SBD/October 9, 2012/Media

MLB Regular Season Sees Record-Low Viewership On Fox, TBS; ESPN Worst Since '05

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MLB this year doubled its media rights haul, however several network partners saw record-low viewership figures. Fox averaged a 1.7 rating and 2.5 million viewers for its Saturday regionalized telecasts, marking the net’s lowest MLB audience since it acquired TV rights prior to the ’96 season. Fox had been steady at a 1.8 rating and around 2.7 million viewers over the last three seasons. Hurting Fox and other national TV partners' numbers this season were a range of issues. This season marked the fifth straight summer Olympic year that Saturday baseball has declined on Fox. A lockout also pushed the NBA postseason deeper into MLB season, which impacted some MLB primetime dates. Fox also saw two key Saturday telecasts affected by rain. The July 28 telecast, which was to feature Red Sox-Yankees in most of the country, was delayed by hours and instead aired head-to-head with Olympic coverage in primetime. Additionally, the net's final Saturday telecast, which was to feature an Angels-Rangers game with playoff implications, was rained out.

UNDER THE LIGHTS: After a successful run of three primetime telecasts last season, Fox increased its slate of Saturday night games this season to eight. Those telecasts from May 19 through July 7 averaged a 2.0 rating and 3.2 million viewers, down 23% and 24%, respectively, from the net’s three primetime telecasts last season.However, Fox did perform well in primetime against other TV competitIon. The net's Saturday night telecasts outperformed entertainment programs on those nights by 17% in households and 14% among males 18-34.

FOX MLB SATURDAY REGULAR-SEASON TREND
YEAR
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
'12
1.7
2,500
'11
1.8
2,744
'10
1.8
2,700
'09
1.8
2,700
'08
2.0
2,900
'07
2.3
3,312
'06
2.4
3,348
'05
2.6
3,606
'04
2.7
3,727
'03
2.7
3,600
'02
2.5
3,445
'01
2.6
3,377
     

CABLE CARS: ESPN averaged a 1.2 U.S. rating and 1.8 million viewers for its “Sunday Night Baseball” telecasts, marking the lowest audience since '05. The figures are also down 20% and 22%, respectively, from last season. “SNB” was negatively affected by a Yankees-Red Sox rainout earlier in the season, and also saw lower numbers for that matchup later on in the season. Overall, ESPN averaged a 0.8 U.S. rating and 1.2 million viewers for telecasts which included non-exclusive Monday and Wednesday night games. Those figures were down from a 1.0 rating and 1.5 million viewers last season. Meanwhile, TBS averaged 448,000 viewers for its non-exclusive Sunday afternoon games, marking the net’s lowest audience since it began airing the games in ’08. This year’s average also is down 19% from last year. On a more positive note, MLB Network saw gains during its fourth year of airing regular-season games. The net's game telecasts, which remain blacked out in local markets, averaged 220,000 viewers this season, up 6% from 207,000 viewers last year.

MLB REGULAR-SEASON GAMES ON ESPN
YEAR
VIEWERS (000)
'12
1,156
'11
1,449
'10
1,386
'09
1,607
'08
1,693
'07
1,775
"SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL" ON ESPN
YEAR
VIEWERS (000)
'12
1,784
'11
2,294
'10
2,177
'09
2,458
'08
2,617
'07
2,752
TBS SUNDAY MLB TELECASTS
(EXCLUDES TIEBREAKERS)
YEAR
VIEWERS (000)
'12
448
'11
556
'10
557
'09
614
'08
624

BASEBALL IS TRIBAL: Sixteen clubs saw some sort of local ratings decline during the ’12 season. Eleven of those 16 clubs saw a double-digit percentage drop. The Phillies saw the league’s sharpest decline, with local ratings down 40% on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. FS San Diego averaged a 1.86 local rating during the net’s first season with TV rights to the Padres. That is down 39% from the team’s average on Cox/SD 4 last season, as nearly 40% of viewers in San Diego County were unable to get Padres' games on FS San Diego. FS Houston also saw a 35% drop for Astros games during the net’s last season televising games. The Astros will move to CSN Houston in ’13. A revival of baseball in the Beltway led to big gains for the Nationals and Orioles on MASN/MASN2. The Nationals led all clubs with ratings up 78% for games in the DC market. The Orioles saw the third-best jump (53%) for games in Baltimore. Despite missing the playoffs, the Dodgers saw big gains in the first season under Guggenheim Baseball Management. FS Prime Ticket saw a 66% uptick in L.A. for regular-season games. Several MLB teams also saw record local numbers in ’12, including the Tigers, Royals and Rangers. The Tigers took over the league lead for highest local rating, replacing the Phillies. The team averaged a  9.21 rating on FS Detroit. Last season, the Phillies topped all teams with a 9.15 rating. Meanwhile, in Canada, Sportsnet averaged its best audience ever for Blue Jays telecasts. The net's average was up 7% from last season.

BIGGEST LOCAL MLB RATINGS INCREASES
NET TEAM
'12
'11
% +/-
MASN/MASN2 Nationals
2.56
1.44
77.8%
FS Prime Ticket Dodgers
1.91
1.14
67.5%
MASN/MASN2 Orioles
4.94
3.22
53.4%
FS Southwest Rangers
5.88
3.89
51.2%
FS Detroit Tigers
9.21
6.54
40.8%
SHARPEST LOCAL MLB RATINGS DECLINES
CSN Philadelphia Phillies
5.47
9.15
-40.2%
FS San Diego Padres
1.86
3.05
-39.0%
FS Wisconsin Brewers
4.99
8.01
-37.7%
SportsTime Ohio Indians
3.88
6.21
-37.5%
FS Houston Astros
0.98
1.50
-34.7%

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