It's easier to find than porn or coupons on the Internet.
1. People screaming the hyberbole that baseball is dying.
2. People screaming the hyerbole that baseball ISN'T dying.
Those in #1 one conveniently, and immediately, think of the Super Bowl ratings to make a comparison, and their position is affirmed. This year's World Series has averaged around 13-ish million viewers (through the first three games), so you'd need TEN World Series games to equal ONE Super Bowl. There's absolutely no arguing that the NFL is so far and away the most popular and most followed sports in the country. Nice work NFL, even though I think you've peaked.
Those in #2 respond with the record attendance numbers MLB is pulling. I think I saw it was something like 74 million fans (though, many repeats, right?) attended a Major League Baseball game this past year. Then the astronomical TV contracts get bandied around as further proof that baseball ISN'T dying. At this point though, anything that's DVR-proof will fortune their way into that same financial windfall. It's pretty simple, if you're good, people WILL tune in as evidenced by the Tigers, Cardinals, and Royals who rounded out the top five in local MLB TV ratings. Additionally, MLB is also far ahead of the NFL when it comes to advanced media. The Red Zone is great, but only Verizon customers have access to much that the NFL offers digitally. Baseball is thriving on its MLB.tv and At Bat (I've bought every single year) properties. To rival the Sunday Ticket, which looks like a Dinosaur amid pay-TV wars, Twitter, and people's society fueled ADHD these days, I get the Extra Innings package each year. It's almost $300, but it's 80 games a week, for 6 months. Well worth it.
If you'll concede that yes, MLB and almost ALL TV is instinctivally compared to the behemoth ratings the Super Bowl gets, then we can proceed.
The fairest juxtaposition for World Series ratings, would be the NBA Finals. Fairest doesn't mean perfectly paralleled though.
This year's riveting NBA Finals between the Heat and Spurs averaged more viewers than where the World Series is at right now - 17.7 million. Hit this NYT article for when the series peaked at 34 million during Game 7. That's possible for this World Series!
Game 7 in Miami was on June 9th at 9pm. Spring TV season was about over, the newness of the MLB season, after 60-some games had worn down, schools were finishing and bedtimes with them and it was one of the few lifeless spots on the NFL calendar. In other words, the Finals, and damn they were invigorating this year, don't have much entertainment competition for viewers.
People erect their early February lives around the Super Bowl because of its event like status. The game has certainly earned that after nearly 50 of them. It's transcends just watching a game, and if half of corporate and business America used a floating holiday the Monday after the game, it would be a wise use an off day.
I'm telling what you already know.
Back to baseball, the World Series, its ratings, and the game's 'death.' Ratings for the World Series will NEVER be what they once were. Now, football games regularly oppose it. That's the 10,000 pound elephant, and it's 5,000 pound gorilla little brother, college football. It's also the middle of the vital and compelling fall TV season. New shows, favorites back on with new episodes. Sure there's DVR, but some shows are SO good these days, avid and rabid fans want to watch their shows LIVE. Wanna see my Twitter timeline last night? It was filled with Walking Dead mentions, none of which I cared about.
I'll grant this, part of the reason for the NFL and NBA's growth is because they've marketed their stars well. They're either heroes or villains, and those storylines are good for interest and ratings. MLB has failed to effectively turn the game's greatest into household names, which has pigeon holed it into the parochialism it's ensared in. I can't tell MLB how to market themselves, but Step 1, make your fantasy games a BIGGER deal...people then may become excited for and interested in players they'd never heard of. Hell yea, you - casual fan - wants to watch the World Series because YOU picked up Michael Wacha off your waiver wire and he pitched you into some fantasy bragging rights.
PHOTO CREDIT - Getty Images
Let's say Boston and St. Louis have as dramatic as series we got from the NBA Finals (let's remember there's no Lebron type draw in MLB, that IS on them). It's Thursday night, Game 7, in one of the game's most storied settings. I think you'd see numbers comparable to what the NBA typically scores during the Finals, and while not a perfect comparison, it's fairer than letting it be eaten alive by ranking it next to Super Bowl ratings.
Will you humor me a moment longer?
What IF the World Series WAS a one game winner-take-all contest? What if wasn't opposed by fall TV, football, homework, Halloween parties and trick-or-treating? What if it created an EVENT like the NFL has, and had a clear night of programming as the NBA enjoys during the Finals?
Yea, put the game on at 7:30, not 8 oh-something-that-turns-into-close-to-8:30.
One game. Red Sox, Cardinals, Fenway...
I bet it gets 50 million viewers. At least.