article appeared this week written by Michael Mulvihill, the Senior Vice President of Programming, Research, & Content Strategy for Fox Sports. In the article, he makes the case that World Series rating numbers need to be judged in context. There are now so many more alternative choices and he feels it is unfair to compare today’s numbers with those of forty years ago when there were only three networks. He spells it out better than I do but I believe that’s the gist.
Mr. Mulvihill contends we must judge World Series numbers with non-sports hits. Doing that, the World Series is doing just as well today with an 8.7 rating as it did forty years ago with a rating of 28.7.
That’s a lovely spin, but I think you have to look further.
No matter how many other choices we have, if there’s a mega event, it will still get enormous ratings. That’s the one time major broadcast networks still rule. They’re free and available in every home.
The Super Bowl’s numbers are not a third of what they were forty years ago. The World Series used to be in that category. It’s not anymore. Whether it’s on Fox or NBC.
Major League Baseball has strengthened its brand and added playoffs, instituted interleague play, and created regional networks, but it comes at the expense of its once-biggest attraction.
And sure, there are extenuating factors. Big marquee teams like the Yankees and Dodgers and (hopefully in my lifetime) the Cubs will draw more interest than Tampa Bay or (hopefully in my lifetime) Seattle. If a series goes seven games instead of four it’s more competitive and that builds an audience. Are there stars competing? Does anyone other that baseball fans know who these guys are? Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Or even Barry Bonds?
The bottom line: Yes, there are more choices, but there are also more people in America than there were forty years ago. The World Series should be a juggernaut. Fox and MLB should not be popping champagne because it finishes third behind THE BIG BANG THEORY.
Oh, and just remember, since we’re spinning numbers – more people watched AfterMASH than THE BIG BANG THEORY. I’m just sayin’.