A year ago, those in charge of baseball were panicking a bit. The 2008 World Series ended amidst some weather-inspired controversies, and no one had watched. Ratings were down 20 percent from 2007, and average of just over 13 million fans, the lowest total since FOX started broadcasting the Fall Classic, tuned in per game. Baseball was on the verge of losing its wider national audience.
However, with the onset of the MLB Network’s wall-to-wall coverage of the sport and, more importantly, the return of the Yankees, the villain of October, to the World Series, ratings for the Series were up a record 42 percent over last year. Although this year’s wasn’t the most watched World Series of recent times, it was the fourth-highest viewed of the last decade and has restored baseball’s October dominance and popularity. Over 19 million fans tuned in each night to watch the Yankees battle the Phillies, and the numbers suggest that the Yankees, as I’ve said before, are good for baseball.
Maury Brown at the Biz of Baseball has more on the ratings:
Fueled by outstanding individual and team performances, dramatic come-from-behind wins and the most one-run games in a single postseason, each round of the 2009 MLB Postseason generated double-digit percentage year-to-year increases in average viewership as compared to 2008, capped by the 2009 World Series averaging 19.4 million viewers, a +42% increase over last year and the largest-ever year-to-year gain in viewership (previous high was 36% from 2000-2001, which followed a low viewership showing for the Subway Series).
Complete 2009 MLB Postseason coverage on FOX and TBS averaged 9.0 million viewers, up +30% over last year and the most-watched since 2005. In addition to the +42% viewership gain for the World Series on FOX, viewership for the Division Series on TBS was up +11% over last year and viewership for the League Championship Series on FOX and TBS increased +14% over 2008.
The 2009 MLB Postseason delivered extraordinary results for FOX and TBS, including leading TBS to the most-watched week in its 33-year history, and catapulting FOX to a commanding +22% lead in the key Adult 18-49 demographic against its network competition. The huge Adult 18-49 season-to-date advantage for FOX is the largest in the network’s history in the fourth quarter and the largest fourth-quarter lead for any network since 2003.
In addition to these hearty aggregate numbers, the World Series was the highest-rated network primetime show during the six nights of games, reports Brown. All over the country, people wanted to watch the Yankees.
And so fans may hate the Yanks. They may root against the team and its payroll. They may say the Steinbrenners bought another title. But the reality of it is simple: Baseball fans tune into watch Goliath because they hope David can win. When David happens to be another team with a payroll in excess of $100 million from a major media market, baseball executives can go home happy. This year, the World Series was very, very good for baseball.