April 24, 2018

Poor World Series Ratings? Look No Further

August 24, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

So it’s a sultry Saturday night in Los Angeles, and I’m flipping my remote back and forth between two scintillating wild card matchups. The Rays are hosting the Rangers and Marlon Byrd just tied the game 4-4 with a two out homer in the 9th, while out at Coors Field, the Rockies are in the process of erasing a 6-3 deficit to the pesky Giants with a glorious seven-run inning.

It’s unquestionably the best baseball of the day, and then I ask myself: Why did I have to buy Directv’s Extra Innings baseball package in order to see this? Why didn’t Fox air these two games simultaneously this afternoon and cut back and forth between them like I’m doing?

Oh, I know. Because they were showing another four-hour Yankee/Red Sox slaughter at Fenway Park. Well, how about ESPN and tomorrow’s Sunday night telecast? Nope. Looks like they scheduled a four-hour Yankees/Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

Now I happen to be one of the more obsessed Red Sox fans around, and I plan to be hating the Yankees for eternity because it’s in my DNA, but even I am sick of this seemingly endless national network love affair with all things New York and Boston. I realize it’s the best rivalry in the game, but there’s an entire rest of the country that might be interested in seeing a fresh one. More important, when you ignore every other race in baseball except a borderline blowout in the northeast corridor, you run the risk of shooting yourself in the postseason foot come October. Again.

Last year’s World Series ratings were historically abysmal, and even though the bad Philly weather and late starting times were a factor, I firmly believe that Fox and ESPN’s failure to air one Tampa game until late September played a huge negative part. Unless they were lucky enough to be blessed with a satellite TV package, fans around the country knew next to nothing about the Rays and thus had no vested interest in watching them in the Series.

I grew up with NBC’s Saturday Game of the Week and ABC’s Monday Night Baseball, one game apiece per week that almost never failed to spotlight key pennant race matchups, regardless of who was involved. It was one of the reasons I learned to love pennant races, and it is a network concept that is desperately needed today.

I realize the Sunday night games and some of the Saturday afternoon ones are picked way in advance to maximize big market viewership, but it’s detrimental in the long run because playoff upsets happen nearly every season, and the big money teams have as much chance of playing golf in late October as anyone. Why not insure more viewers for the fall classic with smarter, preventive programming in late summer?

Television can sell anything if they put their minds and dollars on it, but when it comes to the simple task of promoting second half pennant races, MLB and the networks have been whiffing badly. You can’t expect to fill a wedding hall without proper invitations, and even if the guests somehow find the place, it helps if they know who the bride and groom are.

You can find more of Jeff Polman’s work at http://1924andyouarethere.blogspot.com/ where he’s conducting a fascinating replay of the 1924 season.


2 Responses to “Poor World Series Ratings? Look No Further”
  1. Good point Jeff. ESPN and Fox are admitting they don’t have the imagination and creativity to hold the attention of baseball fans any longer. Since most of the Boston and Big Apple fans watch the games on local cable, who is really watching this stuff?

    I admit to thinking about it. “Hey” I say to myself. “There is another Boston-NY game on TV.” “Remember that great game back in 2004? The Varitek/ARod fight,” I say to myself. But I have tuned in several times looking for excitement and been disappointed, so I turn the TV off or go back to a local Nationals game or even an Orioles game unless Jim Palmer is announcing and then I run–don’t walk–for the nearest exit. Because most of the jocks announcing these days on sports television are sanctimonious, arrogant and boring. Color? These guys got color? That’ll be the day.

    I saw pictures of the Colorado game in the paper this morning, or on ESPN News last night–all those guys jumping up and down around whoever got the walkoff hit. Good announcers could make something of that.

    Maybe if fans start packing heat outside the stadiums and yelling about health care we could get some coverage of those other games. I am not advocating an armed insurrection. No, no, no. Not me.

  2. Jeff Polman says:

    I saw that Giants-Rockies walk-off salami last night on my Extra Innings package, and it might have been the most exciting baseball moment this year. Why ESPN hadn’t chosen to cover this game is another mystery for the ages,

    Ted? Let’s get those picket signs started.

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