Poor World Series Ratings? Look No Further
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 Polmanâ€™s work at http://1924andyouarethere.blogspot.com/ where heâ€™s conducting a fascinating replay of the 1924 season.