October 13, 2012

Baseball Playoffs Continue to Underwhelm

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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Major League Baseball’s 2012 Playoffs (or Postseason as MLB insists it is called) could not be more competitive or interesting on the field.  Most series in the Division Championship round going the limit to five games, and most games very close (one or two run margins) this year.  And the national audience could not care less.

As we showed a few days ago, the postseason started rather quietly last Friday on TBS, the Witness Protection Program for sports and original comedy.  Things have not really improved the last few nights.

On Tuesday (10.9.2012), the highest-rated game was Detroit at Oakland at 9:26 ET, a 1.5 rating with Adults 18-49.  The other game, Giants at Reds at 5:30 ET, averaged a 1.0 rating.  Both were very good games, but in most of the country the second game started way too late for most viewers to even consider getting invested in (an expected end time of 1 am ET).  Compared to the broadcast network shows on Tuesday night, the 1.5 rating for Detroit-Oakland was tied with Ben & Kate, the lowest-rated original episode on the major networks that evening.  Elsewhere on cable, that game was beaten handily by Sons of Anarchy (2.3), edged by BET Hip Hop Awards (1.6) and tied BET’s premiere of Keyshia & Daniel: Family.

On Wednesday, Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees perked up to a 1.8 rating, the best rating MLB has received this postseason since the one-game Wildcard Playoff games last Friday.  (The game also started at a more reasonable 7:44 ET.)  Versus the broadcast networks, the game gave NBC a run for its money, kicking sand in the face of Wednesday’s 98-pound broadcast weakling: trouncing the awful Animal Practice (1.1) and Guys with Kids (1.4), tying SVU and nearly matching Chicago Fire (1.9).   But the game was far behind the 2.8 to 3.5 ratings of the significant networks on the night.  And although Wednesday’s game was a relatively good showing for MLB, it failed to top the cable chart that night.  The Wednesday cable crown went to, ahem, A&E’s Duck Dynasty at 10:30 (1.9).

By Thursday, just when MLB looked like it might have some momentum, another Orioles-Yankees game at 7:30 ET only managed a 1.7 rating.  Granted, it had to face the NFL again (a relatively low 2.5 for Steelers at Titans on NFL Network), and 51 million people did watch the Biden-Ryan VP debate on various networks.  But even with all the competition and the endless excuses, baseball can’t crack a 2 rating for an important playoff game featuring the biggest team in the sport?

On Sunday, we get our first look at postseason baseball ratings on a broadcast network: Game 1 of the NLCS (Cardinals at Giants) on FOX at 8:00 pm ET.  Of course, the game will be facing an NFL game (Green Bay at Houston on NBC), but FOX will be counting on the Bay Area (the #6 largest TV market) to goose the national ratings.  The 49ers’ 4:30 pm ET game on FOX is the lead-in for the Giants playoff game.  Maybe the viewers in Northern California can push baseball over that 2-rating level nationally.

But don’t count on it.  Last year’s comparable game, ALCS Game 1 on FOX (Detroit at Texas) was only a 1.9 rating.  Yes, that game aired on a Saturday night, but it didn’t have to face the NFL.

Meanwhile, the much more attractive Yankees-Tigers American League series is stuck on TBS with its ratings ceiling, announcers that actually make Tim McCarver sound tolerable and insightful, and all those torturous and (not) “very funny” promos for Cougar Town and Conan.  The horror.  The horror.

Are you listening, Commissioner? Baseball’s Postseason is not working on TV.

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.