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Volume 21 No. 43
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Playoff contenders pack top of RSN ratings list

Somewhere, likely in Milwaukee, Bud Selig is smiling. The former commissioner’s once-panned idea of the wild card playoff has resulted in a beautiful amount of chaos this September that is driving local TV ratings.

With a week left in the season, 11 of MLB’s 12 strongest local TV ratings this season came from teams that played meaningful games in September (the below-.500 Pirates are the only anomaly). Of course, league, team and media executives see those big ratings as being especially good for business, as they result in higher ad rates and, ultimately, bigger rights fees for the teams. (See chart highlights below this story)

Missouri is poised to remain baseball’s biggest market from a local TV standpoint. The state’s two MLB teams sit atop the league’s local TV ratings for a second consecutive year.

Both the Royals and Cardinals ratings are down by double digits this season, but they still were far ahead of the third-place Tigers. The defending World Series champion Royals posted an 11.10 local rating on FS Kansas City through Sept. 23, a number that is down 10 percent from the previous season’s 12.31 (which was up a whopping 90 percent over 2014). Meanwhile, Cardinals games on FS Midwest dropped 19 percent from last year to an 8.15 rating. This season will mark the 17th consecutive year the Cardinals local ratings have ranked among the league’s top three.

With the Mets contending all season, their games on SportsNet New York averaged the league’s biggest total audience of 199,000 viewers.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Our research director, David Broughton, reviewed data from all 29 U.S. based MLB teams. Overall, 15 of the clubs showed local rating increases from last season; 14 were down. The Blue Jays in the Toronto market were not included.

The league’s biggest local TV story was in the country’s biggest media market, where Mets games on SportsNet New York brought in bigger audiences than Yankee games on YES Network for the first time in the history of those two networks. With the Mets in contention all season, their games on SNY averaged the league’s biggest total audience of 199,000 viewers (up 3 percent). The Yankees, who stayed competitive in September after trading many of their best players midseason, averaged 172,000 viewers on YES Network (down 16 percent).

The last time the Mets out-rated the Yankees in New York was in 2002, when MSG Network carried most of both teams’ games.

“Television viewership is just one of the measurements we can point to as evidence of Mets fans, and New York sports fans in general, embracing this team,” said SNY President Steve Raab. “It is an exciting time to be a Mets fan and we hope to see it continue for many years to come.”

Another good news story is in Cleveland, where the Indians have posted the league’s biggest rating increase this season. Indians games on SportsTime Ohio are up 62 percent during the season that saw the Tribe make the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Cleveland has not won a playoff game since 2007 and famously has not won the World Series since 1948.

Baseball’s other big sporting jinx — the Cubs — parlayed the league’s best record into the second-biggest local TV rating increase. Cubs games on CSN Chicago are up 41 percent this season to a 4.53 rating. The team’s average viewership of 157,000 viewers per game is the league’s third biggest.

In Baltimore, the Orioles have been among the AL East leaders all season and the team has posted its highest local TV rating since 1997.

MLB’s California teams are at the other end of the spectrum, with the A’s, Angels and Dodgers accounting for three of the league’s five lowest ratings. Meanwhile, Padres games on FS San Diego registered MLB’s biggest decline this season, dropping 39 percent to a 2.40. The team has been one of the NL West’s bottom-dwellers for most of the season.

Still, the news is not all bad for the Dodgers, who have not been able to convince most cable and satellite operators to carry the team’s SportsNet LA RSN. In Vin Scully’s final year as the Dodgers’ broadcaster, the team’s games registered a 23 percent jump from last year to a 1.18 rating.

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

MLB Teams' RSN Ratings

AVERAGE RATING

TOP 5
TEAM RSN AVG. RATING (CHANGE*)
Kansas City Royals FS Kansas City 11.10 (-10%)
St. Louis Cardinals FS Midwest 8.15 (-19%)
Detroit Tigers FS Detroit 7.02 (+11%)
Baltimore Orioles MASN 6.78 (+27%)
Pittsburgh Pirates Root Sports Pittsburgh 6.61 (-21%)
BOTTOM 5
TEAM RSN AVG. RATING (CHANGE*)
Los Angeles Dodgers SportsNet LA 1.18 (+23%)
Atlanta Braves FS South/FS Southeast 1.18 (-35%)
Los Angeles Angels FS West 1.04 (-27%)
Chicago White Sox CSN Chicago 0.96 (+17%)
Oakland A's CSN California 0.68 (-28%)

AVG. RATING CHANGE

TOP 5
TEAM RSN CHANGE* (AVG. RATING)
Cleveland Indians SportsTime Ohio +62% (6.46)
Chicago Cubs CSN Chicago +41% (4.53)
Colorado Rockies ROOT Rocky Mountain +31% (2.76)
Texas Rangers FS Southwest +30% (3.60)
Baltimore Orioles MASN +27% (6.78)
Bottom 5
TEAM RSN CHANGE* (AVG. RATING)
Oakland A's CSN California -28% (0.68)
Tampa Bay Rays Sun Sports -29% (2.83)
Atlanta Braves FS South/FS Southeast -35% (1.18)
Arizona Diamondbacks FS Arizona -37% (2.28)
San Diego Padres FS San Diego -39% (2.40)

* Compared to same time period in 2015   Note: Toronto Blue Jays ratings were not available
Source: SportsBusiness Journal analysis of Nielsen data