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 Tracking TV ratings is an outdated means of judging the popularity of a sport.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fans are smarter and more informed than they’ve ever been, and Joe Buck’s “I’m bored with this game” act and McCarver’s outdated analysis aren’t going to attract the next generation to watch more games.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.