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Baseball comes out on top, but it’s all relative

A baseball player in a white and red uniform swings his bat. A crowd is in the stands in the background.
Home Run Derby was the the top-rated program on cable TV last week, featuring the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.
(Gabriel Christus / Associated Press)

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game averaged 8.237 million viewers, its second smallest audience, and just 1% more than the record low of 8.153 million for the 2019 game, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.

However, Fox’s coverage of the American League’s 5-2 victory over the National League on Tuesday in Denver was the most-watched sports all-star game of any sport.

Official viewership for most forms of programming is down compared to the past primarily due to higher viewership of streaming programming, including the same programs shown on traditional television, as well as increased competition from cable television, Fox and streaming programming and such leisure-time activities as surfing the internet, playing video games and watching recorded programming.

ESPN’s coverage of the Home Run Derby averaged 6.293 million viewers, its largest audience since 2017, when it averaged 8.176 million. The Home Run Derby was first among cable programs between July 12 and Sunday and fifth overall behind ABC’s coverage of Games 4 and 5 of the NBA Finals, the All-Star Game and NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

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ABC’s coverage of Game 4 of the NBA Finals was the week’s ratings leader, with an average of 10.255 million viewers watching the Milwaukee Bucks’ 109-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns on July 14.

Milwaukee’s 123-119 victory in Game 5 Saturday averaged 9.615 million, finishing second for the week, in the first Saturday NBA Finals game since 1981. The Saturday game, when prime-time television viewership is customarily at its lowest, was the result of the league’s practice to attempt to have two days between games when travel is involved.

Through five games, the NBA Finals are averaging 9.366 million viewers, 26.8% more than the record-low 7.386 million five-game average for the 2020 finals between the Lakers and Miami Heat, which faced unprecedented sports competition, but 35% less than the 14.402 million five-game average for the 2019 Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, which were played in the traditional month of June. ABC has carried the NBA Finals since 2003.

The two NBA Finals games and time slot victories by two of its Sunday game shows enabled ABC to win the network race for the second consecutive week, averaging 4.05 million viewers.

Fox was second for the week, averaging 2.91 million viewers for its 16 hours, 58 minutes of prime-time programming. NBC was third, averaging 2.55 million viewers, and CBS fourth, averaging 2.39 million.

ABC, NBC and CBS each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.

The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 520,000 viewers for its 12 hours of programming. The crime drama “Walker” was its most-watched program, averaging 963,000 viewers, 124th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.

Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network for the second consecutive week, averaging 2.13 million viewers. Its most-watched program was the Wednesday edition of the political talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” which averaged 3.218 million viewers, third among prime-time cable programs and 21st overall.

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ESPN was second, averaging 1.352 million and MSNBC third, averaging 1.278 million.

“Manifest” topped the latest weekly list of the most-watched streamed programs, with viewers watching 2.493 billion minutes of the 29 episodes of the first two seasons of the canceled NBC supernatural drama June 14-20, the first full week it was streaming on Netflix.


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