Good For Baseball/Bad For TV?

If you are a baseball fan, the makeup of the ALCS and NLDS have to excite you. The Brewers have advanced to their first ever NLCS (Actually kids, the Brewers used to be in the AL before Uncle Bud decided “his” team needed to avoid having to pay a DH and relocated them to the AL. But, I digress) Standing in the way of their first trip to the World Series in almost 30 years are the Cardinals, the team that beat them in the 1982 Series. St. Louis managed to defeat the Phillies, the team with unbeatable pitching, with a 1-0 victory in Game 5.

Over in the AL we have the Texas Rangers, a team that made their first World Series ever last year facing off against Detroit, a team that has plenty of history, but apart from a 2006 World Series appearance (against the Cardinals) not many positive moments in the last 25 years. Yup, there are plenty of storylines, but most of the U.S. will miss them because the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies are not involved. At least that’s what the conventional wisdom wants you to believe.

The thing is, baseball’s TV ratings have been plumbing new depths for awhile, even with the big cities of the East Coast heavily involved. In 1991 the fifth game of the World Series drew 37 million viewers and a 23% share of televisions on in the U.S. market. That’s almost more eyeballs than the first THREE games combined of the 2010 World Series. The 5th game last year drew 14.4 million fans and an 8.8% share of TV’s Meanwhile the NFL’s championship games easily earn over 30 million fans and over 50% of the TV’s on.

There are a lot of reasons that the NFL has surpassed baseball as “America’s Sport”. A HUGE part of it is gambling. Laying 5 points in a football game makes a lot more sense than having a laying 160 to win 100. (These are purely hypothetical examples) But football also has the advantage of being consumable in small doses and convenient start times. The football playoffs are a total of 11 games. MLB Just completed 19 games to finish the divisional round, that won’t change. But, I believe start times play an enormous part in what has happened over the years.

The Super Bowl kicks off around 6:20pm EST, which means fans on the East Coast can watch the game and be in bed before 10:30. Contrast that with the ALDS playoffs which had the Yankees starting games mostly at 8:37 and ending them long after midnight. Some will argue that it is different in the World Series and they are right. Despite two weekend games, the earliest MLB start time is 6:07pm.

My Father grew up in England and baseball was anathema to him. He called it “bore-ball” because it never resonated with him like his version of football (soccer). I understand that the game isn’t for everyone. The pace can be frustratingly slow and that isn’t going to change, no matter how many rules MLB installs to speed up the game. But, the powers that be have ignored the younger generation for far too long. The last truly daytime World Series game was 1984. That means that most fans under 30 never saw a complete World Series game while they were growing up. Can you blame them for not tuning in?

The ALCS and NLCS will be interesting to watch from a ratings standpoint. Sports fans have a chance at a number of “fresh” storylines. There are always complaints that MLB Is too much Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. Those teams are home, now will the fans at home tune in?