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Volume 23 No. 8
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Indians claim a rare ratings win

First Look podcast, with MLB postseason discussion beginning at the 16:40 mark:

Spurred by a 22-game winning streak from late August through early September that captivated the city of Cleveland, the defending American League champion Indians finished the regular season with MLB’s highest local TV rating.

This marks the first time the Indians have led the league in local TV ratings in at least 15 years, which is as far back as SportsBusiness Journal records go.

Indians games on SportsTime Ohio averaged an 8.33 rating, up 28 percent from last season. The Tribe, which won the AL Central Division this season, toppled the Royals and the Cardinals — the two Missouri-based teams that have been atop the local TV ratings list for the past two years.

SportsBusiness Journal reviewed data from all 30 MLB teams for the entire season.

Overall, 18 of the 30 MLB teams showed decreases. Collectively, the 29 U.S.-based teams were down 4 percent this season (an average of 2.91). In Toronto, Blue Jays games averaged 722,400 viewers on Rogers SportsNet, down 28 percent from a team-record 1.01 million in 2016.

Fox’s 15 regional sports networks posted a 5 percent ratings gain for MLB games compared to last season, with an average 3.25 rating. All the other RSN groups showed decreases. NBC Sports Group’s six RSNs that have baseball saw game ratings drop 15 percent collectively, AT&T SportsNet/Root’s four RSNs with baseball were down 9 percent, and the four teams on independent RSNs were down 4 percent.

Nationally, MLB showed a slight uptick this season, led by ESPN where ratings for MLB games were up 6 percent. That increase primarily was fueled by “Sunday Night Baseball,” which was up 8 percent to an average of 1.7 million viewers. Fox was down 2 percent to 2.1 million viewers, and FS1 was basically flat at 448,000 viewers.

RSNs that carried MLB games were the most-watched prime-time channel — broadcast or cable — in 12 markets. Another eight RSNs that carry MLB games ranked in the top three of their markets in prime time.

Typically, teams that make the playoffs post the biggest ratings. But this year, five of the seven biggest ratings involved teams that did not make the playoffs (the Royals, Cardinals, Orioles, Pirates and Tigers). The Tigers’ 4.48 rating on FS Detroit is the team’s lowest since 2005. The team’s ratings are down a whopping 61 percent since it led the league in 2013.

There is some good news in Los Angeles and Houston, where the Dodgers posted their highest rating since 2012 (a 1.55 on SportsNet LA) and the Astros had their highest since 2008 (a 2.89 on AT&T Houston).

And in D.C., the Nationals posted their highest TV ratings since the team moved to Washington in 2005. Nationals games on MASN averaged a 2.91, which is up 8 percent from last season.