The answer: Kansas City-Philadelphia for Game 6 of the 1980 World Series. The Phillies victory over the Royals did a 40 rating with a 60 share.
Let me repeat that again: a 40 rating and 60 share are Super Bowl-like numbers.
Yes, the small-market Royals participated in the most-watched Series game of all time.
The television universe was much smaller back then, but still 54.9 million viewers tuned in to a World Series game on NBC. Overall, that Series averaged a 32.8 rating and 56 share. Fox would do handsprings if the current Series did one-third of those numbers.
Back then, nobody focused on Kansas City being a small-market team, ranking 31st overall. That’s the common narrative today.
In 1980, sports fans watched the World Series because it was the World Series. It didn’t matter who was playing.
In fact, the fourth highest-rated game on the list was Game 7 of the Milwaukee-St. Louis series in 1982, which was seen by 49.9 million viewers. At last check, Milwaukee and St. Louis counted as small-market teams.
Obviously, the sports TV landscape has changed considerably since the ’80s. You know the speech about more choices.
Market size does matter to some degree. However, there’s much more involved.
The comparison is another illustration of how the World Series has slipped as a must-watch event in today’s sports landscape. Back then, you didn’t need the Yankees or Dodgers to carry the day in the Fall Classic. The 31st market Royals did just fine.