SBJ/July 11-17, 2011/Media

Troubled Mets, Dodgers take local ratings hit

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Two teams that have been in the news for the wrong reasons — the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are now in bankruptcy court, and the financially distressed New York Mets — have seen two of the biggest drops in MLB’s local TV ratings so far this season.

Both major-market teams have faced high-profile ownership controversies that appear to be affecting local viewer interest this season. Dodgers games on Prime Ticket have the third lowest local rating among all U.S. MLB teams (1.19), and Mets games on SportsNet New York have the seventh lowest mark (2.30).

But it’s the drop in ratings from last year for each team that is the most telling statistic. The Mets’ local ratings are down 29 percent from midseason last year; the Dodgers’ ratings are down 27 percent.

Only the Astros (down 34 percent on FS Houston) and Rays (down 37 percent on FS Florida and Sun Sports) have seen steeper local declines.

The Dodgers have struggled on the field this year, mired in last place in their division, and that surely has affected viewer interest. But just how far have they fallen? The team is in danger of being watched by fewer Los Angeles-area homes than Los Angeles’ second most popular NBA team. The Dodgers’ 67,000-home average is just above the 56,000
homes the Clippers averaged last season. By comparison, an average of 271,000 Los Angeles-area homes tuned in for Lakers games last season.

MLB’s local ratings — where 16 teams have dropped and 13 teams have increased — generally are trending the same as the league’s national TV ratings. Fox (1.9 rating for Saturday afternoon), ESPN (1.5 rating for “Sunday Night Baseball”) and TBS (0.4 rating for Sunday afternoons) are all flat with last year.

The St. Louis Cardinals, last year’s local ratings champion, remain on top with the highest local ratings thus far in the 2011 season, posting a 9.06 average on FS Midwest.

GETTY IMAGES (3)

* Compared to midseason ratings last year.
Note: Comparable data was not available for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Compiled by John Ourand and David Broughton
Another strong story is in Philadelphia, where Phillies games on CSN Philadelphia are making a charge for the local ratings crown, posting an 8.87 average rating, up 29 percent from last year.

The Yankees, once again, are producing the biggest overall audience, averaging 309,000 homes for each game.

Other points of interest:

The Red Sox are stopping their three-year ratings slide on NESN. Fueled by the team’s offseason acquisitions and its first-half story lines, Sox games are up 22 percent so far this season in the Boston DMA. The team’s 7.66 local rating is fourth best in MLB.

MLB’s Florida teams are having a rough TV year. While ratings for the Rays (3.46) and Marlins (2.31) are in the middle of the pack, their drops from last year are significant. The Rays are down 37 percent; the Marlins are down 26 percent.

Despite fielding its most competitive team in years, Nationals games on MASN and MASN 2 are down 24 percent, and their 28,000-home average is MLB’s lowest. Last year, ratings jumped during games when Stephen Strasburg pitched. He is injured and hasn’t played this year. MASN says the posted rating does not reflect bonus coverage on the RSN’s second channel, MASN2, after Baltimore Orioles games end. That bonus coverage would lift the Nats’ mark from a 1.17 rating to a 1.25.

Some of MLB’s small-market clubs have enjoyed strong numbers so far. Fueled by their surprising first-half on-field performance, Cleveland Indians games on SportsTime Ohio are up a whopping 80 percent, the biggest increase in baseball. Their 6.32 average rating is seventh highest in the league and highest at this point in the season in the six-year history of the team-owned network. The Pirates (up 33 percent on Root Sports Pittsburgh), the Brewers (up 32 percent on FS Wisconsin), the Royals (up 26 percent on FS Kansas City) and the Reds (up 24 percent on FS Ohio) are also doing particularly well this season.

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