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2023 World Series Ratings Preview: Analyzing the Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Texas Rangers Matchup


October 26, 2023 by Mitch Metcalf

istockphoto credit: Arsenly45

MLB’s World Series starts Friday on FOX with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Texas Rangers. While we don’t expect an all-time low (the Rays and Dodgers in 2020 probably will retain that dubious distinction), we do forecast a decline from last year’s Philadelphia-Houston matchup. It’s no secret that baseball’s national U.S. audience has gotten smaller and significantly older over time. World Series Game 1 Audience Profile by Decade (millions of viewers and median age of audience)

  • 1991-1999: 22.6 million [46.3 years]

  • 2000-2009: 16.9 million [49.4 years]

  • 2010-2019: 14.3 million [53.7 years]

  • 2020-2022: 10.6 million [56.7 years]

On the positive side, the World Series audience has recovered in the past few years following the all-time low in 2020 when the World Series was played in an empty stadium in Texas following a pandemic-shortened 60-game season. Last year’s Game 1 (Philadelphia Phillies at Houston Astros) delivered 11.5 million viewers in an average minute, up +5% from 2021 (10.9 million for Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros) and up +23% from the 2020 nadir (9.4 million for Tampa Bay Rays vs Los Angeles Dodgers).



So what should we expect from Arizona vs Texas this year? Even with the overall decline in national viewing of baseball over the last few decades, it is still possible to use the rich history of baseball as a guide. The best way to evaluate a given World Series audience potential is to compare a given year to its

recent competition (in this case using a rolling five-year average). We created a Game 1 Ratings Index where 100 is average, 110 would be 10% above the recent five-year average and 90 would be -10% below the five-year average.


The chart below lists the strongest World Series matchups (index values over 105), with the top two featuring long-awaited returns to the Fall Classic by the Red Sox and Cubs after decades of frustration or curses. Other classic franchises such as the Yankees and Braves dominate this list, with only two expansion teams (Colorado and Minnesota) paired with older franchises with more history and wider fan bases.


WORLD SERIES GAME 1 RATINGS INDEX: ABOVE AVERAGE MATCHUPS

  • 138 St. Louis at Boston 2004

  • 129 Chicago Cubs at Cleveland 2016

  • 122 Philadelphia at NY Yankees 2009

  • 120 NY Yankees at Atlanta 1999

  • 111 Cleveland at Atlanta 1995

  • 110 Atlanta at NY Yankees 1996

  • 107 Colorado at Boston 2007

  • 107 Atlanta at Minnesota 1991

  • 106 St. Louis at Boston 2013


The more average matchups (index values between 95 and 101) have a much healthier dose of expansion clubs, especially relatively new franchises like Toronto in 1992 and Florida in 2003. And notice the increase in west coast teams such as the Dodgers, Giants and Padres.


WORLD SERIES GAME 1 RATINGS INDEX: AVERAGE MATCHUPS

  • 101 Toronto at Atlanta 1992

  • 101 Florida at NY Yankees 2003

  • 100 Washington at Houston 2019

  • 99 Houston at LA Dodgers 2017

  • 99 Texas at San Francisco 2010

  • 99 Philadelphia at Houston 2022

  • 99 LA Dodgers at Boston 2018

  • 98 NY Mets at Kansas City 2015

  • 97 NY Mets at NY Yankees 2000

  • 95 San Diego at NY Yankees 1998

  • 95 Atlanta at Houston 2021

The below average matchups (index of 94 or less) include some very young expansion teams such as 1997 Florida and 2001 Arizona, but both of those Series are very interesting cases as they started slowly but built over time. The Game 1-4 average for Yankees-Diamondbacks in 2001 jumped +34% from the Game 1 starting point, and the 1997 Cleveland-Florida series jumped +24% from Game 1 to the Game 1-4 average. Both were very competitive series that went seven games and might be good comparisons to this year.


WORLD SERIES GAME 1 RATINGS INDEX: BELOW AVERAGE MATCHUPS

  • 94 Texas at St. Louis 2011

  • 94 Philadelphia at Toronto 1993

  • 93 Philadelphia at Tampa Bay 2008

  • 92 NY Yankees at Arizona 2001

  • 90 Detroit at San Francisco 2012

  • 88 Houston at Chi White Sox 2005

  • 86 San Francisco at Anaheim 2002

  • 83 San Francisco at Kansas City 2014

  • 81 Tampa Bay vs LA Dodgers 2020

  • 79 Cleveland at Florida 1997

  • 78 St. Louis at Detroit 2006


This year’s Arizona-Texas matchup definitely feels like a lower-tier matchup at least initially, with two expansion teams outside the Northeast and Midwest. If we assume an index of 90 against the most recent five years, that would imply a Game 1 audience of 10.4 million viewers: not the worst ever but reversing the recent positive momentum. In contrast, a Phillies-Astros rematch probably would have earned a slightly above average index around 104, implying a Game 1 audience of about 12.0 million viewers. Not a huge difference, but a couple million people is not chopped liver on television these days, even on broadcast television.


istockphoto credit: windowseat

Live Sports: Where Scheduling Still Matters


Until 2006, MLB generally started the World Series on a Saturday and Sunday for Games 1-2, playing Games 3-5 Tuesday-Thursday, and playing Games 6-7 (if necessary) the following Saturday and Sunday. Despite significant competition from college football on Saturday and NFL on Sunday for the first two

Games, the World Series could pick up steam against little sports competition during the week if the games were competitive. And then any Game 6 and 7 would be well suited to stand up to football competition the following weekend. From 1991-2006, the audience grew over the course of the series on average +12% got slightly younger along the way.

  • Game 1 average: 19.9 million viewers [47.7 years]

  • Games 1-4 average: 22.2 million viewers [47.4 years]

But in 2007, MLB changed strategy and started the series on either Tuesday and Wednesday, playing the middle games against football on the weekend. The idea was to get a running start during the week away from football and hope for the best. However, the new format delivered audiences that actually declined over the course of the series and got older along the way. The early games seemed to get lost on a traditionally non-sports night, and any potential build in interest was blunted by football anyway. From 2007-2021:

  • Game 1 average: 14.3 million viewers [53.2 years]

  • Games 1-4 average: 13.9 million viewers [54.2 years]

In 2022 MLB and FOX returned to a more traditional format, starting the Series on Friday and Saturday with Games 1-2, followed by Games 3-5 on Monday-Wednesday and playing Game 6-7 (if necessary) the next Friday and Saturday. Nevertheless, 2022's Philadelphia-Houston series did not recapture the old

magic of the original schedule:

  • Game 1 average: 11.5 million viewers [57.1 years]

  • Games 1-4 average: 11.3 million viewers [57.4 years]

But that is only one year of results, and shattered habits take time to be restored just as habits take time to be built in the first place. If the audience discovers that Arizona and Texas have extremely talented players that play very exciting baseball, there is a chance that the audience could grow over the course

of this year’s World Series, especially as the Fall Classic settles back into its more traditional scheduling format.


Come back Monday afternoon for a look at the actual Game 1 audience levels. And contact us below if you or your company needs more detailed information on any program genre in TV or streaming.


Keep coming back to this space for coverage of these exciting times in our business. If you find this post of interest, we encourage you to share the post on other social channels (share buttons below). If you want to be notified when there is a new post, please subscribe to join our mailing list.


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