The reports talked about how ratings were up 17 percent from 2012 for the Boston-St. Louis series. Fox called it, “A Grand Slam” in a press release, and others ran with it, as if to say all is well with the game.
Well, here is the real story.
Yes, the final rating of 8.9 was up 17 percent from the 7.6 in San Francisco’s sweep over Detroit in 2012. But that series was an all-time low.
The ratings had nowhere to go but up. Not to pick on my old White Sox pal Adam Dunn, but proclaiming a 17-percent ratings increase is much like boasting about him raising his average 45 points from 2011 to 2012. Of course, he went from a horrific .159 to a bit less horrific .204.
Indeed, the recent ratings suggests, like Dunn, baseball is treading along the Mendoza Line.
Baseball now has failed to break double-digit ratings in three of the last four World Series, and it barely got there with a 10 for St. Louis’ victory in seven games over Texas in 2011.
If you’re looking for a recent comparison, go to the Yankees’ six-game triumph over Philadelphia in 2009. That series did an 11.9 rating. The 2013 Series was down 26 percent compared to that number.
And don’t give me that it was the Yankees. The Red Sox also have a massive national appeal. Heck, when they swept Colorado in 2007, the series still did a 10.6 rating; it was a huge 15.8 for their curse-breaking victory over St. Louis in 2004.
Now that 15.8, if not 10.6, seems like a pipe dream. Consider that a compelling six-gamer in 2013 featuring two of baseball’s most storied franchises failed to even pull a 9 rating. It was the fourth-lowest rating of all time.
Privately, I bet Fox and MLB executives had to be disappointed that this series didn’t do at least a 10 rating. Back in the mid-2000s, the number probably would have been closer to 15.
As I wrote earlier in the week, the erosion in the World Series ratings is a recent trend that really began in the mid-2000s. Viewers began to tune out the Fall Classic, and many of them haven’t come back.
How bad has it gotten? Take a look at this passage from Sports Media Watch:
For the fifth time in six years, the World Series was outdrawn by the NBA Finals. The Heat/Spurs series averaged a 9.7 rating and 16.2 million viewers through six games, and a 10.5 and 17.7 million for the full seven. The NBA Finals also averaged a 7.1 rating among adults 18-49.
Keep in mind, the NBA Finals are in June, when fewer people are watching TV. Long gone are the days when the NBA Finals barely registered compared to the World Series. Now it is somewhat of a benchmark.
Indeed, the bar has been lowered significantly when people are celebrating an 8.9 rating for a compelling World Series. That’s the real story here, colleagues.