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. Yankees (finally) place Mark Teixeira on the disabled list

    Sep 4, 2015, 11:33 AM EDT

    Mark Teixeira AP

    Teixeira suffered the injury on August 17.

  2. Scott Boras and the Mets disagree on what Matt Harvey’s innings limit is

    Sep 4, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT

    Matt Harvey Matt Harvey

    Just when you thought the Mets would enjoy a smooth, controversy-free final month of the regular season.

  3. And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

    Sep 4, 2015, 7:29 AM EDT

    Carlos Gonzalez AP

    Carlos Gonzalez hit two homers for the second straight night.

  4. Bryce Harper walks in all four of his plate appearances, scores four runs

    Sep 3, 2015, 11:04 PM EDT

    FILE - In this July 21, 2015, file photo, Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper pauses in the dugout during a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park in Washington. Mike Trout turned 24 on Friday, and he and Bryce Harper could become the youngest pair of MVPs in major league history if they win this year.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) AP

    Bryce Harper didn’t have an official at-bat tonight, but he still made a major impact in the Nationals’ 15-1 blowout victory over the Braves.

  5. Marcus Stroman is getting closer to rejoining the Blue Jays

    Sep 3, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman throws during the first inning of a spring training exhibition baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., Wednesday, March 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) AP

    Stroman threw 4 2/3 hitless innings in his first minor league rehab start.

  6. Jose Iglesias exits game after being hit in hand while trying to bunt

    Sep 3, 2015, 10:29 PM EDT

    jose iglesias

    Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias was forced to exit Thursday’s game against the Royals in the third inning when he was hit in the hand while trying to drop down a bunt.

  7. Corey Seager starting at shortstop and batting eighth in MLB debut Thursday

    Sep 3, 2015, 9:50 PM EDT

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28: Corey Seager #61 of the Los Angeles Dodgers poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Camelback Ranch on February 28, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Dodgers called up top prospect Corey Seager today and manager Don Mattingly isn’t wasting any time getting him into the starting lineup…

  8. Daniel Murphy day-to-day with mild quad strain

    Sep 3, 2015, 8:46 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 16:  Daniel Murphy #28 of the New York Mets reacts after he is out at first to tend the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 16, 2015 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the New York Mets 8-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Murphy had a stint on the disabled list earlier this season due to a left quad strain.

  9. Stephen Strasburg expected to return for series against Mets next week

    Sep 3, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT

    Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) AP

    Strasburg left his most recent start on Sunday with discomfort in his upper back, but he’s on track to make his return for a crucial series against the Mets next week.

  10. Andrew McCutchen is battling some Achilles tightness

    Sep 3, 2015, 6:50 PM EDT

    Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen hits a solo-home run off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Dan Haren during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) AP

    McCutchen feels “a little sore” and has been “hobbling around a little bit,” so he’ll take a rest before a big series against the Cardinals this weekend.

  11. ESPN pulls Curt Schilling off broadcasts for rest of regular season and Wild Card game

    Sep 3, 2015, 6:13 PM EDT

    Curt Schilling AP

    ESPN has pulled Schilling from their broadcasts for the remainder of the season.

  12. Rival scout says he’s really impressed with what the Phillies have done this year

    Sep 3, 2015, 4:31 PM EDT

    Ruben Amaro Jr. Ruben Amaro Jr.

    Sentiments like these — of which I’ve seen a few — makes me wonder about Ruben Amaro.

  13. Matt Harvey is expected to take his next turn

    Sep 3, 2015, 1:51 PM EDT

    Matt Harvey Matt Harvey

    He was suffering from dehydration yesterday.

  14. David Ortiz tweets his happiness about the Deflategate decision

    Sep 3, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Four Getty Images

    Finally, Tom Brady and Boston sports fans get a win!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Stanton (2540)
  2. H. Ramirez (2518)
  3. G. Springer (2506)
  4. S. Strasburg (2398)
  5. J. Baez (2370)
  1. C. Correa (2356)
  2. M. Teixeira (2298)
  3. B. Crawford (2290)
  4. H. Pence (2285)
  5. B. Harper (2092)