SBD/October 24, 2012/Media

MLB Playoff Still Audience Down From '11 Despite Gains For LCS On Fox/TBS

MLB averaged a 2.8 U.S. rating and 4.4 million viewers for the 33 LCS, LDS and Wild Card matchups across TBS, TNT, Fox and MLB Network this postseason. Those figures are down 10% from a 3.1 rating and 4.9 million viewers last year, when there were no Wild Card matchups nor games on MLB Network. Despite the Tigers’ sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS and competition from two Presidential debates, this year’s LCS across Fox and TBS saw a bump in ratings and viewership. The 11 LCS telecasts this season averaged a 3.9 rating and 6.2 million viewers, up 5% and 7%, respectively, from 12 telecasts last season. However, this year’s LDS telecasts (excluding Wild Cards) saw a decline in audience despite each series going to five games for the first time. The ’12 LDS telecasts averaged a 2.2 rating and 3.3 million viewers, down 19% and 21%, respectively, from last year (19 telecasts) (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Fox’ Giants-Cardinals MLCS Game 7 drew a 27.5 local rating in S.F.-Oakland-San Jose, marking the best rating in the market for any MLB game since the Giants clinched the ’10 World Series. The series also averaged a 36.5 local rating in St. Louis, marking the best for any NLCS featuring the Cardinals since ’05 (Fox). In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes that during Game 7, “the rating for the first hour was 40.2 and a close game undoubtedly would have led that number to grow considerably.” But viewers “began switching to the presidential debate and ‘Monday Night Football’ telecasts, and the rating for the last hour of the baseball telecasts fell to 25.9” (POST-DISPATCH.com, 10/24).

FALL CLASSIC: DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine reported while the S.F.-Oakland-San Jose market ranks as Nielsen's sixth-largest TV market and Detroit is 11th, that “isn't fazing Fox, which believes player-driven storylines can trump the lack of a top-five market involved in the World Series." Fox Sports VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill said, "You don't worry about that. You just want teams that have good personalities." The Tigers come in with Triple Crown winner 3B Miguel Cabrera and “perhaps the game's finest pitcher in Justin Verlander,” while Giants C Buster Posey is among the favorites for NL MVP. The ’11 Cardinals-Rangers World Series was “one of the most dramatic in baseball history,” but the seven-game series averaged 16.6 million viewers. By comparison, the “most recent Super Bowl drew 111.3 million, the NCAA basketball championship game garnered 20.9 million and the NBA Finals scored 16.8 million.” Despite baseball's “downward trend, live sports remain a rare commodity these days, and one in which networks pay a premium.” Unlike “all other programming which can be DVR'd and discussed a week later, sports is immediate,” and for that reason, the cost of a 30-second spot on the World Series for the past seven years "has been in the $400,000 range.” The “downside to Fox hosting the World Series, of course, is that it interrupts the regularly scheduled entertainment programs that were launched or restarted in September.” Any momentum for a particular show “can be sapped by a pre-emption or two” (VARIETY.com, 10/23). In L.A., Joe Flint wrote the World Series “may have trouble scoring big audiences because of the lack of an East Coast team.” The series typically “gets its biggest ratings when either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox are representing the American League” (LATIMES.com, 10/23). Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s David Kaplan said of the World Series, “When we were kids, it was bigger than anything. The World Series is on, everybody watched.” The Chicago Tribune’s Matt Bowen: “Part of that is you have football all the time now” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 10/23).

THE ART OF COSTAS: In the first of a series about the art of broadcasting sports, SPORTS ON EARTH’s Joe Posnanski interviews NBC's Bob Costas on broadcasting baseball. Posnanski writes in addition to hosting the Olympics, Costas “interviews presidents, and he interviews heroes, and he interviews villains.” Costas “speaks directly to the nation at halftime of television's most watched show, ‘Sunday Night Football.’” But he still seems "happiest just calling a baseball game.” Costas “enjoys the preparation for a game.” He has “often talked about a dream ... of broadcasting a full season of minor league baseball somewhere.” The draw for him is “the preparation, it is getting to know all the players and the manager, it is working through the daily stats and stories, it is about immersing himself in baseball.” Costas' “overall philosophy of broadcasting” is essentially, “Don’t force it. Let the game dictate” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 10/24).
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