 million viewers for Monday night’s Cardinals-Rangers Game Five, giving the World Series back-to-back ratings wins over the NFL’s Week Seven primetime games. The 8.8 rating for the game is flat compared to the net’s series-clinching Giants-Rangers Game Five last year, while the 14.3 million viewers tuning in were down 4%. Although ABC won Monday night overall powered by its “Dancing With The Stars” broadcast, Fox did take home a win among adults 18-34. Through five games, Fox’ average of an 8.3 rating and 13.7 million viewers is down only slightly from an 8.4 rating and 14.3 million viewers for last year’s five-game series (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Three of the first four World Series games "finished among the 10 most popular programs for the week," and Fox has "moved ahead of CBS for the season in the 18-49-year-old demographic it targets" (AP, 10/25).

NEW TREND FOR MLB?
USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes while the Rangers and Cardinals series "likely won't set a new low for World Series ratings," it presents "more evidence of Major League Baseball's new normal." Hiestand: "Every year the World Series has a chance of setting new ratings lows." With Rangers-Cardinals lasting at least six games, Fox "is likely to avoid the all-time Series ratings lows." And the World Series "still usually wins its night in TV," though it lost Monday to ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." MLB can at least "gloat over shellacking the NFL in prime time Sunday and Monday" (USA TODAY, 10/26). In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes, "One of the biggest Cardinals fans -- at least for one game" will be Goren, as a win in tonight's scheduled game "would mean a Game 7 -- and a probable ratings bonanza for his company." Goren said, "More important than where the games are being played is how many games will be played. The longer it goes, the higher our ratings" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/26).

WHO CARES ABOUT RATINGS? YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan asks, "Why does anybody aside from Rupert Murdoch and his minions at Fox give a thousandth of a whoop about how many people watch the games?" MLB needs to "stop apologizing for its poor TV ratings," as they are the "furthest thing from an indictment on the game and where it has moved in today’s sporting world." MLB’s "quiet evolution into a parochial sport -- one that thrives off the popularity of teams locally instead of capturing the entire country’s attention come October -- gives it the capital to break its slavery to national ratings." Live sports remain a "treasure chest for networks" and the World Series "is a sporting jewel and will be until the audience dwindles to nothing." Passan: "This should be about the product, not about how many people saw it" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/26). CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto wrote this year's World Series is "in many ways the most fascinating World Series in 20 years between two teams who represented ratings death when the games began." This is why you "don't sweat out TV ratings or marketing opportunities." Ratto: "Take the pageant for what it is, and enjoy it" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/25).
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