SBJ/20091012/This Week's News

Lack of races chases baseball TV ratings down

Baseball’s national networks felt the effects of a baseball season with only one significant pennant race and a dearth of compelling story lines, as Fox and ESPN saw their ratings decline.

Fox saw its Saturday afternoon numbers drop 10 percent to a 1.8 rating/2.74 million viewers. Fox ended its regular season Oct. 2 with a 1.2/1.7 million average for a Saturday afternoon schedule that had just one game with postseason implications. That’s 48 percent off 2008’s numbers, when the last weekend of the regular season featured three games that had playoff implications for Fox, drawing a 2.3 rating.

Local MLB ratings by RSN
RSN Team 2009 rating (change from 2008) 2009 HHs (change from 2008)
NESN Red Sox
9.46 (-7.1%)
228,000 (-6.6%)
FS Midwest Cardinals
7.97 (1.0%)
100,000 (2.0%)
CSN Philadelphia Phillies
7.13 (24.0%)
210,000 (24.3%)
FS Detroit Tigers
6.89 (10.1%)
133,000 (9.9%)
FS North Twins
6.25 (-16.4%)
108,000 (-15.6%)
FS Wisconsin Brewers
6.16 (-17.1%)
56,000 (-15.2%)
FSN Northwest Mariners
5.20 (25.3%)
95,000 (28.4%)
YES Yankees
4.66 (10.7%)
346,000 (11.3%)
CSN Chicago Cubs
4.16 (-16.3%)
145,000 (-15.7%)
FSN Rocky Mountain Rockies
4.12 (25.6%)
63,000 (31.3%)
FS Ohio Reds
3.81 (-23.0%)
35,000 (-22.2%)
Cox/SD4 Padres
3.80 (-9.7%)
41,000 (-6.8%)
SUN Sports Rays
3.54 (NA)
65,000 (NA)
FS South Braves
3.52 (35.4%)
83,000 (38.3%)
SportSouth Braves
3.42 (34.6%)
81,000 (37.3%)
FS Florida Marlins
3.33 (-8.5%)
52,000 (-7.1%)
FS Arizona Diamondbacks
3.32 (-19.0%)
62,000 (-16.2%)
CSN Bay Area Giants
3.27 (39.1%)
81,000 (42.1%)
FSN Pittsburgh Pirates
3.25 (18.2%)
38,000 (18.8%)
SunSports Marlins
3.23 (-12.9%)
50,000 (-12.3%)
FS Florida Rays
3.13 (-9.8%)
57,000 (-8.1%)
FS Kansas City Royals
3.09 (8.0%)
29,000 (7.4%)
MASN/MASN2 Orioles
2.90 (9.8%)
32,000 (10.3%)
FS Houston Astros
2.90 (-5.8%)
61,000 (-3.2%)
SportsTime Ohio Indians
2.84 (-27.4%)
43,000 (-28.3%)
SportsNet New York Mets
2.69 (-17.2%)
200,000 (-16.7%)
FS Southwest Rangers
2.54 (57.8%)
63,000 (61.5%)
CSN Chicago White Sox
2.28 (8.1%)
80,000 (9.6%)
FS Prime Ticket Dodgers
2.15 (12.0%)
122,000 (13.0%)
FS West Angels
1.22 (-10.3%)
69,000 (-10.4%)
CSN California A’s
0.82 (-52.6%)
20,000 (-52.4%)
MASN/MASN2 Nationals
0.60 (66.7%)
14,000 (75.0%)

Note: Comparable data for the Blue Jays was unavailable.

Source: SportsBusiness Journal analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. (both charts)

ESPN saw ratings for its franchise series, “Sunday Night Baseball,” drop 6 percent, to a 1.6 U.S. household rating, or 2.46 million viewers.

ESPN blamed scheduling problems for the drop. A typically highly rated Yankees-Red Sox game was moved out of prime time to 2 p.m. ET on Sept. 27 because of a conflict with Yom Kippur. That game had a 1.1 rating/1.6 million viewers. The other three Sunday night Red Sox-Yankee games averaged a 3.0/4.63 million viewers.

Overall, ESPN’s baseball game ratings dropped 8 percent over 66 games, to a 1.1/1.6 million viewers.

Turner was the sole national network to see an increase. Its rating rose slightly, to a 0.6 U.S. household rating from a 0.5. Its viewer numbers jumped 27 percent, from 730,000 to 930,000.

On the local level, exactly half of the teams saw ratings increase. As in past years, teams that performed well on the field also performed well with their ratings. Six of this year’s nine playoff teams, counting the Detroit Tigers (who lost to the Twins in a one-game playoff), saw ratings increases.

Perhaps the biggest success story came in Philadelphia, where Phillies games on CSN Philly posted a 24 percent ratings increase, the team’s seventh consecutive season with an increase. The 7.13 rating and 210,000 average homes both are records.

The Nationals were the biggest gainer, posting a 67 percent increase from last year, even though the team had the worst record in baseball. But MASN’s Nats telecasts remained dead last of all MLB teams in both ratings (0.60) and households (14,000).

Highs and lows
Biggest ratings % increase
(network)
  Biggest ratings % decrease
(nework)
Nationals +67%
(MASN)
A’s -53%
(CSN California)
Rangers +58%
(FS Southwest)
Indians -27%
(SportsTime Ohio)
Giants +39%
(CSN Bay Area)
Reds -23%
(FS Ohio)
Braves +35%
(FS South; SportSouth)
D-Backs -19%
(FS Arizona)
Rockies +26%
(FS Rocky)
Brewers -17%
(FS Wisconsin)
Highest rating   Lowest rating
Red Sox
9.46
Nationals
0.6
Cardinals
7.97
A’s
0.82
Phillies
7.13
Angels
1.22
Tigers
6.89
Dodgers
2.15
Twins
6.25
White Sox
2.28
Biggest audience   Lowest audience
Yankees
346,000
Nationals
14,000
Red Sox
228,000
A’s
20,000
Phillies
210,000
Royals
29,000
Mets
200,000
Orioles
32,000
Cubs
145,000
Reds
35,000

Fox Sports found success with both the Rangers (up 58 percent on FS Southwest) and Braves (up 35 percent on both FS South and SportSouth). Executives for both RSNs credited the teams’ play as the main reason for the increase.

“When the Braves became a serious contender after the All-Star break, we saw a corresponding rise in ratings,” said Jeff Genthner, general manager of FS South and SportSouth.

On the other side of the coin, the A’s saw ratings drop 53 percent to a 0.82/20,000 homes during their first season on CSN California. In previous years, A’s games were on CSN Bay Area.

But CSN executives dismissed suggestions that the move hurt ratings, pointing to the NHL Sharks’ ratings through their first two games this year, which are more than double last year’s pace for the first two games (1.4/36,000 homes vs. 0.6/15,000 homes).

RSNs with the six biggest decreases all carried teams that were below .500 (the A’s, Indians, Reds, Diamondbacks, Mets and Brewers).

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