11/05/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak
What more could Major League Baseball ask for this post season? The World Series was an exciting one that came down to Game 7. Two of it's "play in" Wild Card teams justified the notion (or nonsense) that adding more teams to the playoffs is a good thing. The "Cinderella Story" of the Kansas City Royals played out and showed everyone that small market teams can make it to the Fall Classic in MLB. The only problem: Was anybody watching this?
The 2014 World Series averaged 13.8 million viewers. But that number is kind of skewed. The first 6 games of this years series averaged 13.4 million viewers. The numbers were boosted by the do or die Game 7, which drew 23.5 million viewers. Had there not been the boost in viewership for Game 7, this years World Series would have been the least watched World Series ever. As a matter of fact, the two least viewed World Series occurred recently, in 2008 and 2012. So why is nobody watching?
Perhaps it's because of the above mentioned additional playoff teams. While MLB thinks more is better, a lot of fans don't like the one game Wild Card. Some feel the additional two teams dilute the playoffs and diminish the tradition of the game. Maybe it's that the matchups just don't appeal to a national TV audience? While Kansas City's success was a great story, the matchup versus San Francisco wasn't all that interesting to sports fans elsewhere. In 2012 it was San Francisco versus Detroit. In 2008 it was Philadelphia against Tampa Bay. Without the major television markets involved in those series, and matchups that don't really draw in the casual fan or excite out of market fans, the matchups could be part of the reason for the low ratings as well.
Or maybe it's because Major League Baseball's audience isn't getting any younger. The average age of this year's World Series viewer was 54. If you look at the 10 highest rated World Series in history, there are NONE from the 2000's. Only one of those top 10 are from after 1990, the other 9 from the '70's and '80's. That's not a good sign for Major League Baseball. Of the 10 most watched Super Bowls, 8 of those have come in the past 8 years. So maybe you'd say it's unfair to compare a one game Super Bowl to a seven game World Series. Well lets look at another sport with a series to decide it's champion. Three of the past four Stanley Cup Finals have been the most watched in NHL history.
It seems the interest of viewers has shifted away from the World Series, especially younger viewers. Only 3% of this years World Series viewers were in the age 6 to 16 demographic. So what's happened to the younger viewers? Is it because of the later start times for games on weeknights? Is it because today's kids don't have the attention span for baseball, which isn't an instant gratification, all action kind of game?
So what's wrong with the World Series that nobody seems to be watching? It's likely a combination of all of the above mentioned things. Whatever the case, Major League Baseball needs to figure out a way to bring viewers back for the Fall Classic. Otherwise, what once was America's Past-Time will continue to become America's "Past Its Prime".
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