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October 30, 2012

Bizball

2012 Sees Lowest World Series Ratings, MLB Loses Millions, and Post-Season Shares

by Maury Brown

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As the 2012 World Series goes, unless you’re a Giants fan, you might say it could have been better. A competitive series is always better than one that isn’t, and this one surely wasn’t. It was the first sweep since the 2007 World Series, in which the Red Sox topped the Rockies. A four-game sweep that saw the Giants (the Tigers had a team batting average of .159) trounce the Tigers had some negative effects that baseball would have probably liked to avoid. Here are the details.

2012 World Series: Lowest-Rated. Ever.
As a baseball fan, you’re liable to say, “I don’t care.” However, there are pundits out there that will (yet again) say baseball is a dying sport. Now that the series is over, the ratings numbers are in, and the 2012 World Series will go down in history as the lowest rated, ever. According to Nielsen Media Research, FOX averaged a 7.6 rating and 12 shares over the series. Prior to the 2012 World Series, the lowest-rated was the 2008 series between the Phillies and Rays, which had an 8.4 rating average over five games. Through four games last year, Fox was averaging a 9.3 overnight.

Here’s how the ratings numbers played out:

Game

Rating

Notes

Game One

7.6 rating and 12 share

Lowest ever for opener. Down 13 percent from the 8.7/14 for St. Louis' 3-2 victory over Texas in Game One last year, which averaged 14.2 million viewers

Game Two

7.8 rating and 12 share

12 percent lower than Game Two of 2011 World Series

Game Three

6.1 rating and 11 share

Notre Dame NCAAF draws higher ratings with 18-49 demo, but WS Game Three wins total viewers (nine million)

Game Four

8.9 rating and 14 share

SNF drew a 6.3/14, but due to football running over, FOX won the evening with 18-49 demo.

 

Based on “fast track” numbers. Adjustments made due to live sports programming. These first national ratings, including demographics, are available at approximately 11 a.m. (ET) the day after a telecast and are released to subscribing customers daily. Definition of Rating points and Share… As of September 1, 2010, there are an estimated 115.9 million television households in the United States. A single national ratings point represents one percent of the total number, or 1,159,000 households for the 2010–11 season (2012’s numbers have not been released). Share is the percentage of television sets in use tuned to the program.

Some context is needed here. First off, the drop in ratings nationally has a lot to do with compelling storylines. Yes, Giants and Tigers fans, you think your team is the greatest, but when it comes to those out of the San Francisco and Detroit markets, the average fan seeks compelling stories to follow. This series didn’t have many.

There have been stories (here’s one) saying that FOX must be upset with the numbers. Some say MLB somehow got their foot in the door early on the recent broadcast agreement that kicks in next year at $500 million annually, or $4 billion total (see details on all of MLB’s new broadcast deals). While the numbers could have impacted the deal some, it’s doubtful that they would have been anything other than marginal because FOX won the key ratings demo in the 18-49 age range for Games Three and Four. Game Four was also the highest-rated, most-watched primetime program on FOX since the American Idol finale this past May. Those games provided the network its best Sunday-night primetime performance since the NFC Championship Game on January 22, 2012. Last night’s game peaked with an 11.3 at 11:45 p.m. as the decisive 10th inning unfolded. Also, the average audience of 15.5 million viewers was up two percent from last year’s Game Four average (15.2 million viewers, 9.2/14 rating/share).

According to Nielsen and FOX, the World Series remained a top-10 show in primetime. The 7.6/12 rating/share average for the four games and 12.7 million viewers ranks ninth in viewership among all primetime programming this season. This year’s four-game series still placed second among men 18-49 (4.7); third in men 25-54 (5.6); fourth with men 18-34 (4.0); tied for sixth in adults 18 – 49 (3.7); tied for eighth in adults 18 - 34 (3.2) and ninth among adults 25-54 (4.3).

So, the ratings are both bad and good. Do FOX and MLB want to see higher numbers? Of course. Do the numbers still provide key wins in the demo that FOX is trying to target? Yes, according to FOX executives.

"The World Series has been a top-ten primetime hit for over 40 years and even with a four-game sweep this series was no exception,” said Michael Mulvihill, Senior Vice President of Programming and Research, FOX Sports Media Group. “This World Series gave us exactly what we expected: a top-ten show among all viewers and a top five show among hard-to-reach younger men. It's important for us to remain focused on the Series relative to today's competitive environment rather than bygone years. The World Series remains a powerful force in primetime and we're fortunate to have the Fall Classic for at least nine more years to look forward to."

How did the World Series do in local markets? Here are some details.

For Game One, Detroit topped markets with a 33.2/46, followed by San Francisco (32.3/58). The game earned a 7.3/11 in New York, 7.0/13 in Los Angeles, and 6.9/11 in Chicago.

San Francisco led all markets with a 38.7/64 for Game Four, scoring the best rating of any MLB game in that market since Game Seven of the 2002 World Series between the Angels and the Giants. Detroit scored a 37.9/53 for Game Four, notching Motown’s highest rating for an MLB game since Game Two of the 2006 World Series between the Tigers and the Cardinals.

MLB Loses Millions Due to the Sweep
One thing is certain: The league lost revenues due to the sweep. How much is not fully known, but close to $100 million is possible. The reason? The players get the majority of the gate receipt revenues (60 percent) for the first four games of the World Series. After that, the owners get 100 percent. Since the World Series was a sweep, the players pulled the lion’s share. Why the skewed percentage to the players? Post-season shares are part of the CBA. Here’s how it breaks down across all postseason play this year, based on the latest Basic Agreement:

One Players’ pool shall be created from the World Series, the two League Championship Series, the four Division Series, and the two Wild Card games. Contributions shall be made into the pool as follows:

(1) 60% of the total gate receipts from the first 4 World Series games;

(2) 60% of the total gate receipts from the first 4 games of each League Championship Series;

(3) 60% of the total gate receipts from the first 3 games (4 if the Division Series is expanded to the best of 7 games) of each Division Series; and

(4) 50% of the total gate receipts from each Wild Card Game after deducting the traveling expenses of the visiting Clubs (up to a maximum of $100,000 per Club) from the total gate.

If You Didn’t Make the Playoffs, This Time You Don’t Get Post-Season Shares
One thing that’s always been a head-scratcher to some was the fact that up until this year, when two new wild-card teams were added, if you were the fifth seed in the AL or NL, you got post-season shares despite missing the playoffs. That changes with the new CBA. So, back to that pooled money: Here’s how the CBA defines the percentages that each of the teams will get (teams for 2012 added)

The Players’ pool shall be distributed to the players, by club, as follows:

  • World Series winner (Giants) - 36%
  • World Series loser (Tigers) - 24%
  • League Championship Series losers (Yankees, Cardinals) - 24%
  • Division Series losers (Athletics, Orioles, Reds, Nationals) - 13%
  • Wild card losers (Rangers, Braves) - 3%

If you’re asking how much the pool is, that has yet to be released. The CBA stipulates that the players receive the money no later than 30 days after the World Series. But, we do know that no matter how low gate receipts were to be, the CBA stipulates what the guaranteed amount will be for each round in the postseason. From the CBA:

(1) To the extent, if any, that the Players’ pool provides a total of less than $4,608,000 for the World Series winner, the amount to be distributed to such winner shall be increased to $4,608,000. To the extent, if any, that the Players’ pool provides a total of less than$3,072,000 for the World Series loser, the amount to be distributed to such loser shall be increased to $3,072,000.

(2) To the extent, if any, that the Players’ pool provides a total of less than $3,072,000 for both League Championship Series losers ($1,536,000 each), the amount to be distributed to such losers shall be increased to $3,072,000 ($1,536,000 each).

(3) To the extent, if any, that the Players’ pool provides a total of less than $1,536,000 ($384,000 each) for the Division Series losers, the total amount to be distributed to such Division Series losers shall be increased to $1,536,000 ($384,000 each).

(4) To the extent, if any, that the Players’ pool provides a total of less than $512,000 ($256,000 each) for the Wild Card Losers, the total amount to be distributed to such Wild Card Losers shall be increased to $512,000 ($256,000 each).

(5) If, during the term of this Agreement, the Clubs raise World Series ticket prices, the guarantees set forth in the above paragraphs (1), (2), (3) and (4) shall be increased a pro rata amount, such amount established by averaging the percentage increase of a box seat ticket and the percentage increase of a reserved seat ticket and increasing each guarantee by such percentage

Final Thoughts
Those who will chime in point to the ratings numbers from “the good old days” and say baseball is no longer relevant are not taking a host of factors into account. In looking back to 1968, the first year that Nielsen tracked the World Series, the Tigers and Cardinals on NBC pulled a 22.8 ratings average with a 57 share. In 1973, the first year that Nielsen tracked the average number of households tuning in and the average number of viewers, the World Series between the A’s and Mets had a 30.7 rating average with a 57 share. It averaged 20.32 million households and 34.75 million viewers. Plainly put, that was then, this is now.

At the time those impressive numbers came out, America had the “Big Three” networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) on the dial. If you were lucky, you had PBS and maybe a UHF channel or two. Now, the likes of DirecTV can give viewers well over 500 channels to select from. There was also no internet. No mobile technology. No gaming platforms. There is also chaotic scheduling. The NFL was not as dominant as it is now, the NBA was not the league that it is now, and the NHL only had CBS showing parts of the Stanley Cup Finals (NBC began showing regular-season hockey in 1972).

All this isn’t to be an apologist for MLB’s ratings. They have not been good as of late, but if the networks are the ones most interested in how the numbers shake out, then FOX seems to be spinning the fact that winning the ratings battle for a given day in the key 18-29 demo makes them happy. The difficult matter is whether using ratings numbers to determine baseball’s popularity is going to be sound. There are a host of competing elements for the viewer’s time, so using historical numbers from the Halcion days, when the nation was transfixed to the television for the World Series, are long gone. To those that point to the gaudy NFL numbers, it’s true that football has surpassed MLB in terms of the number of viewers per game. This is also indicative of changes to society. Football plays against a clock, which means fans can know not only when a game starts, but pretty much when it will end. The NFL’s “winner takes all” single-game format tells you society doesn’t make the effort to watch multi-game series the way they used to.

For the fans of the game, maybe the worst thing about the 2012 World Series is this: With a sweep, baseball goes into its winter slumber sooner than many would like. If the game’s most ardent fans can’t get year-round baseball, the hope is for at least six or seven games. Certainly the Tigers would have liked that shot. The Giants are certainly happy just the way it went down. For the rest of us, it’s baseball’s “third season.” Welcome to the Hot Stove.

Maury Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Maury's other articles. You can contact Maury by clicking here

30 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

dianagram

and some viewers couldn't stand FOX's coverage ...

Oct 30, 2012 05:34 AM
rating: 6
 
hitmannls

agree with dianagram ... Fox is partially culpable ... McCarver is terrible, and the commercial breaks are much longer than the regular season and disrupt the flow of the game.

Oct 30, 2012 06:46 AM
rating: 3
 
cubfan131

The funniest McCarver line I heard was when Buck said something about Barry and McCarver thought he was talking about Barry Manilow not Barry Bonds.

Oct 30, 2012 08:44 AM
rating: 1
 
Randy Brown
(189)

McCarver was making a joke. He knew exactly who Joe Buck was referring to about and threw Barry Manilow's name in there. McCarver's mike was silent for the next 30 seconds as he laughed his ass off because Joe Buck "corrected" him. Don't feel bad, Joe Buck fell for it too.

Oct 30, 2012 10:12 AM
rating: 1
 
jalee121

Trolling Buck into a response isn't humor. It's lame and embarrassing, especailly for a National broadcast for the World Series. And I'm assuming your premise isn't a complete lie.

Oct 30, 2012 10:27 AM
rating: -1
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Fair enough. I thought it was funny though. Then again, I also laugh when old people fart.

Oct 30, 2012 15:55 PM
rating: 6
 
yoshiki89

AMEN...I got pretty good at synchronizing the radio feed with the TV, just so I could miss out on Buckisms and McCarverisms

Oct 30, 2012 09:06 AM
rating: 0
 
apbadogs

How can you sync the radio and tv when radio is about 10-15 seconds ahead??

Oct 30, 2012 11:33 AM
rating: 0
 
buddons42

You use the MLB At Bat feed, which was delayed several seconds behind the TV coverage. At least that's how I did it.

Oct 30, 2012 13:03 PM
rating: 2
 
apbadogs

Oh, never thought of that. But MLB AtBat feed costs, right?

Oct 31, 2012 07:16 AM
rating: 0
 
rweiler

I never minded McCarver before, but during this series one more than one occasion he wasn't aware of how many outs there were. I can see how that could be a problem for the viewers what with Fox constantly ignoring the game in favor of interviews, but the announcers really ought to be able to keep track of the number of outs.

Oct 30, 2012 09:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Ironhorse

I haven't listened to McCarver in years. Either find a radio broadcast or turn on the music. So many fine announcers out there, and Fox gives us a guy who makes so many mistakes and contradicts himself so much, it's hard to believe McCarver ever played the game. One theory is that he played his baseball in Kenya, not the United States.

Oct 30, 2012 07:26 AM
rating: 1
 
sykojohnny
(225)

There were other factors also including the fact that the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants do not have the kind of fans nationwide that would follow and watch a series with say the Yankees and the Dodgers, and a lot of people who are totally involved in the Presidential election that are glued to Fox or MSNBC, and some major college football matchups that weekend. More competition is the problem not the announcers.

Oct 30, 2012 07:47 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Maury Brown
BP staff

This certainly added, although with the election the exception, each year bumps into NCAAF

Oct 30, 2012 08:07 AM
 
asbasb

Isn't it odd that the player pool for the World Series losers is the same size as for the LCS losers?

Oct 30, 2012 08:12 AM
rating: 0
 
misterjohnny
(925)

Yes, but the LCS losers have to split their pool. WS loser gets it all.

Oct 30, 2012 09:24 AM
rating: 0
 
nschneider

That was my first thought too, until I realized that the LCS losers pool is split between TWO teams (thus 12% each).

Oct 30, 2012 09:45 AM
rating: 0
 
rweiler

If baseball is to become all about TV money, and I have no doubt that like the NFL it eventually will be, then it will have got through a total realignment. You would like to make sure that you never have a 'subway series' because only the people in that city care. That suggests that what you really want are 3 league; East, Central, and West with North/South divisions in each. That in turn would get you divisional series like LA vs SF, Yankees vs Braves, Cubs vs Rangers, etc. and would make it more likely you would get a Dodgers/Yankees or Giants/Yankees World series and also allow for World Series like Angels/Red Sox, Giants/Mets, Dodgers/Mets, etc. which aren't possible with the current format. The traditionalists would be offended but they wouldn't stop watching games. Of course it also allows for the possibility of something like a Cubs/Mets or Cubs/Dodgers World Series but I'm afraid no amount of realignment will make that likely.

Oct 30, 2012 08:41 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

FOX certainly hurts things. McCarver is an idiot and Buck just seems disinterested.

I know for me, and I didn't watch more than a total of five or six innings, once Verlander stunk it up I lost all interest.

Oct 30, 2012 09:29 AM
rating: 1
 
deholm1

Fox is just awful, from the shameless self-promotion ("Look, the cast of Glee is sitting behind the dugout!") to the check-out-all-the-pores-in-the-pitcher's-face close-up camera shots. The cringeworthy, in-dugout interviews during the game are particularly bad. I'm sure the players and managers would much rather be watching the game than fielding inane questions from Joe Buck. The time spent with Romo and Verlander in Games 3 and 4 went on and on and on. Umm, guys, do you know it's the World Series and there's a game happening? I suppose the one benefit of a four-game series is that we no longer have to suffer through the great baseball insights of Erin Andrews.

Oct 30, 2012 10:10 AM
rating: 6
 
jalee121

Honest question because I don't know, but do other networks (such as NBC, ABC and CBS) promote their network garbage during the big games? I don't want enough football or basketball to recall.

I know with Hockey NBC usualyl stays out of the way, but then again it's the NHL we're talking about.

Oct 30, 2012 10:35 AM
rating: 0
 
thedaves

Don't forget the in-game commercial which was the interview with the Taco Bell exec. And what about the interview with the young lady who won the MLB Fan Cave prize? I yelled at the TV during the latter and I still want to yell now. Who the eff cares about you quitting your job to watch baseball!!!

Oct 30, 2012 13:10 PM
rating: 3
 
howlingmoon

Yeah, like the 8-10 second closeup on Leyland while he chewed on a fingernail. Really?? That was the most interesting thing happening?
I record and then fast forward between pitches. I can generally watch a whole game in less than 2.5 hours and don't have to listen to much of BuckCarver.

Oct 30, 2012 15:08 PM
rating: 1
 
Owen Green

I think another thing that makes looking at just World Series ratings relative to the old days misleading is the increased availability of games during the season. As a baseball fan living in Canada I used to tune into the World Series every year because I was starved for opportunities to watch games. Now I can watch any game I want during the year through MLB.tv.

Oct 30, 2012 10:15 AM
rating: 1
 
rweiler

You are fortunate to live in an area with no team thus you can watch any game you want. MLB, in their infinite wisdom, won't allow people to pay to watch their local team if the game is also broadcast and these days, most are. That would be fine if your local TV provider would stream the games but, of course, they don't thus opening up business opportunities for companies like slingbox.

Oct 30, 2012 10:26 AM
rating: 0
 
lacerati

Yes, here comes the Hot Stove, but not after I stay up ridiculously late to watch the Japan Series and then anxiously await the World Baseball Classic. When's that Australian league start...?

Oct 30, 2012 10:29 AM
rating: 0
 
Tynan

One positive about FOX: I thought the super-duper-extra-slo-mo camera was really cool, especially when they showed the pitchers' deliveries.

Oct 30, 2012 11:28 AM
rating: 8
 
greenengineer

The extended playoffs lead to lower ratings. By the time the WS finally came, many had lost interest. Instead of building to a big finish, it peters out.

Oct 30, 2012 14:17 PM
rating: 4
 
ChinMusic

I agree with this. Seriously, one of these years they are going to have to plow the snow off the field to play - it's ridiculous to have these guys play their tails off for several months only to have the ultimate games decided in this type of cold weather. If all parties compromised and they played a few extra day-night doubleheaders and a few extra single gate double-headers I'm sure they could finish the season and play the World Series earlier in October. I used to be opposed to shortening the season, but now I'm not so sure that 154 games shouldn't be on the table too. Baseball is a summer sport, most Americans don't care about it past the early part of football season.

Oct 31, 2012 09:01 AM
rating: 0
 
houstonuser

I think baseball is just fine with local support of teams during the regular season. What the sport seems unable to do is get people to follow teams they don't follow normally during the post season. This is not as bad a problem as saying the sport is dying.

Oct 30, 2012 18:43 PM
rating: 0
 
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