Sunday, November 16, 2014

2 comments Baseball Is Still Still Dying a Death So Hard and the Future is Bleak; Except This Isn't True

As I wrote a few weeks ago, it's almost a cliche to say that baseball is dying. I think it's becoming a running joke among baseball fans that dozens of "Baseball is dying" columns get written around the time of the World Series. This is due to the ratings that the World Series receives which aren't comparable to ratings that the World Series has gotten in the past. As I have written many times before, there is an easy explanation. No top-rated shows, outside of NFL games, receive the ratings that they used to receive 20-30 years ago. The top-rated show on television get lower ratings than the top-rated show from 20-30 years ago. There are more options available to consumers. It's a simple explanation. Baseball is becoming a regional sport and still does well regionally. Still, writers like Phil Sullivan can't seem to figure it out and want to churn out a lazy "Baseball and the World Series are dying" column. Hey, maybe there is just nothing else he knows to write about.

You can't judge a World Series by its ratings, but it's apparent many fans don't exactly consider the Royals-Giants matchup must-see TV.

The quality of the World Series can't be judged by the ratings that World Series receives. This is just like the quality of a television show can't be judged by the ratings that television show receives.

The annual storyline of the national pastime losing viewership during its premier event once again cropped up this week, despite a back-and-forth Series that was pushed to seven games Tuesday night with the Royals' 10-0 victory.

Yes, despite the fact viewers should be able to predict the future to know that the World Series would be a back-and-forth affair, every game of the World Series was only in the Top 20 of the Nielson ratings for the week that the game aired. There are network television shows that would kill to have "bleeding" ratings like the World Series receives. If only...

Is this just something baseball has to live with from now on, or are there things the sport can to do to recapture October from football?

Yes, this is just a fact of life now. Baseball has become an increasingly more regional sport and every World Series game will no longer be the #1 rated program on the night they air. The NFL is currently more popular. The sooner the baseball-loving media deals with this, the happier they are, and the sooner I won't read "baseball is dying" articles anymore. It will be a glorious day.

"There's a lot going on at this time of year," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. 

Plus, baseball just isn't as popular to watch on television as it used to be. 

"Baseball is not the American sport. Football is, and especially pro football, which is followed by some family member in everybody's family. But that has evolved over time. It really has nothing to do with the World Series."

But no, Brian Sabean, it DOES have something to do with the World Series. That's the premise of this article and so that is the conclusion that must be reached, reality about whether the relative lack of interest is a baseball-specific issue or is a World Series-related issue be damned.

True, baseball no longer is "the American sport" and hasn't been for years. It's not likely to overtake football in popularity for the foreseeable future.

Copy and paste onto a piece of paper that can go on the computer of writers like Paul Sullivan, so the answer is right there when the question of "Why doesn't baseball have great ratings like it used to?" pops into their mind.

There are many theories to choose from for lackluster World Series ratings, though the late starting times and the long games are the reasons most cite.

Football games start late and are actually longer than most baseball games, so those are two logical, but probably not entirely accurate reasons for the decline in baseball's popularity. The fact baseball isn't perceived as a "fast" sport combined with the perceived amount of standing around done could also be part of the reason the sport has suffered a decline in popularity. It's nearly impossible to pinpoint one reason, but the fact the playoff games feel like they move at a slow pace probably doesn't help. Whatever tension the sport has feels broken by the pauses between pitches. Baseball isn't a sport to actively watch like football. Baseball can be actively watched, but viewers watch a baseball game in a different manner than they watch a football game.

This particular Series also is lacking in star power, outside of Fox reporter Erin Andrews.

This doesn't make sense. Last year's World Series did not lack star power and it didn't get ratings reminiscent of the 1980's World Series games. Not that Paul Sullivan would draw a conclusion that baseball is dying because one World Series didn't get great ratings or anything like that when he refers to "this particular Series" lacking star power.

Madison Bumgarner, the probable MVP if the Giants win, isn't as well-known as half the starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

I mean, okay, if that comparison is attempting to prove baseball's popularity compared to the NFL's popularity it feels like a fail to me. LeBron James is more well-known than half of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Does that mean the NBA is more popular than the NFL? David Ortiz was popular and well-known and his presence didn't catapult the 2013 World Series to 30+ million viewers.

The Royals' key players, their three late inning relievers, are more anonymous than many NFL backup quarterbacks.

Everybody is anonymous until they make a name for themselves. I don't know if the World Series would bring in fantastic ratings even if the Royals had Papelbon, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman in the bullpen. Again, Sullivan is assuming it is the lack of star power that is pushing the 2014 World Series ratings to being below those ratings of World Series games 20-30 years ago. It's not entirely true. 

The numbers are frightening. Heading into Game 6, the Series was averaging 12.1 million viewers per game. Game 1 in Kansas City was the lowest-rated World Series opener of all time with an average of 12.2 million viewers, while Game 4 in San Francisco only drew an average of 10.7 million.

And yet, these numbers were still in the Top 20 of television shows in primetime during that week. World Series ratings aren't as high as they used to be, but they are really aren't terrible considering they are still among the Top 20 shows during a given week.

Sunday's Game 5 rose to a 12.6 million average, but still lost out to Sunday Night Football, where the Saints trounced the Packers.

Football is more popular than baseball. Stop pointing out how World Series ratings can't match Sunday Night Football ratings. The World Series games will not match the ratings of Sunday Night Football games. It's just how it is now and there's no reason to say, "Derrrrrrrrrr....why is it the World Series can't match football in ratings? Is the sport dying? What's going on?"

Football ratings > Baseball ratings. Accept it, move on, and make no further comparisons of baseball to football.

Is FX dying? All shows on FX can't match the ratings that World Series games receive. Does this mean FX shows aren't popular and the network should fold? What about HBO? They rely on paid subscribers, but their shows can't keep up with baseball's ratings. Is HBO dying?

According to Variety, Sunday Night Football's ratings beat Game 5 by a 39 percent margin, the biggest difference since World Series games began competing against the Sunday night games on NBC in 2010.

Welp, some World Series game has to have the largest difference in ratings as compared to Sunday Night Football. I guess Game 5 of the 2014 World Series is that game.

While this year's Series has been captivating to most avid baseball fans, the rest of the country seemingly is not enamored.

Because baseball is becoming more and more of a regional sport. That is why. Local ratings for baseball are pretty good and MLB teams are securing lucrative regional contracts as well. The sport is simply becoming less and less national.

You can believe it has crossed the minds of incoming commissioner Rob Manfred, who is taking over the ship at a critical juncture, and Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association.

Yes, I could believe the commissioner wants baseball ratings to be as high as possible. As commissioner, this does seem like it would be one of Rob Manfred's concerns. Even if ratings were great, one of Manfred's concerns would still be to make sure fans all around the United States continue to enjoy watching the World Series.

Baseball's gross revenues reached a record $8 billion last year, according to Forbes, so the sport isn't exactly dying.

But yet, articles like this wondering why the World Series is bleeding ratings and sounding a death knell for the sport of baseball still get written. For a sport that doesn't get great ratings nationally, revenue records are still being set. Gee, what could that mean? Somebody somewhere must be enjoying watching the sport of baseball.

But if the millennials are tuning the game out, why would the following generation suddenly start tuning in?

That's a great question. If World Series ratings are decreasing and there is less perceived interest in the World Series and baseball in general, why would baseball have record gross revenues?

Of course, closer games would have helped this World Series, but four of the first five games were decided by five or more runs. Game 6 was highly anticipated because of the possibility of a Giants' clincher, but once the Royals scored those seven second-inning runs you almost could hear America brushing its teeth and getting ready for bed.

Specifically because it is not 1985 and there are quite a few options other than the World Series on television on a Tuesday evening. So a World Series game that lacks tension won't be viewed by those who don't have a rooting interest in either the Giants or the Royals. It's just how it is in 2014. There are more than five options in television shows.

There should be a surge in viewers for Game 7, whose main competition will be the Bulls-Knicks season opener on ESPN.

Game 7's traditionally get really, really good ratings. That's because there is tension and the stakes are higher than in Games 1-5 where a loss by one team would not have resulted in the opposing team winning the World Series. Viewers of sports like tension.

Derrick Rose vs. Carmelo Anthony, or Tim Hudson vs. Jeremy Guthrie?

See, unfortunately Paul Sullivan is still missing the point. It's not Derrick Rose v. Carmelo Anthony, or Tim Hudson vs. Jeremy Guthrie. It's Tim Hudson vs. Jeremy Guthrie, or shows on the DVR, or shows on basic cable, or a movie on a movie pay channel, or a television show on a cable network, or Derrick Rose vs. Carmelo Anthony. It's not the NBA versus MLB head-to-head, but is MLB versus every other program that's on television, which could be 200 other programs that are being shown at the same time as the World Series.

You make the call.

Well, since baseball is dying there was no need to watch the World Series was there? By the way, the ratings for Game 7 of the 2014 World Series were pretty good. 23.5 million people watched Game 7. 


Chris said...

I've never liked it when writers use the old criticism of "no one has heard of these players before". Maybe if we are talking about a casual fan of baseball but I would wager most baseball fans who make up that 12 million that watched the World Series know who Jeremy Guthrie, James Shield and Wade Davis are.

I had read an article earlier in the week about ABC canceling a show that was only getting about 4 million viewers. I'm sure Selfie, or Manhattan Love Story or whatever it is that got shit canned would have done anything to get 12 million viewers. With the way most people watch television now i.e. Netflix of DVR, 12 million to me is a very good number.

Bengoodfella said...

Chris, most fans would at least know who James Shields is I would guess. And also, a player can't just magically become a household name. I'm sure few people knew who Derek Jeter was prior to 1996.