Skip to content

Why baseball ratings are low

Jul 2, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT

old TV

Steve Lepore of SBNation has a smart take on why ratings for nationally-televised MLB games are low and continue to trend downward. Unlike every other take you see on this, however, it is not attributed to people hating baseball or baseball not being as cool and awesome as football.

Rather, it’s a story those of you who have been reading HBT for a while know already: it’s a story about fragmentation and localization. Whereas, years ago, baseball fans could only see a relatively low number of local games now they can see all of them if they want to, making a “Game of the Week” less necessary than it once was. At the same time, as fans become more immersed in their own team they become less willing to watch other teams, exacerbating the trend away from nationally televised games. And once their team is eliminated? Pfft, forget it.

It’s also a story about the dynamic of baseball not being terribly well-suited to casual drop-in fans who want to see one big game because, with few exceptions, baseball doesn’t really ever have “one big game.” This, I will admit, is an indirect result of the rise of the NFL. With only 16 games and so many winner-take-all contests, the idea of the event telecast — of structuring your Sunday around one game — is much stronger than it used to be when the NFL was less popular and there were more regional broadcasts.

The real health of baseball on television is a look at aggregate ratings across all regional broadcasts. I’ve not seen these numbers but I would suspect that they show baseball to be a healthy TV sport overall, even if it’s in the dumps, ratings-wise, on the national level.

Can anything be done about the national problems, though? Lepore has one rather radical suggestion which you may hate. Click through and read to find out. But man, if that’s the choice we have, I’ll gladly accept the lower ratings.

Latest Posts
  1. Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams out indefinitely with torn quadriceps, may need surgery

    May 27, 2015, 5:19 PM EDT

    matt adams cardinals getty Getty Images

    Adams was off to a slow start this season, but he’s hit .277 with a .770 OPS in 320 games for the Cardinals since debuting in 2012.

  2. Al Kaline’s last game

    May 27, 2015, 5:09 PM EDT

    Portrait of Al Kaline

    Everything ends badly. Otherwise it wouldn’t end.

  3. Scott Kazmir leaves the Tigers-Athletics game with an apparent injury

    May 27, 2015, 4:34 PM EDT

    Scott Kazmir AP

    A bad season for the A’s is starting to look worse.

  4. Felix Hernandez and Chris Archer dueled. Chris Archer, by one measure, pitched better. Felix Hernandez won.

    May 27, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT

    Felix Hernandez Getty Images

    Game scores are interesting things. Wins — the team kind, anyway — are far more satisfying.

  5. Orioles drop $5 million outfielder Alejandro De Aza

    May 27, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT

    Alejandro De Aza AP AP

    De Aza played very well for the Orioles down the stretch last season.

  6. Angels acquire outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis from Mets

    May 27, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Kirk Nieuwenhuis Getty Images

    Several reports last week had the Angels in the market for outfield help.

  7. The “Selig Experience” attraction opens this week at Miller Park

    May 27, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT

    MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York Reuters

    “A multimedia show featuring a virtual Selig.” Yes, that’s actually a thing.

  8. Matt Wieters begins rehab assignment with two hits

    May 27, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    Matt Wieters Getty Getty Images

    He’s about 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery.

  9. Cubs release left-hander Phil Coke

    May 27, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT

    Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Phil Coke throws against the Milwaukee Brewers during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks) AP

    Coke signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Cubs this offseason.

  10. Buster Olney: The Marlins should hire A-Rod to be their next manager

    May 27, 2015, 11:01 AM EDT

    Alex Rodriguez AP

    And you think my A-Rod trolling kung-fu is the best. Heck, I’m an amateur.

  11. Matt Adams is hurt, so the Cardinals turn to Mark Reynolds

    May 27, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT

    matt adams getty Getty Images

    Adams hurt his quadriceps while running out a double.

  12. Video: Carlos Correa hit a monster home run in Fresno

    May 27, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    carlos correa getty Getty Images

    He has three homers and is hitting .283/.353/.500 in 14 Triple-A games. At the age of 20.

  13. Rays release Grant Balfour for the second time this season

    May 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Grant Balfour AP

    Last month the Rays released right-hander Grant Balfour from his $7 million big-league contract and then re-signed him to a minor-league deal.

  14. Video: Kris Bryant hit a 477-foot homer off the new video board at Wrigley Field

    May 27, 2015, 9:52 AM EDT

    Kris Bryant Getty Images

    It smacked off the new video board at Wrigley Field, depriving the folks on Waveland Avenue of a home run ball.

  15. Breaking down the Braves-Dodgers trade

    May 27, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - APRIL 26: Juan Uribe #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on during a game against the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium on April 26, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

    No real clear winner, no real clear loser. Indeed, in this trade, that’s almost beside the point.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (3638)
  2. A. Pujols (3363)
  3. J. Lucroy (3351)
  4. Y. Puig (3220)
  5. D. Wright (3178)
  1. D. Travis (3097)
  2. R. Castillo (2942)
  3. B. Harper (2771)
  4. A. Garcia (2532)
  5. B. Zobrist (2519)