This week in “Last Week in BizBall”, World Series TV ratings, Cubs survey their fans on possible changes to Wrigley, plus tidbits.
WORLD SERIES TV RATINGS
Prior to the beginning of this season’s World Series the sports media punditry were divided over how it would fare on TV. Those who thought it would garner poor ratings pointed to the absence of the Yankees. Those who thought it would garner decent ratings pointed to the participation of franchises in the 5th and 6th largest TV markets in the country. No doubt you know how it did fare. The 2010 World Series tied the 2008 World Series as the most poorly rated EVER. Is MLB disappearing off the radar screen of sports fans? Does the World Series still matter? Is it still a valuable TV property? Following is a 2010 World Series on TV post mortem.
- The trend is undeniable, there is declining interest in the World Series on TV. According to the Sports Media Watch blog, the 08 and 10 WS are the only two to average less than a 10.0 rating. Perhaps more revealing is, “This is the seventh time since the 1994 strike that the World Series has either set or tied a record low in television ratings (1998, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010).”
- In recent years the NFL has not scheduled a prime time game on the Sunday of the World Series. Not so this year as Game 4 was trounced in the ratings by Sunday Night Football, the first time an NFL regular season game has drawn a bigger head-to-head audience than the World Series. The NFL dominates TV, not just sports TV but TV period.
- To state the obvious, ratings suffered from the lopsided competition. There were some closely contested games but ratings climb the further the series goes. Everybody loves a Game 7 and the World Series hasn‘t seen one since 2002.
- Despite all the kudos from the commentariat (it’s about the kids) over the early (6:57 ET) Game 3 start, it stiffed and won’t be repeated. I wrote recently that I wasn’t going to write this again, but I lied. TV ratings for postseason MLB peak when the game ends at approximately 11:30 ET. Eric Fisher wrote in the SportsBusiness Journal.
But the 6.7 rating for Game 3, ranking as the second-lowest individual World Series game ever, by itself was enough to pull the 2010 series mark down into the dubious tie with 2008, with quarter-hour ratings standing in lockstep with industry norms.
Had the game started at 7:57 p.m. ET, more consistent with the series’ other games, expectations were that it would have rated better by at least 0.4 ratings points.
- From ‘99-‘07 the World Series garnered bigger TV ratings than the NBA Finals. This year was the second in the last three that the opposite happened. Match ups and length of series obviously have a lot to do with that but more worrisome to MLB is that the WS numbers for the 18-49 age group are in serious decline, especially in comparison to the NBA Finals.
- The aforementioned Sports Media Watch blog posting contains this interesting note. Additionally, it might be no coincidence that the low numbers for Giants/Rangers come during an election year. In six of the last seven years to feature a major election (midterm or presidential), the World Series has set a record low rating.
- Yes, the trend of TV ratings for the World Series is downward. But TV ratings are down for all types of programming (save the NFL). Sports is king and queen on both over the air and cable TV. Was Fox disappointed in the ratings for the 10 WS? Perhaps, but it was far from a disaster. In fact, the World Series lifted Fox to its first weekly win in the fall TV season.
- In a separate post, the Sports Media Watch blog reported on the overall performance of the MLB postseason on TV. It paints a more favorable picture than judging the WS numbers in isolation. They also astutely observe that MLB`s TV partners would likely support an expanded postseason format.
FOX and TBS averaged approximately 7.5 million viewers for 32 postseason games, down 17% from last year (9.0 mil), but up 8% from 2008 (6.9 mil). The baseball playoffs averaged more viewers than the 2009-10 college football bowl season (6.627 mil, 34 telecasts) and the 2010 NBA Playoffs (5.725 mil, 76 telecasts).
With MLB reportedly giving thought expanding the postseason, here is something to consider. The entire MLB Postseason averaged more viewers than the entire NBA Playoffs, even in a year when the NBA Finals topped the World Series. This is in large part because MLB has far fewer low-rated early round games to drag down the overall average. There were just 15 games prior to the League Championship Series, compared to 57 NBA games prior to the Conference Finals (does not include NBA TV).
So, what does the performance of the 10 WS on TV reveal? Has MLB been supplanted by the NFL as the national pastime? Is the Fall Classic an anachronism? Not being an American, I’ll leave those discussions to the likes of Ken Burns et al. But as a strictly baseball biz matter, the World Series remains a very valuable TV property. The last word to the Sports Media Watch blog.
Overall, the numbers for Giants/Rangers show that the 2008 World Series was not an anomaly. Single-digit ratings may potentially be the norm for future non-Yankee World Series. That said, any sporting event that can average at least 8% of U.S. television households is a strong television draw, and even the worst World Series still draws numbers that many sports cannot achieve.
SELECT READ MORE TO SEE DETAILS ON THE WRIGLEY FIELD RENOVATIONS, PLUS THIS WEEK'S TIDBITS
WRIGLEY FIELD RENOVATIONS
One baseball biz story I’ve been following here this year is the ongoing renovations of Wrigley Field. (see here and here) The Ricketts family investment of $850 million in the Cubs franchise, ballpark and minority share in CSN Chicago, immediately signalled that extensive changes to the Wrigley Field experience were inevitable. The first phase of renovations meant to increase revenues at Wrigley Field occurred this past season with the debut of the PNC Club of Chicago and the installation of a Toyota billboard in the left field bleachers. The unique challenges the Ricketts family face in renovating Wrigley Field were exemplified by the public kerfuffle surrounding the installation of the aforementioned Toyota billboard. Only at Wrigley Field would such advertising raise the hackles of both local pols (the ballpark has landmark status) and a constituency of fans concerned that the “Wrigley experience” will be cheapened.
LWIB, Ed Sherman of Crain’s Chicago Business reported on a survey that the Cubs are conducting to gauge reaction amongst their fans to possible further changes to both Wrigley Field and “Wrigleyville”.
The survey reveals some of the ideas the Cubs are considering in the renovation of Wrigley Field. Among them: a video board, applications to see replays on your mobile phone, new premium seating areas and clubs, and the Triangle Building. (see illustrations of the long discussed “Triangle Building” here)
The survey also solicits the opinion of fans on the possibility of “occasional” night games on Fridays and Saturdays. Read Mr. Sherman’s blog entry for more detail on some of the questions and concepts as well as his own reactions. The blog entry also includes a link to the survey itself.
- To date there has been little public fallout over the infamous “leaked financial docs” earlier this year. The financial statements proved what has been speculated for years, that some of the revenue sharing payees receiving the biggest cheques (Marlins and Pirates) were turning handsome profits. If this revelation has caused a rift amongst owners or between owners and the PA, little to nothing has been said publicly. The fallout that has occurred hasn’t been within MLB, but rather in southeast Florida. Local pols responsible for investing hundreds of millions of dollars (the final figure varies greatly depending upon whether borrowing costs are included) in a new ballpark for the Marlins have been widely criticized for their decision in light of the confirmation of the franchise’s profitability. HBO’s Real Sports recently covered these developments and LWIB Sarah Talalay blogged that some local pols want to get some of the money back. “Miami-Dade County Commissioners passed a resolution today aimed at seeing if the contract to build the Florida Marlins’ new ballpark can be reopened to potentially reduce the public’s contribution to the $515 million construction costs for the venue. The county and city's contribution amounts to $361 million.” I’m not an observer of the politics of southeast FLA but I will defer to Ms. Talalay, who wrote, “Good luck with that.”
- The Chicago Cubs and their Arizona based real estate development partners spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (see here) on a campaign to persuade Mesa voters to support public funding (sale of city owned real estate, hike in “bed tax”) of a new spring training facility. LWIB, their efforts were rewarded when voters passed Proposition 420 by a wide margin. As Gary Nelson points out, the Cubs' current stadium is only 13 years old and is already the largest in all of spring training, which makes me think that the “Wrigleyville West” mixed use development attached to the new facility is the real prize for the Cubs.
- The fate of the Triple-A franchise most recently known as the Portland Beavers remains in limbo. Recent developments had indicated that, 1. Padres owner Jeff Moorad would purchase the franchise. 2. The franchise would relocate temporarily to Tucson and then permanently to the San Diego suburb of Escondido once they constructed a new ballpark. LWIB brought uncertainty to those plans. The election in Escondido resulted in a new council less favourable to the ballpark proposal. The Padres responded by stating that they may permanently relocate the franchise to Tucson. Read Ballpark Digest here and here for more.
Pete Toms is senior writer for the Business of Sports Network, most notably, The Biz of Baseball. He looks forward to your comments and can be contacted through The Biz of Baseball.
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