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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. The Dangerous Mabry - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Want younger viewers? Start the games before the kids are asleep.

    • blacksables - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:48 PM

      Want younger viewers? Don’t play the games on nights when people this age have kids playing sports in high school, or scouting, or some kind of club, or, pretty much anything kids might be doing.

      • 950003cups - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:47 PM

        Every sport plays their games at 7-8 pm
        You think its better to play them when kids are in school?
        Most of MLB is played in the summer. So school, and playing school games makes no sense.

        Fact is, in 1997 MLB was revived by the very thing that is killing it today. Steroids. If baseball wants to remain relevant to younger sports fans, then they’re gonna have to allow some controversy. Let the media provoke trash talking in interviews.

        Player R accused Player A of being dirty.

        Player B threatened Player D that he’ll punch him in the mouth.

        Player M dared Player Z to “come say that to my face”

        Rumors are that Player X is sleeping with Player H’s wife.

        That’s what it’s gonna take. There’s no hitting. Pitchers are getting harder and harder to hit.

        OR:

        Just have a hard cap so there is parity for once. I’m a Yankee fan, but I would like to appreciate them winning without hearing “they bought the players” From 1995 to 2000 there were no major players bought in FA. Then along came A-Rod and that was that.

    • 18thstreet - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      I don’t think that’s right at all. I mean, if you want 12-year olds, start the games at 6:00 so that they end before bedtime. But when advertisers talk about a younger audience, they mean 18-35 year olds (or whatever that segment is). And college students certainly aren’t bothered by a game that ends at midnight. (When I was in college, I went to sleep at 2:00 a.m. most days. Crazy.)

      I don’t think advertisers covet 12-year olds. In fact — speaking as a parent of a 6-year old and a 4-year old — there are ads for (say) horror movies and boner pills that I’d prefer my kids not watch at all. I don’t think my family is one that advertisers covet. Maybe my wife (but I covet her, too). (#selffive)

      The goal is to appeal to more 24-year olds. And here’s my central suggestion: TALK ABOUT THE GAME ACTUALLY TAKING PLACE. Don’t use every action as an invitation to talk about Mickey Mantle. The Mick played his last game in 1968. A 24-year old was born twenty years after that. Do the math for yourself and see how relevant these historic references are to a young adult. There is absolutely zero relevance, in 2013, to what happened in the 1946 World Series. None. Even the managers weren’t born then, for Pete’s sake.

      I love stories about the past. But not when there’s an important game taking place in front of me.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:47 PM

        My dad is 70 years old. Big Sox fan. He was 4 during the 1946 World Series. No one cares.

  2. happytwinsfan - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    is that a picture of the average TV of the average play off viewer?

    • cur68 - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      Nah. That’s the TV umpires use to review close plays.

      • thisdamnbox - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:17 PM

        Now that’s fuck*ng hilarious! (asterisk placed for humor)

      • Bryz - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:10 PM

        thisdamnbox, if you have to explain the joke, then it’s not funny.

  3. philliesblow - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    It would help if they started no later than 8 pm. The games are ending so late it’s hard to stay up for the whole thing on a work night.

    Getting rid of Buck & McCarver would help also.

    • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:56 PM

      The games start before 8PM for more than half of the US population.

    • asimonetti88 - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      Games rarely start after 8 PM for me but I also live on the West Coast.

    • rje49 - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      I’m near the East Coast. Now that I’m retired and don’t have to get up at 5am anymore I don’t mind these late starts as much as I used to. Now my biggest problem is just staying awake.

    • roadryder - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:56 PM

      You know back in the sixties most teams’ night games (regular season – the WS was still an all daytime affair) started at 8 PM but typically finished before 11 PM (and often earlier). The differences are:

      1) many more commercials between innings
      2) players wasting time between pitches
      3) more mound conferences
      4) more pitching changes – compounding problem 1

      Since MLB and the Player’s Association are not likely to demand less in rights fees we’re probably stuck with #1 although it might be possible for them to demand less time between innings and let the networks pass the cost on to the advertisers.

      Problem #2 can be addressed by enforcing the existing rules for time between pitches and batters stepping out of the box.

      Problem #3 can be addressed by limiting (or, better yet, banning) mound conferences not involving the manage, pitching coach or trainer. That is, no more catcher-pitcher or pitcher-infielder conferences.

      Problem #4 has no easy solution but I advocate limiting the size of pitching staffs so that managers have fewer toys to play with.

      Its either that or get used to 1-0 playoff games that last 4 hours.

      • Anoesis - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:56 PM

        Less commercial break time would certainly raise the fee for a 30-second spot, but it also might actually gain eyeballs. Also might help the construction industry by spurring demand for urinal installations in the den.

  4. jshoelessj - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    Personally I watch the games on MLB.TV as I can’t follow my team from where I live unless they’re playing in a national broadcast. But aside from just the time commitment issues for watching 162 games, I cannot stand any of the announcers. A large part of me wishes I could just have a live feed of the game with only the ambient stadium audio feed so I wouldn’t have to worry about what idiotic things the announcers are saying (I wish this was available for all sports not just baseball).

    • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:58 PM

      This is available on MLB.tv (it might be a premium feature), it is the only choice for Postseason.tv, and can be achieved for most all sporting events by muting/disconnecting the center speaker in a surround sound set-up.

  5. indyralph - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    From the Census bureau: “During the 20th century, the number of persons in the United States under age 65 has tripled. At the same time, the number aged 65 or over has jumped by a factor of 11!”

    The median age of everything is getting older. If the median age of your consumer is not getting older, it means you are losing consumer.

    • sportsdrenched - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      Thanks for bringing this up. The other day on the radio there was some discussion about how the work force is getting older and went into a number of reasons for it. Now that I think about it this aging of the baseball fan is the same as the demographic shift in the work force, and our society in General. It’s the same reason social security is in trouble. It comes down to simple math….there way more Baby Boomers than there are of any Generation following them, and not only are there more of them, they are living longer.

      So back to the original topic. Yes, it’s something to keep an eye on. But I wouldn’t be all that concerned about it just yet for the same reasons other people have mentioned; regionality, MLB.tv. etc.

      • km9000 - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:54 PM

        The median age for baseball fans is older compared to other sports to begin with, and the concern is that it’s increasing at a bigger rate and that there aren’t as many younger fans/future customers being brought in.

  6. bfunk1978 - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    The best way to fix baseball broadcasts is to put a moratorium on stories. Holy shit, I’m so tired of hearing Al Hrabosky babble on about how great he was in the 70s and, and how awful Rick Horton was and how great his teammates were in the 80s. I just started listening to the radio broadcasts. Gets way old listening to glory days stories.

  7. scapistron - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    Look what happened to Buick, Lincoln, Cadillac, Mercury, and Oldsmobile. Them producing products of questionable quality and design aside their consumer base just got older and older until sales fell out from underneath them.

  8. spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Wine, Cheese, Scotch, and Jazz.

  9. jhaegs - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Craig, if you would cease to live, that’d be great.

    • cur68 - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:33 PM

      Aryn Leroux is that you? Made bail, eh? Getting on the internets and wishing death on people isn’t helping you, mate. Oh, and how do you get to be 42 and still have zits like 14 year old? Perhaps lay off the greasy food and get some sun?

  10. jrs1972 - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    These things were bound to happen as peoples attention spans lower and face it.. 98% of watching baseball on tv is watching men stand on grass and other men ramble on about absolutely worthless stats from 80 years ago.

  11. raysfan1 - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    Just FYI, the US population’s median age is 37.2 and Canada’s is about 41. This obviously includes the very young children who wouldn’t watch anyway.

  12. mornelithe - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    I don’t care, because I’m not paid to. That’s an issue for the Commissioner and Owners.

  13. provguard - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    It seems that the younger people care more for the violent sports. Maybe you can just eliminate baseball because it doesn’t meet your standards Mahler?

    Side shows???????? Mahler get off your carcass and go watch a football game just after a TD or slam dunk and then tell me the other sports don’t have side shows.

  14. unclemosesgreen - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    I think having 60 seconds between pitches & 12 pitching changes a game is anathematic to the modern attention span & it could be a bigger problem than you think.

    • rje49 - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:08 PM

      They could speed up the game by banning batting gloves if somebody doesn’t invent one that stays tight after one pitch.

  15. 950003cups - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    It might be a virus. DO NOT CLICK

  16. jhaegs - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    @cur68

    Typo- it was supposed to say “love”…

    • cur68 - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      Dude. WTF? WHY would you wish that on him either? I mean, “cease to love”? Holy shit. I’d rather die. I wouldn’t be surprised if he felt the same way. Seriously, modify your requests to bloggers ’cause that shit’s cold.

  17. badvlad - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    One thing I imagine this data doesn’t account for is the number of viewers using online streams (either MLBtv or a free alternative) to view the games. I know a lot of people my age (20-30ish) are increasingly using their computer more and more than their TV to either watch TV shows (such as Breaking Bad) or sports, and I doubt studies such as this have data that accounts for this.

  18. jhaegs - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    @cur68

    I think it would actually help him. What is the point of an unloved person, loving? It’s like a paraplegic with a shiny new pair if running shoes…

    • cur68 - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      Seek help. Soon. Also, learn where the “reply” button is or stop using that lame-ass app.

  19. jhaegs - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    @cur68

    You should fault NBC Sports Talk for designing an inferior app.

  20. 1historian - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    cut about an hour from the pre-game bullshit – Just play the damn game

  21. jhaegs - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    Just play each game like a home run derby…

  22. pcoochop - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    The greatest game ever played???? Baseball!!! so, to say its going to be dead soon is like saying peach cobbler isn’t better with a Georgia peach vs a Tennessee peach, come on man!!!! Kids best safe sport vs football and basketball and soccer? Baseball sign my kids up now!!!! I am 27 didn’t grow into a baseball family but I love this sport more than football only NASCAR sets higher in my life. Its a fantasy sport that’s to me the best to play and that’s how u get the younger generation my man, FANTASY!!! look at the nfl? and even nascar fantasy boosted them by almost 13% viewers in 3 months after pilot…. So, baseball ppl listen to me fantasy is where its at

  23. Bryz - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I think the issue is that so many announcers bring up stories from the past, which naturally are easier to tell because they lived through them, plus they cater to the older audience. I am driven crazy by Bert Blyleven telling stories during Twins games because they all reference from when he was a player. When he needs to make a player comparison for someone on the field, he chooses someone that played in the ’80s or ’90s. One way to get younger fans would be to start giving this generation a chance to relate to what’s being mentioned on TV.

  24. moogro - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    The population is getting less intelligent, attentive and contemplative. And playing less baseball.

  25. farvite - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    Football called. They’d like to know when they can kick your @$$ in the ratings department again.

    • Uncle Charlie - Oct 23, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      Violence is only second to sex, but second to none in the national felon league.

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