Dodgers win but the 2020 World Series TV audience hits record low

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts celebrates with the team after clinching the World Series at Globe Life Field.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts celebrates with the team after clinching the World Series at Globe Life Field.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ first World Series win since 1988 delivered the smallest TV audience in the history of the Fall Classic.

The Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday had an average audience of 12.6-million viewers on Fox, according to Nielsen data. The six-game series averaged 9.8 million, which is an all-time low.

Another 320,000 watched last night’s game on streaming platforms and around 500,000 tuned in on Fox Sports’ Spanish language channel.


The previous TV audience low for a series was 12.6-million viewers for the San Francisco Giants’ four-game sweep over the Detroit Tigers in 2012.

The 2020 series is down 30% from last year’s match-up, where an average audience of 13.9-million viewers watched the Washington Nationals defeat the Houston Astros in seven games.

The Major League Baseball season was shortened to 60 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic and delivered strong ratings when play began in late July.

But the postseason has been competing with cable news for viewers. Boosted by the closing weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign, Fox News and CNN delivered their largest prime-time audiences in history for the month of October. That likely cut into the baseball audience, which, like cable news, is made up largely of older adults.

In Los Angeles, the deciding game was watched by 27.5% of the television homes in the market.

Other major sports events have seen audience declines this year as the pandemic has
wreaked havoc with scheduling. The NBA Finals hit an all-time ratings low as they were played in October instead of its usual June slot, when there is less competition for fan attention.


The fourth game of the World Series on Sunday, which drew 10-million viewers, had competition from a nail-biter on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” with the Arizona Cardinals beating the Seattle Seahawks in overtime.

The Rays are an intriguing team with its heavy dependence on analytics. But it has no marquee stars who are well-known to casual baseball viewers.

While the Rays are often described as a small-market team, Tampa is actually the 11th-largest TV market in the U.S. Los Angeles is the second-largest market.

The Rays were not a draw in their previous World Series appearance in 2008, before streaming started pulling people away from traditional television. Their loss to Philadelphia Phillies in five games had an average audience of 13.2-million viewers, which until this year was the second-smallest.

Despite the historic low viewership, the World Series still has relative strength compared to its competitors. Last week, the World Series audience on Fox was 56% higher than NBC’s prime-time programming, 101% higher than ABC and 120% higher than CBS.

“It did better than everything else in prime time that isn’t the NFL,” said Mike Mulvihill, executive vice president, head of strategy and analytics for Fox Sports. “That’s generally what we want to see from a World Series.”