Top-market teams in MLB playoffs push ratings higher
Baseball’s postseason ratings are on a hot streak.
Through Monday’s games, the average audience of 3.74 million viewers for the Major League Baseball playoff TV telecasts across ESPN, TBS, MLB Network and Fox Sports 1 is up 9% compared with last season and is at its highest level since 2010, according to Nielsen. TBS is seeing its best ratings since it started carrying MLB’s division series coverage in 2007.
Baseball is benefiting from the trend that is sustaining the audience levels of many televised sports. Viewers who don’t want the outcome spoiled need to watch live. They now know they can stay with a game and catch up with their favorite prime-time shows later by streaming online or watching video on demand.
MLB has gotten some breaks as well with the geographical makeup of its playoff teams. Five of the eight divisional series teams are in the top 10 television markets, while the St. Louis Cardinals have a regional following that covers several states.
Strong story lines have also helped. The Cardinals’ opponents were longtime rivals the Chicago Cubs, a team of young players battling to get the cursed franchise to its first World Series appearance since 1945. (The Cubs won the division series with a 6-4 victory Tuesday and will advance to the National League Championship Series.)
In the Los Angeles Dodgers’ showdown with the New York Mets, the hard slide by Chase Utley that broke the leg of Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada became a much-discussed drama that reached beyond the casual baseball fan.
Nielsen figures showed an audience of 5.8 million viewers for the Cubs’ Game 3 victory over the Cardinals, which was the most-watched National League Division Series game since 2012. Game 3 of the Dodgers-Mets averaged a less robust 4 million viewers in prime time, a game that New York put away early.
But New York and Los Angeles rank as the top two markets in usage of Major League Baseball’s digital products that deliver pitch-by-pitch updates and video clips online. Those products had 7.9 million unique sessions on Monday, a new high for the postseason, according to MLB.
TBS does not disclose its streaming numbers, but the Time Warner-owned network did report seeing substantial increases in viewing through the “TV Everywhere” service that enables cable subscribers to watch online.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ first playoff appearance in more than 20 years is delivering big audiences north of the border, drawing a record-high audience for Canada’s Sportsnet on Sunday night.
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