Keeping Score

Why More Fans Aren’t Watching the World Series

World Series ratings are up and winning prime time. But they're still near all-time lows

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Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Cacky Mellor sprinkles glitter on the World Series logo at Fenway Park in Boston, Oct. 22, 2013.

Tracking shrinking World Series ratings has become its own national pastime.

With two storied franchises — the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals — squaring off in this year’s Fall Classic, a ratings rebound seemed like a sure bet. After all, last year’s series, between the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers, was the lowest-rated, least-watched series ever. After the first two games of the 2013 series, which is now tied 1–1, Major League Baseball is claiming victory. World Series ratings are up 13% versus last year, MLB announced in a triumphant press release. Thanks to the World Series, FOX was the highest-rated prime time network on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

And oh yeah, the World Series is a Twitter smash. “For the second consecutive night, the World Series was also the most talked about show on Twitter by a very wide margin,” MLB wrote. “Nearly four times as many people tweeted about the World Series than anything else on television on Thursday (221,736 unique authors, +275% over the second place show, according to data from SocialGuide). Overall, they sent 451,665 total tweets, up 63% compared to the number of tweets sent during Game 2 in 2012.”

The folks over at Sports Media Watch, however, put these numbers in a broader context. The headline of one story on the site is “World Series TV Ratings: Game 2 Overnight Third-Worst Ever.” First sentence: “Even with a closer result in Game 2 [St. Louis beat Boston 4–2], the World Series continued to trend toward record lows.” Sports Media Watch points out that the 9.5 overnight rating Fox drew for Game 2 was the third-lowest ever for a World Series Game 2. The last time the Cardinals and Red Sox were in the World Series, Game 2 drew a 17.1 overnight rating on a Sunday night.

(MORE: A Hater’s Guide To The 2013 World Series)

The first two games of this year’s NBA Finals drew overnight ratings of 10.6 and 10.2, respectively, compared to baseball’s 9.4 and 9.5. There’s nothing wrong with losing out to LeBron James, but here’s something scary: the World Series couldn’t outrate Monday Night Football in the overnights. The Oct. 21 game, which pitted the  New York Giants against the Minnesota Vikings, got a 9.5 rating. And that game, an ugly 23–7 Giants win, was extremely difficult to watch. (In the final ratings, the World Series did beat Monday Night Football: Game 1 drew an 8.6 rating and 14.4 million viewers, while Giants-Vikings got an 8.4, and 13.2 million viewers.)

Baseball is not facing an economic crisis — thanks in large part to rich local television deals, the game is pretty healthy. But no matter the spin, a World Series between the Cardinals and Red Sox should not be generating near-record low numbers.  Baseball is connecting locally — it’s become America’s parochial pastime. The sport has made a conscious effort to market the game, and the teams, rather than put a disproportionate focus on the stars. But stars, and compelling characters, excite a national audience.

Beards aren’t enough.

(NOTE: Story updated to include most recent NFL and World Series ratings)

(MORE: The Story Behind The Sports Photo Of The Year)

40 comments
stholeary
stholeary

Ratings for everything are done compared to the past -- that's the nature of the world we live in. More options, different ways to watch, etc. All these ratings stories are stupid. Advertisers aren't paying for ratings compared to 2003...they are paying for ratings compared to what else is on.

And that's why sportswriters should stick to sports and not tv.

http://stholeary.blogspot.com/2013/10/baseball-is-just-about-perfect-and.html

ElvinVinicio2
ElvinVinicio2

BASEBALL IS THE MOST EXCITING AND INTERESTING GAME OF PLANET EARTH....

ElvinVinicio2
ElvinVinicio2

I THINK THAT SOME FOOTBALL GAMES ARE FIXED TO INCREASE RATINGS....

glennra3
glennra3

Baseball no longer reflects the pace of modern American life. The languid unfolding of a narrative that waits to find its story as the game builds from one inning to the next is far too slow for today's frenetic, multitasking, high sensory input world.


It is no coincidence that football, with it's herky-jerky, stop-and-go pace of violence and inactivity, has become the American pastime. It is perfectly suited for a society whose attention has been fractured into texting, talking, watching a program, listening to music, and catching the news on a scroll.


Baseball is a long, leisurely stretch that has no place in a society that has become a permanent muscle spasm. 

baumann6
baumann6

I can tell you why no one is watching the World Series.  Baseball is boring.  Just saying.

michael.f.passe
michael.f.passe

This article's headline says, "Why more fans aren't watching the World Series," but it's only stab at an answer seems to be that there aren't "stars" in this series. That seems unlikely - there are some of the biggest names in the sport in this series (David Ortiz, Carlos Beltran) and baseball fans know very well who these players are. 

There's lots of other possible reasons for the decline - sports saturation from 24-hour sports coverage means more competition from football and some sports fatigue; too much bad press about PEDs and A-Roid and such has turned some people off to baseball; the baseball audience is getting old and is dying off; the Series is only two games in and hasn't caught on in the popular zeitgeist yet; the Yankees aren't in it, so all those Yankee haters and lovers aren't interested  (and Yankees fans don't care enough to tune in in big numbers to root against the hated Red Sox); and lots of baseball fans wanted to see the controversial, exciting Dodgers, rather than the boring Cardinals, play Boston.

Still, other than advertisers and network corporate types, who really cares if the Series' market share is down, particularly if it's still, as the article says, winning its time slot? Obviously many, many people are tuning in.

tampapd19
tampapd19

I always find it amusing when people say that baseball is boring. Football is a 60-minute game that takes over 3 hours to play, and yet it's massively popular despite 2/3rds of the game consisting of people standing around. When someone says "baseball is boring," what they mean is "I don't understand it and would rather watch 3 hours of commercials interspersed with men occasionally ramming into each other."

Baseball's postseason ratings aren't great compared to the past. But they are great compared to the other programs it's actually competing with. Ratings are generally down for everything on television, including some football (there's a reason that Disney shuffled Monday Night Football over to ESPN). In the modern era of 100s of cable channels, internet entertainment, and social media, Americans don't share television events with each other the way they did when everyone got only a handful of broadcast channels, especially for an event that takes place over several nights. Only the Super Bowl can command viewer shares that approach the gaudy numbers of years past, and that is largely because it's condensed into one convenient Sunday night rather than spread across a couple of weeks (and because a lot of non-fans watch it for the commercials or the unholy halftime show).

octaviojavier4
octaviojavier4

Maybe it has to do with the fact the World Series is played during the beginning of the fall season for most new shows while the NBA finals is played during the summer and if faces almost no competition from original programming.

SmailBuzzby
SmailBuzzby

Because it is still baseball and baseball is one of the most boring things that a human being can watch?

NorthernJoe
NorthernJoe

The title of the article, "Why More Fans Aren't Watching the World Series", implies that the article will be a consideration of the reasons why fans aren't tuning into the series.  But there is absolutely no discussion of this at all in the article.  The article covers the status of the current ratings for the World Series (giving the data that indicate that viewership is low), then compares the ratings to recent NBA and NFL events, and then it moves into a summary paragraph that suggests that baseball really should be doing better.  


NOWHERE does the article begin to address the question that is posed by the title!!!!

Maybe I'm the only one, but I find misleading titles on news stories are increasingly common and deeply frustrating.  I feel like news organizations are trying to trick me into clicking on the story, because my clicks bring advertiser revenue to the news organization.  

Trouble is, if you keep misleading me, I'll click my way into someone else's news site.

brenro12
brenro12

Maybe it's a sign that the era of paying grown men 20+ million dollars a year to play with a ball is coming to an end? Nah, probably not.

MuntherHam
MuntherHam

the game is corrupted and flawed. You cant watch a game without seeing an error by an umpire missing a ball or a strike, with the entire world seeing the pitch tracker on the screen to create controversy. The refs constantly miss safe/out calls with the runners reaching base and have massive ego's when it comes to trying to reverse a call. When i look back at this past post season, I could very well see two different teams in the world series had umpire calls gone the correct way. This is probably the worst sport to watch in the modern world because of the flaws and because of the performance enhancing drugs... Fix the game already, its awful 

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

Baseball is relatively boring.  Football is too violent.  Golf is god-awful boring.  Basketball has too many idiots hanging from baskets.  Tennis is a pain in the neck to watch. NASCAR...  A bunch of (insert derogatory term of your choice here) making left hand turns and getting in accidents with a maximum of three minutes of excitement at the end of a two and a half hour race. Not to mention you pretty much know from year to year who's going to compete in the post season or win it all.

They're all too commercialized, the "color commentators" are amazingly annoying, the obsession with the background of the players you don't know about and don't really care about JUST to fill in dead space (or worse, overlaying the action), plus, you can pretty much guess the outcome by the second period (inning, quarter, round, etc.)...  Yeah, no wonder the viewership is down.

But most of the non-team-based Olympic sports are good. They're commercialized, yes, but the individual efforts generally don't last hours (Marathons?  Please, you think I watch THOSE?), the commentary is relevant (most of the time), the "hyping" (like pre-game shows and post game shows) are short or nonexistent and the audience sees something they don't usually get to see.

How about we mix it up and have the pitcher hike a basketball at 90 MPH to the quarterback who has to dribble it three times before tossing it into the air and hitting it with a tennis racket to pass it to someone who has to catch it in an over-sized mitt and run like hell while the opposing team tries to knock it out of his mitt with baseball bats and to score, has to knock the basketball into a hole in the ground using only their feet.

Call it Tennisgolffootbasketbasesoccerball, or TGFBSB.

THERE'S a sport I'd watch...

DennisScottMoore
DennisScottMoore

I was in my mid-30s before I attended my 1st game ( a double-header- SF Giants vs Astros )....and it was only because some friends needed a ride.  I'd grown up only seeing the game on TV, and it always looked boring as hell.   But EVERYTHING changed for me when I walked into that stadium.   I got 'hooked'.     On the other hand, I found football kind of exciting on television....maybe it was all the slo-mo replays.......but the 3 or 4 'live' games ( some classic Monday Night Football stuff included ) I attended.....seemed to put me to sleep.   And I'm talking 50 yard line seats, 4 rows back behind the 49ers bench.   But at the time, there was NO 'Jumbotron'.....NO replays.   Just a bunch of people too far away to read the #s on their uniforms....milling around on the field during the commercial breaks.    That was a long time ago though.     I've flipped over a couple of times to see what was going on ( during commercial breaks ) from OTHER programs I've been watching.    These aren't MY team.   The problem is probably just that there are so many other channels now.  People are fed up with cable companies & cutting the cord.     Many of us are spending more time 'online'.    I cut my cable 3 weeks ago, and only have an 'indoor' antenna now.   I'm 'lucky' to be able to get CBS & FOX ( no more NBC or ABC....) Gotta' watch most of my stuff 'online'.   Blame most of the problems on the cable companies........They're destroying television.  

zaglossus
zaglossus

A lot of people hate both of these teams. They've both won multiple championships this millennium. And their fans are obnoxious. Much more interesting would have been the Dodgers (and over-dog team that nevertheless hasn't won it in years) or revived Pirates vs. the Tigers (a proud franchise in one of America's most blighted cities) or (definitely underdog) Athletics.

RoyHeffner
RoyHeffner

I am Red Sox life time fan.  When I was a boy, BB was everything.  There was no football, basketball, et al (well there were but no one cared).  As a boy, all we did was play BB.  All summer long, like 8 hours a day.  Times are different.  Young people do not give one hoot about BB.  Soccer is played by almost every kid in America and in 25 years or so will be the biggest professional US sport.  I don't care that BB is getting low ratings (of course that's easy to say as I live in Italy and it is not available here).  OK, a comment just popped up that I am wrong as people in St. Louis care very much.  Well, lol, that kind of makes my point.  I mean, there isn't much else going on in St. Louis other than thier great BB team and org.  People don't watch the nightly news anymore, they don't watch the Today Show anymore, they don't watch Jay Leno any more.  They don't read newspapers anymore, they don't read Time.  Get over it.  It's a new age.

JoeCogan
JoeCogan

"With two storied franchises — the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals"


Whom no baseball fan outside their immediate market particularly cares about, other than animosity from Yankee and Cub fans, meaning of the three biggest markets, one team is actively disliked in two of them, and fans in LA are indifferent to a series between what they see as two East Coast teams.



Itolduso
Itolduso

Baseball does not stimulate any economy.  It only stimulates the vendors that catch the ball (money).  If people didn't spend their money on baseball they would spend it somewhere else like on hometown sports.  All big sports do is bring money to big towns robbing small referential towns of money.

john_rambo
john_rambo

Who wants to watch these two stupid teams anyway?

IlyaKralinsky
IlyaKralinsky

At the risk of reading as dramatic, I want to remind those wringing hands over the fate of baseball of some of the broadest realities here: there are millions of working poor acccepting food stamps, because they qualify -- working people.  Heads of organizations are making 5,000-10,000 percent what their line workers are making, manufacturing is fleeing the US, people are barely able to survive on what they make working two and three jobs, and we're going to worry about the fate of a gang of millionaires and their billionaire "owners"?  We're going to make certain to pay ticket prices inflating faster than the rate of inflation, cheer on the droves of advertising, take part in the Keeping Up with the Joneses so we can make informed smalltalk about inconsequential things like made up rituals that don't entertain and have no meaning?  Just my opnion, of course, but before I get the lecture about how baseball stimulates the economy, let me say more and more goes to the people who already have thge money, with less and less going to the slave class in supporting roles.  No, when I'm jammed up in donwtown traffic, watching drunks who are about to board their cars stumbling across roads ... far more trouble than benefit.  Had Bob Costas put all that mental energy, for example, into medicine instead of useless statistics, he would have cured cancer by now.  All stupidity.

goblue562
goblue562

Maybe we're all just a tad tired of the scraggly, ugly beards that don't look good on anyone.

wilsonephillips
wilsonephillips

I wasn't even aware that the world series was going on.


After all of the doping and steroid abuse, who cares? I feel just as apathetic about football now. I am convinced that it is just as fake as wrestling and boxing. If I want to watch fiction, I can rent a movie.

BobDevaughn
BobDevaughn

Baseball is boring. Period.

Look at the picture featured in this article... look at David Ortiz... does he look athletic? Babe Ruth is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time and he was a fat alcoholic. Maybe they are strong men, and just maybe they have exceptional hand-eye coordination, but the fact of the matter is, baseball does not require the raw athleticism of most popular team sports; football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse. That's not to say that what they do is easy,  it certainly requires a lot of practice, but so does golf, which brings us to the real problem with baseball- the pace of the game.

There is simply too much standing around, kicking dirt, and getting set. In this respect baseball is comparable to tennis- not that the TV timeouts and 2 minute warnings don't make NFL games tedious, but that is a detriment to its enjoyment, not a plus.

Combine all of this with baseball player's penchant for performance enhancing drugs, and you get a bunch of people who see fat, roided, over-hyped and over-paid atheletes, standing around for a hundred and sixty games a season, by the end of which it becomes understandable that people just don't care.

lurch
lurch

Maybe people get tired of their home team not winning. Seems the Cardinals have been in the World Series quite a few times. Fatigue sets in.

LittleBlueBicycle
LittleBlueBicycle

1.  Fans of other teams grow weary of hearing that Cardinals fans are better than them.  2.  ESPN has overexposed the Red Sox to the point that fans of other teams are sick of them too.  3.  FOX won't stop shoving the insufferable Joe Buck down our throats.

baumann6
baumann6

@tampapd19 

Dude, it IS boring.  They stand around 99 percent of the time.  There's very little action.  I am impressed that someone can throw a ball 100 mph or hit that pitch but it happens very infrequently.  

nhbossfan
nhbossfan

@JoeCogan    I disagree that no one outside the immediate markets are interested... the Sox have a huge following in Florida.    Visit any Red Sox related page on Facebook and you'll see posts from all over the country and the world supporting the team.    

nhbossfan
nhbossfan

@Itolduso Your assertion is wrong.    Lot of folks from St. Louis came to Boston for the games... and vice versa.     They spend money on hotels, food, shopping, sight seeing etc.    Every little bit helps.     This does not rob small towns of anything because these people would normally spend their money at home... not go visit some little podunk hole in the wall town where there's nothing to do or see.

nhbossfan
nhbossfan

@john_rambo Stupid teams?    They are the best two teams in baseball.    I guess if 'your' team is golfing... you're not interested.    

mikenagel
mikenagel

@BobDevaughn As others have noted in response to your mention of the NFL, an NFL game last for 60 minutes of game time, yet the ball is in play for an average of 11 minutes out of those 60.

That's it. 11 minutes. 

So not even 20% of a pro football game involves action.

The rest of the 49 minutes of a game is spent waiting around for the action to begin.

What's even worse? A telecast of an NFL game lasts for 3 to 3.5 hours. 3 hours to broadcast 11 minutes of football action? _That's_ unbelievable.

StacyDeG
StacyDeG

@BobDevaughn You lost me when you insisted that baseball is boring by saying "period". To me and many others its not. Baseball is the greatest sport for a host of reasons. What other sport can a 5'6 player overcome an opposing player who is 6'11? Baseball requires an attention span and that is something a lot of Americans don't have.

To bring up the PED issue issue is being pretty disingenuous. The reason why PED's are talked about more in baseball is because is actually trying to do something about it compared to most other organized sports. Everything from football to cycling has higher rates of abuse in PED's than baseball does.

zaglossus
zaglossus

@BobDevaughn To each his own. But as far as tennis, what are you talking about? And football? Huddles eat up most of the game time.

romerjt
romerjt

@BobDevaughn Right, too much time.  Count this, a pitcher who moves the game along takes about 10 seconds to throw a pitch after the ball is returned from the catcher, more if men are on base.  But, when it gets to 30 seconds between pitches its just deadly  . . I can't watch it. 

JoeCogan
JoeCogan

@nhbossfan @JoeCogan Fans outside the US don't add to TV ratings here, and fans in Florida don't make up for New York, Chicago, and the Left Coast.

BobDevaughn
BobDevaughn

@StacyDeG @BobDevaughn 
Saying "period" was a rhetorical device to highlight what I see as the core problem of the sport and the cause for the issue in the article.

Maybe you're right, baseball isn't boring, maybe that's why this article is about how its ratings are at an all time high.

Smaller players actually overcome larger players in soccer and lacrosse all the time, they have in basketball and football as well. In baseball, the only time there is direct contact is between a runner and a catcher for home plate. A 5'6" player out pitching (or hitting) a 6'11" player, is not "overcoming" that other player... its not a direct comparison of skills, especially if that pitcher never has to take the mound, or that batter never has to throw a pitch.

I'm sure you like baseball. I'm sure you fancy it "America's pastime." You're not alone, but as its ratings suggest, its just not that exciting to people anymore... because its boring.


BobDevaughn
BobDevaughn

@zaglossus @BobDevaughn The pacing of baseball is comparable to tennis, though at least in a rally there is continuous play. At least with football, when the play starts, everyone moves, every time. Not just pitcher, maybe batter, maybe fielder, maybe runners.... maybe everyone stands there a little longer.

nhbossfan
nhbossfan

@JoeCogan @nhbossfan I understand that.    I was simply referring to your assertion that no fan outside their immediate market cares about either team.    Viewers don't have to be from major markets to be counted towards viewership.    Yankees fans may hate the Sox... but I personally know many of them who are watching.    Matter of fact... they're sending good karma in exchange for me agreeing to wear Giants blue on Sunday.    :)


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