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Volume 22 No. 35
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A ratings home run: Machado, Harper drive increases in local viewership

The San Diego Padres saw local ratings soar 81% in the first half of the season as people tuned in to see new addition Manny Machado.
Photo: Getty images

Neither Manny Machado nor Bryce Harper made MLB’s All-Star Game this year. But baseball’s top two free agents last year have posted All-Star caliber years when it comes to local television ratings for the first half of the season.

Machado’s San Diego Padres posted a league-high 81% ratings increase on FS San Diego despite the team’s sub-.500 record at baseball’s All-Star break. Harper’s Philadelphia Phillies saw a 20% ratings increase on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The Padres and Phillies are two of the 13 U.S.-based teams that posted RSN ratings increases in MLB’s first half of the season. Fifteen saw their RSN ratings decrease; one, the A’s, posted ratings that were flat with last season. The Toronto Blue Jays’ viewership numbers were not available.

Overall, RSN ratings were down 4% compared to last season, as some of the league’s biggest markets saw significant drops. Texas Rangers games on FS Southwest and San Francisco Giants games on NBC Sports Bay Area both dropped 31% so far this season. Rangers ratings have fallen a substantial 76% since 2012, a season that followed back-to-back American League championships.

Two of baseball’s stalwart franchises — the Yankees and Red Sox — also had a rough first half ratings-wise. Even with one of MLB’s best records, Yankees games on YES Network are surprisingly down 26% this season. The Red Sox, with lackluster play all season after last year’s World Series title, have seen ratings drop 14% on NESN. 

MLB’s RSN ratings performance mirrors the ratings from national networks, where ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” and Fox are essentially flat and FS1 is down 17%.

The Milwaukee Brewers are on their way to a third consecutive season of higher local ratings.
Photo: Getty images

ESPN is averaging 1.55 million viewers for “Sunday Night Baseball,” on par with the 1.56 million viewers at the same point last season. ESPN has three more of the highly rated Yankees-Red Sox matchups coming later this season. Last season, it had only one of those matchups left at this point. 

Fox is averaging 2.5 million viewers for MLB telecasts on the broadcast network, also on par with last year’s 2.49 million viewers. MLB games on FS1 are down 17%, averaging 347,000 viewers to date. The main reason for the downturn: Only three of 22 games on FS1 have been exclusive to the cable network so far this season. Last year at this point, 15 of 24 were exclusive.

Locally, Milwaukee is proving to be a good television market for MLB. A year after posting a 37% increase, Brewers games on FS Wisconsin are up an additional 23% this season. The Brewers’ 6.34 RSN rating is the highest in baseball at the break.

The Twins’ fast start has translated into good local ratings. The team’s games on FS North are up 41%, the best since 2011.

The most surprising ratings are in markets where teams aren’t performing well. The White Sox are well below .500, but their games on NBC Sports Chicago are up 41%. The Reds also are well below .500, but their games on FS Ohio are up 31%.

In Baltimore, the Orioles are on pace to lose 113 games. But the team’s ratings on MASN are only down 3%.

A few miles south on I-95, the Nationals are battling for a playoff spot, but their games on MASN are down 16%. The good news: Ratings grew 7% from May to June and more than 10% over the last 10 games headed into the All-Star break, suggesting that fans are starting to re-engage as the team heats up. 

First Look podcast, with MLB ratings discussion at the 14:30 mark: