SBJ/July 18-24, 2016/Media

Royals, Cards lead RSN ratings at the break

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The Show Me State continues to show the way among MLB teams and regional sports network ratings.

No surprise that the defending World Series champions continue to be a big television draw.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The Kansas City Royals (FS Kansas City) and St. Louis Cardinals (FS Midwest) had the highest average ratings for their local game broadcasts at the all-star break this year. That follows the teams ending the 2015 season atop the RSN ratings leaderboard across MLB.

The Royals’ league-high 12.23 average rating is particularly impressive, up 2 percent from midseason last year even though the defending World Series champions were only two games over .500 on the field at the break. Last year, the Royals ended their championship season with a 12.33 average regular-season rating on FS Kansas City, marking the league’s highest local average rating since 2002.

The Cardinals’ average rating is down 13 percent compared with midseason last year, but that 8.05 rating is still the league’s second-highest mark.

SportsBusiness Journal reviewed data from all 30 MLB teams. At the season’s midpoint, exactly half the league (15 teams) had seen a local ratings increase. Not surprisingly, the teams with the best win-loss records were the ones posting the biggest increases on TV.

The Chicago Cubs, with MLB’s second-best record going into the break, were averaging a 4.26 rating on CSN Chicago, marking the team’s best first-half rating since a 4.45 average in 2009. Another good-news story is north of the border, where the Toronto Blue Jays headed into the break with the team’s best first-half record on the field since 1992 (51-40), and the team’s average audience of 825,000 viewers on Sportsnet marked a record-high through the first half. That viewer figure was up 51 percent from the same point last season.

There is no overarching theme for teams with RSNs embroiled in carriage fights. Comcast dropped YES Network before the season; not surprisingly, New York Yankees ratings have slipped — to a 2.29 average rating, down 10 percent from last season. But across the country, while SportsNet LA still cannot cut carriage deals with most Southern California distributors, ratings for its Los Angeles Dodgers games were averaging a 1.19 rating at the break — up 49 percent from last season, tied for MLB’s biggest jump with the Houston Astros, who had their own share of carriage problems in previous seasons.

Root Sports Southwest’s Astros telecasts are averaging a 2.66 rating. That’s almost seven times higher than 2014, when the team’s games were on CSN Houston, which had limited distribution in the market and resulted in the Astros being the lowest-rated MLB team for three consecutive seasons (2012-14).

Local ratings have proved to be especially impressive in prime time, where 22 of the 29 U.S.-based teams have seen their game broadcasts become the highest-rated prime-time programs on cable in their local markets. For 10 of those teams, their games at the break were the highest-rated prime-time programs in their local markets across all TV, cable or broadcast.

On the low end of the viewership spectrum, the San Diego Padres, host of last week’s MLB All-Star Game, have seen a 37 percent drop in their average rating compared to the first half of 2015, posting a 2.86 rating on FS San Diego. That’s the sharpest drop across the league.

In addition, seven teams — the Yankees, Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Oakland and Tampa Bay — are looking this year at their lowest midseason average ratings since at least 2008. In fact, the Yankees, Braves and Brewers have seen declines of more than 50 percent compared with their midseason marks in 2009.

MLB Team RSN Ratings

AVG. RATING

TOP 5
TEAM RSN AVG. RATING (CHANGE*)
Kansas City Royals FS Kansas City 12.23 (+2%)
St. Louis Cardinals FS Midwest 8.05 (-13%)
Baltimore Orioles MASN/MASN2 7.16 (+27%)
Pittsburgh Pirates Root Sports Pittsburgh 7.03 (-1%)
Detroit Tigers FS Detroit 6.93 (-2%)
Bottom 5
TEAM RSN AVG. RATING (CHANGE*)
Atlanta Braves FS South/FS Southeast 1.35 (-34%)
Los Angeles Dodgers SportsNet LA 1.19 (+49%)
Chicago White Sox CSN Chicago 1.16 (+30%)
Los Angeles Angels FS West 1.10 (-19%)
Oakland A's CSN California 0.75 (-31%)

AVG. RATING CHANGE

TOP 5
TEAM RSN CHANGE* (AVG. RATING)
Houston Astros Root Sports Southwest 2.66 (+49%)
Los Angeles Dodgers SportsNet LA 1.19 (+49%)
Chicago Cubs CSN Chicago 4.26 (+45%)
Cleveland Indians SportsTime Ohio 5.87 (+42%)
Texas Rangers FS Southwest 3.60 (+36%)
Bottom 5
TEAM RSN CHANGE* (AVG. RATING)
Tampa Bay Rays Sun Sports 2.98 (-27%)
Arizona Diamondbacks FS Arizona 2.83 (-28%)
Oakland A's CSN California 0.75 (-31%)
Atlanta Braves FS South/FS Southeast 1.35 (-34%)
San Diego Padres FS San Diego 2.86 (-37%)

* Compared to midseason 2015
Source: SportsBusiness Journal analysis of Nielsen data


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