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World Series viewers are getting older. Is this a problem?

Oct 23, 2013, 3:33 PM EDT

old TV

Well, we’re all getting older. What’s relevant here is that the median age of the World Series viewer is creeping up and remains considerably higher than that of viewers of the other sports’ marquee events. Jonathan Mahler of Bloomberg explains why this is a concern:

For the time being, baseball can still sell plenty of ads for luxury cars and financial services and Viagra against its demographic. But at the end of the day, the inescapable reality is that baseball fans are old and getting older. At a certain point, about when 53.4 becomes 62.9, that’s going to be a problem.

Baseball knows this. That’s why it has been reduced to creating sideshows such as the Fan Cave, “a first-of-its-kind space mixing baseball with music, popular culture, media, interactive technology and art.”

I won’t put this one in the silly “baseball is dying” pile because unlike most of those efforts, here Mahler is pointing out a specific issue that could, theoretically, present a problem.

But I also question how big a problem it is. As we’ve noted several times before, baseball skews regional and the ratings of the national broadcasts like the World Series aren’t the best way to gauge its health. I can’t help but wonder if the same goes for its demographics, especially when the teams involved come from such established baseball towns like Boston and St. Louis which, one assumes, lend themselves to a lot of old timers watching broadcasts.

But even if the cities aren’t relevant to the analysis, I still wonder whether TV-watching metrics truly tell the whole tale about age about baseball’s overall demographic situation. It doesn’t apply to the playoffs, but how many baseball fans are consuming products via MLB.tv? How many “follow” baseball closely via digital means, even if they don’t watch every game? Baseball, after all, is an every day thing — not a weekly event like a football game or like an episode of “Big Bang Theory.”

Baseball also has revenue streams flowing from many different sources than just big broadcasts. It’s also the sport which boasts one of the best digital platforms in all of entertainment. It’s capturing eyes in many different forms and, I imagine, if you capture all of those various means of consuming baseball, you’d get a very different picture of the demographics of its fans than merely looking at playoff TV viewers will give you.

Which isn’t to say that it’s awesome that the median age of TV viewers is climbing. Indeed, it’s incumbent upon baseball, I believe, to try to get the people who consume baseball via a laptop, a phone and a Roku player to, come playoff time, switch on the TV, because that’s where serious money is made. Perhaps having Fox, ESPN and TBS approach baseball broadcasts in a fundamentally different way would be a good start because, boy howdy, the current broadcast product is pretty bad.

But I think that’s more of nagging problem to solve than it is some generational time bomb.

  1. farvite - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    “That’s what I like about these high school girls… I get older.. They stay the same age…….”

  2. jollyjoker2 - Oct 23, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    Its baseballs problem. Now, I have to go watch my action movie with 80 year olds listed as the stars.

  3. tc4306 - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:26 AM

    Over the past two seasons, I’ve been to about 45 Blue Jays games.
    What has impressed me most has not been the team;
    it has been the changing demographic.
    Twenty somethings flying solo and young families with children
    have become far more numerous than grey beards and grannies.

    The young women are decked out in their their JPA (no accounting for taste)
    Rasmus and Lawrie attire and are into it every bit as much as the guys:
    and we know who controls voluntary spending in young families.

    They may not be glued to their TV sets during the WS
    but it sure does auger well for the ball club.

    • nbjays - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:36 AM

      I hear you, TC. Baseball is alive and well among the younger generation, as evidenced in my house; my 15-year-old son is at least as big a Jays fan as I am. And last time we went to Rogers Centre, in 2010 when my son was 12 and his younger sister was just 9, they both had a ball, and were far from being the only kids there. In our section there were dozens.

      MLB just needs to figure out how to aim broadcasts at a younger demographic, and getting rid of Buck and McCarver is a good first step.

  4. William Miller - Nov 29, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Obviously, there’s a long-term problem here. The author’s idea that maybe there’s just more old people in Boston than in other parts of the country is ridiculous. For one thing, Boston is a college town. That pointless observation aside, while we might all know a younger person who still likes baseball, the fan-base is overall getting older, and at some point, this will be a problem. The question is, what is baseball going to do about it?

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