Popularity Contest Part II
We left off last time with proof that, while Major League attendance has not increased drastically since expanding to 30 teams in 1998, attendance has not decreased significantly either. Averaged out, attendance has remained about the same.
Now, we’ll take a look at another important figure in gauging popularity; World Series television ratings. Now, I’ve always had a problem with television ratings because I don’t trust them. They are essentially educated guesses, whereas attendance is a concrete number based on ticket sales. But we’re going to look at ratings anyway. The table below, courtesy of Baseball-Almanac, provides viewership averages and ratings averages for the World Series dating back to 1973:
Because I know tables are no fun, I’ve created a chart to show the drastic decline in viewers during the World Series.
My first inclination was to blame Fox for the ratings. Since they signed their long term deal, there have only been three times the viewers totaled more than 20,000,000. However, the graph shows the decline actually started after the 1992 season.
Keep in mind, these figures are for the World Series only. Baseball’s premiere event. It goes without saying, that an average broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest or Comcast Sportsnet is not going to draw the same viewership the World Series draws.
Below are the three biggest perception issues facing baseball:
No one watches baseball on TV. Setting aside the World Series ratings, people do not want to sit and watch a 3-hour game on a weekday on a channel that, when not showing baseball, shows women’s gymnastics.
Baseball is boring. That’s the other big problem many people have with the sport. Many times the games are low scoring and you can go multiple innings without any action.
The games don’t mean anything. With a 162-game schedule, the games don’t matter. A 7:00 game on April 21st doesn’t matter to the average fan, because he knows there will be 150 more games to be played.
Perception is reality and it is killing baseball. Sure, Major League Baseball is making money, players are getting paid more than ever, and attendance is holding strong, but go ask any of your football buddies. Go ask them about baseball. Pick up a paper in August (or July this year). NFL is the main topic.
Like a little brother starved for attention, baseball is struggling to keep up. The perception issues can be changed with a little work. But can baseball regain its footing as America’s favorite sport?
In the final installment, we will examine potential solutions and how they may improve the game.