Baseball Ratings ‘Mysteriously’ Down:WSJ

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Baseball ratings are down across the board, as compared to this time last year. The article says:

Seven months after recording the lowest-rated World Series in history, Major League Baseball’s national broadcast business is still waiting for a recovery.

Lousy weather, delayed games and a lackluster matchup hurt World Series ratings last October, but household ratings for Fox Saturday Baseball, the sport’s so-called Game of the Week, are off 9% to date from last season, and 23% from 2000. With attendance down about 4%, one might assume that television ratings would be up. Renewed interest in the NBA and NHL playoffs might have postponed the general sports fans’ usual springtime turn of attention to baseball. Additional revelations of steroid use certainly haven’t helped.

A few things here. First, Television is a slowly dying medium. TV ratings have been declining for most of the past decade. That’s not to say people aren’t watching/following the games. They are, but often through different means such as DISH network’s baseball package , or online with Gameday or watching on the go on MLB.com. So the overall audience could be growing, just branching out in different directions. Tracking TV ratings is an outdated means of judging the popularity of a sport.

But Baseball still wants to address this matter, and plans to do the following:

Plans include showing baseball movies on Sunday afternoons on Fox’s sister channel FX, and promotional ads with broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

That’s nice, but I would argue that Buck and McCarver are part of the problem, not the solution. In the information age fans are smarter and more informed than they’ve ever been, and Joe Buck’s “I’m bored with this game” act and McCarver’s outdated analysis aren’t going to attract the next generation to watch more games. Those guys may (or may not) appeal to their existing audience, but certainly won’t attract many new viewers. I would argue that adding a third man to the booth, one that has some credibility with the more sabermetricly-inclined among us could help. Someone like Rob Neyer, Tim Marchman or Keith Law.  Those are guys that I would be interested in getting their take on things.

I would also get creative and invite famous people from all walks of life who are Baseball fans in to the booth to do games, perhaps one for each team. Musicians, Politicians, Business leaders, etc who are fans of one the teams playing, and I would cross-promote their appearances in their medium. For instance, if Jay-Z is a big Yankee fan I’d invite him into the booth and promote it on MTV. Things like that can bring in a new audience in the hope that some of them will stick around. Baseball broadcasts currently invite different people in the booth from time to time, but only do so half-heartedly, for an inning here and there and don’t promote it outside of the usual sports-related arenas.

But if the networks want to keep going with the same old methods, they can expect to keep getting the same results.

4 thoughts on “Baseball Ratings ‘Mysteriously’ Down:WSJ

  1. Tim Sherman

    Television is a dieing medium? I completely disagree. I live in Newfoundland and without the Extra Innings package on Bell TV, I would have very few Yankees games. I watch them every single night on TV and I’m sure most of your readers do as well. You did hit on something with the McCarver/Buck analysis. Those guys are terrible and make the games on Fox almost unwatchable. They need to be replaced. Jim Kaat would be a good replacement for McCarver and then find a good play by play man and you have solved most of the problem. That won’t happen though as Buck is a “company guy” at Fox and the suits love him. They will make no changes unless ratings dramatically dip for the whole season.

  2. JeffG

    “I would argue that Buck and McCarver are part of the problem, not the solution” – There you have it. They suck. I wonder if WSJ only counted the rating of one network to come up with the theory Baseball Ratings are down. I have not heard that YES network ratings are suffering.

  3. SonnyMooks

    Personally, I hate it, absolutely hate it, when they bring celebrities into the booth. Its cheesy, and the celebrity in question, is usually there for a cheap plug. It doesn’t help that the broadcasters in many cases are from the prehistoric era. I mean, Joe freaking Morgan???? Guys like Rob Neyer, Tim Marchman or Keith Law would show the kind of innovative and new thinking that the Networks can’t understand or would loathe to have.

    Broadcast baseball is not for the modern day baseball fan, its not made for younger baseball fans, and its certainly not even considerate of fantasy baseball fans. I’m not a kid, I’m 32 years old, and to me, the way the game is presented, it seems aimed at people that would be my grandfathers age.

    If they were going to do guest appearances in the booth, I would limit it to sports figures who could do an inning or so of guest color analysis (i.e. a Bill James, or if an ex player, a Wade Boggs, or former manager or something). With some former players, there is a enough of a “where are they now and how are they doing” and what do they think, appeal.

    • Steve

      I was waiting for this post, and it may surprise you that I agree with you about celebs. But as I said, I think the TV execs go about it in completely the wrong way. Bring them in AS FANS of their team, not to plug some BS for 2 seconds and then leave. Famous people who are really fans of the game or a team. And keep rotating them, its nice when someone famous does this once in a while, but if the same guy does it every week, it gets old fast.

      For example, bringing in Dennis Miller to do Monday Night Football once or twice a year could have been refreshing, a different twist on the same old broadcast. But to hire him to do it every week got old in a hurry. Bring in different people who are famous from varied walks of life, and make sure they are fans of one of the teams playing.

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