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Volume 26 No. 114
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Fox Has Best MLB Regular Season Since '13; ESPN, RSNs Lower

The ’18 regular season delivered a no-decision for MLB national TV partners, as Fox and MLB Network saw gains, but ESPN and FS1 saw declines. Locally, MLB RSN ratings dropped 2%, but the games still proved to be the most popular TV programming in most markets. Fox averaged 2.23 million viewers for regionalized game windows, marking the broadcast net’s best figure since 2.4 million viewers in ’13. The figure also is up 9% from ’17. MLB Network also saw a gain in ’18, as its average of 239,000 viewers was up 4%. For MLB Network Showcase games, which often see Bob Costas calling games, the average was 370,000 viewers, up 14%. MLB Net also saw gains for all of its daily studio shows this season. “High Heat” saw the biggest gain, up 53%, while “The Rundown” rose 28%, “MLB Now” was up 18% and “MLB Central” was up 13%.

LOW IN THE ZONE: Despite two NL tiebreaker games on its schedule, ESPN was down 2% for its complete MLB slate this season. Those two tiebreaker games on Monday afternoon were among ESPN’s top three games of the season. The net’s complete average of 978,000 viewers was down from 996,000 in ’17, but up from 940,000 two seasons ago. The net’s “Sunday Night Baseball” package also was lower in ’18. FS1 this season had its lowest MLB game average since it began airing games in ’14. The average of 410,000 viewers was down 8% from 448,000 viewers in ’17. But while linear TV was a mixed bag for Fox Sports, the company saw a 60% uptick in average minute audience for MLB games on its Fox Sports Go platform.

MLB REGULAR-SEASON VIEWERSHIP TREND
SEASON
FOX (000)
ESPN (000)
FS1 (000)
MLB NET (000)
'18
2,233
978
410
239
'17
2,054
996
448
230
'16
2,094
940
447
253
'15
2,200
1,180
504
260
'14
1,900
1,129
413
225
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MLB Season Audience

IN YOUR NECK OF THE WOODS: The average rating for RSN coverage of MLB games this season was at the lowest level since ’14. There were sharp drops for teams like the Rangers, Royals, Tigers and Orioles, and those declines offset big gains for teams like the Angels, Braves, Brewers, A’s, Astros and Red Sox. The Cardinals led all teams in local rating for the first time since ’14. There have now been six different MLB teams to lead in local ratings over the past decade. Over the last 23 seasons (as far back as SBJ/SBD records go), the Mariners have led the most seasons, topping ratings on eight occasions from ’96-’18. The Red Sox led six times during that time frame, while the Cardinals have led three times.