World Series draws its second-lowest TV audience ever: What the ratings mean

The 2022 World Series gave fans a no-hitter, an onslaught of home runs, two big-market teams and a heartwarming storyline with Houston’s Dusty Baker finally securing his managerial championship ring at age 73.

But that still hasn’t made for must-see television, based on the series’ latest viewership numbers released Tuesday, compared to baseball’s past fall classics.

The Astros’ six-game series victory over the Phillies averaged 11.78 million viewers on Fox and 12.03 million viewers combined (Fox, Fox Deportes and streaming), the network said, which is a good number amid the harsh realities of the modern television universe, but still makes for one of the least-watched global series on record.

In fact, it only trails the 2020 pandemic-affected Fox TV average of 9.94 million viewers (Dodgers over Rays). The Braves’ six-game win over the Astros last year averaged 11.94 million for the network, which has been broadcasting the World Series since 2000.

It’s bad, right?

Not necessarily from a strategic perspective, said a TV industry insider. In fact, it’s probably the so-called new normal for World Series viewership, as baseball, like everything else on TV, tries to find a balance amid seismic shifts in viewing habits and the consumer technology.

“Show me something that sets an all-time (viewership) record somewhere,” said media analyst and former Fox Sports executive Patrick Crakes. “That’s the range it’s in. 50 years ago, the World Series was in the top 10 prime time shows alongside ‘Mannix’ and it still is today. Qu what else does it do? The NFL and a few other things.

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In other words, outside of professional and college football, everyone’s viewership has declined as viewer options have increased.

“The number of options to spend time with continues to grow infinitely,” Crakes said.

That context is important when analyzing the World Series, he added, noting that baseball expects to earn about $11 billion this season.

“MLB has never made so much money, never reached so many people,” Crakes said. “Even with the problems of the regional sports network, it affects more people than ever.”

It’s also important to remember that prior to 2020, Nielsen audience tracking did not measure out-of-home audiences (fans at sports bars, restaurants, watch parties, etc.), so Older totals are larger than officially known.

Fox said Houston’s deciding game on Saturday night, which faced competition from college football and other sports, averaged 13 million total viewers (12.87 million on Fox TV alone). It’s the lowest average ever for Game 6, but it still garnered one of the biggest audiences on American television that night.

The series’ highest viewership was 13.01 million total viewers (12.76 million Fox alone) for Game 5 last Thursday – a night the World Series topped Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” stream. Prime Video Eagles-Texans. This face-off only happened because Halloween match 3 was delayed for a day due to weather.

Last year’s deciding sixth game between the Braves and the Astros averaged 14.14 million viewers, and two years ago – in the middle of the first year of the pandemic that shortened the regular season of the MLB at 60 games per team – the Dodgers’ Game 6 deciding game averaged 12.81 million.

The 2020 series was the least-watched on record, and television in general (and live sports in particular) has slowly reclaimed audiences – a process made chilling by the current cord-cutting trend that is bringing down dozens of million cables. Streaming subscriptions haven’t made up for cable’s losses in eyeballs and dollars.

When Houston won its first championship in 2017, the series lasted seven games (and the cheating scandal has yet to be uncovered). Game 6 that year averaged 22.22 million viewers while Game 7 jumped to 28.24 million.

If the 2022 World Series had played seven full games, the overall average would likely have been a bit higher, as Game 7s typically do up to 75% better than the average viewership for the first six games, according to information provided l year by Mike. Mulvihill, executive vice president of Fox Sports and head of strategy and analysis.

Yet even with World Series viewership down significantly from the past (and baseball losing eyeballs and with a grizzled audience), Fox and MLB do not face dire economic consequences immediately. Why? Live “jewel” sporting events such as the World Series still dominate everything else on TV, and advertisers continue to pay a premium to reach different demographics.

Fox is paying MLB $729 million a year through 2028 for its broadcast rights package that includes the World Series. The Championship is a crown jewel TV show, but these live sports offerings are usually more about the daily live game inventory that populates the channels and streamers.

Advertisers spent $178 million on commercial airtime with Fox during the World Series, according to data provided by ad metrics data firm EDO Inc.

That’s up from $163 million last year and $162 million in 2020 (all six-game series). Before the pandemic, 2019 saw $302 million spent on ads during the Nationals-Astros seven-game series, while the Red Sox’ five-game win over the Dodgers in 2018 accounted for $239 million in ad spend. , according to ODE data.

The biggest spenders this year were Samsung Galaxy ($8.2 million for 22 seats) and Capital One and GEICO ($6.3 million each).

Game 5 on Nov. 3 saw the highest brand spend of the six-game series at $33.46 million, according to EDO data.

“Advertisers continue to appreciate it locally and nationally,” Crakes said.

Fox said it was the most streamed global series in network history with an average viewership of 232,307 minutes for the six games. The network broadcasts through its digital platforms and does not have a standalone paid streaming service like Peacock or ESPN+.

While streaming is relatively new and doesn’t pay the bills the way linear TV does for networks, watching baseball’s historic TV numbers is a crash course in how the broadcast industry has changed in the midst of the proliferation of viewer options and the fragmentation of the media landscape.

MLB hasn’t seen a World Series game among the 40 million viewers since the Cubs’ decisive game in 2016 – a series that involved two of the most title-hungry clubs in the game. baseball since 50 million people watched Game 7 of the 1991 Twins-Braves series, according to the Sports Media Watch database.

The most recent World Series game to average at least 30 million viewers was Game 7 of the 2002 Angels-Giants series.

What would it take to get back to those huge audiences?

“Those numbers may be unattainable,” Crakes said, adding that it would take a seven-game, uninterrupted series and likely take a major market game between, say, the Cubs and Yankees to have a chance. .

Barring a cataclysmic change in the entire television industry, baseball or anything outside of the Super Bowl is likely to recoup viewership totals from decades ago. For the World Series, the peak average was 44.2 million viewers for the 1978 Yankees’ 4-2 victory over the Dodgers – the two biggest TV markets in the country. And the most-watched World Series game of all time was the Phillies’ Game 6 victory in 1980 over the Royals, which averaged 54.86 million viewers.

Other interesting viewership ratings, per Sports Media Watch, include 2022 being the first World Series without a Sunday night game since 1990, which may have lowered overall viewership to some extent. Additionally, it was the first series with multiple Saturday night games, which is notable as it is the worst night of the week for viewership totals. This happened this year due to rain on October 31 which pushed Game 6 from Friday to Saturday.

(Photo by Yordan Alvarez of the Astros: Harry How/Getty Images)

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