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Volume 25 No. 48
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MLB TV Partners See Mixed Regular-Season Results During First Year Of New Deal

MLB during the ’14 regular season began a new TV rights agreement with ESPN, Fox Sports and TBS, and results among the TV partners were mixed. ESPN, which airs games on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday as part of its deal, finished the season with an average of 1.129 million viewers for its telecasts, marking the cable net’s second straight season of growth. ESPN was up 3.5% from 1.091 million viewers last season, when its Monday and Wednesday broadcasts were blacked out locally. This year’s average also is up 11% from 1.018 million viewers in ’12. Despite the uptick overall, ESPN’s signature “Sunday Night Baseball” series saw a decline in ’14. “SNB" averaged 1.808 million viewers in ‘14, down 2% from 1.85 million viewers last season. Yankees-Red Sox, long considered the marquee matchup for MLB on TV, averaged 2.53 million viewers this season on three “SNB” telecasts. That figure is up from 2.51 million viewers last year (four games) and 2.50 million in ’12 (three games). However, the audience for the AL East rivalry in ’14 is still well below the 4.24 million viewers in ’11 (three games).

ESPN'S REGULAR-SEASON MLB TELECASTS
SEASON
AVG. VIEWERS
FOR ALL GAMES (000)
AVG. VIEWERS
FOR "SNB" TELECASTS (000)
'14
1,129
1,808
'13
1,091
1,850
'12
1,018
1,784
'11
1,449
2,294
'10
1,386
2,177
'09
1,607
2,458
'08
1,693
2,617
'07
1,775
2,752
     

WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? FS1 aired MLB games for the first time in ’14, and the cable net averaged 413,000 viewers. FS1’s top draw this season was 668,000 viewers for Angels-Tigers on April 19 despite the net having two Yankees-Red Sox telecasts. FS1’s primetime average was slightly lower, with the net averaging 395,000 viewers for those telecasts. Fox’ broadcast TV channel had a reduced schedule in ’14 under the new TV deal. The net had come off two straight seasons of record low regular-season viewership. Fox’ slate began with primetime telecasts in late May, with those night games running through mid-July, drawing an average of 2.14 million viewers. That primetime game average viewership was down from 2.95 million viewers last year and 3.15 million viewers in ’12. Figures for Fox’ full lineup of games was not available at presstime.

ALL BASEBALL, ALL THE TIME: The league-owned MLB Network finished ’14 with an average of 225,000 viewers for its regular-season games, down 5% from last year. Part of the reason for the drop can attributed to a higher percentage of MLB Net’s games airing during the afternoon and after 10:00pm ET. Games falling into those categories accounted for 60% of the net’s schedule compared to just 37% last season. MLB Net averaged 279,000 viewers for its games in primetime in ’14, up 6% from last year and the fifth straight season of primetime gains. The net ended the regular season on a high note, drawing its best regular-season audience ever. Last Thursday's Orioles-Yankees game, Derek Jeter’s final home game, averaged 837,000 viewers. MLB Net also saw a record average viewership for its “MLB Tonight” studio show in ’14, drawing 140,000 viewers. Meanwhile, TBS averaged 309,000 viewers for its 13 Sunday afternoon MLB games, which are non-exclusve. That figure is down from 375,000 last year.