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 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.