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WORLD SERIES RATINGS VS CHAMPIONSHIP RATINGS FOR OTHER TEAM SPORTS


November 02, 2023 by Mitch Metcalf

Game 5 of the 2023 World Series peaked at 14.3 million viewers last

night around 10:45pm ET when the Texas Rangers won their first World

Championship trophy, and the entire game averaged 11.5 million viewers

for all nine innings. The daily track for the Texas-Arizona World Series: 9.2 million viewers for Game 1 on Friday 10/27, 8.2 million for Game 2 on Saturday 10/28, 8.1 million for Game 3 on Monday 10/30, 8.5 million for Game 4 on Tuesday 10/31 and 11.5 million for Game 5 on Wednesday 11/1.


Last night was the first and only elimination game in this year’s World Series, and those additional stakes naturally bring greater drama and bigger audiences to the telecast. In fact, Game 5 jumped +34% above the 8.5 million average for Games 1-4, at the high end of audience growth levels for recent Game 5’s that decided the World Series:


Recent World Series Ending in 5 Games

  • 2010: 14.1 million for Games 1-4 then up +6% to 14.9 million for the deciding Game 5 when the San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers.

  • 2008: 13.0 million for Games 1-4 then up +21% to 15.8 million for the deciding Game 5 when the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays.

  • 2015: 14.0 million for Games 1-4 then up +23% to 17.2 million for the deciding Games 5 when the Kansas City Royals beat the NY Mets.

  • 2018: 13.5 million for Games 1-4 then up +31% to 17.5 million for the deciding Game 5 when the Boston Red Sox beat the Dodgers.


Since 2020, the deciding game of the World Series has averaged only 12.7 million viewers (with the average also including three deciding Game 6’s: 12.8 million in 2020 Dodgers-Rays, 14.1 million in 2021 for Houston-Atlanta and 12.6 million in 2022 for Philadelphia-Houston), down about 10 million viewers from previous decades, mirroring a pattern nearly identical to the NBA, which also uses a best-of-seven game format to decide the season’s champion. And then there’s the NFL, with an elegant playoff format, where every game is an elimination game, building to the ultimate crescendo on Super Bowl Sunday, when audiences have actually grown over time (or at worst held steady

despite the nearly universal viewership declines in other sports or entertainment genres).



CHAMPIONSHIP SPORTS TELECASTS

AVERAGE AUDIENCE (Total U.S. Millions) BY DECADE

1990's

2000's

2010's

2020's

NFL Superbowl

85.3M

90.5M

109.0M

102.5M

MLB World Series*

30.3M

23.6M

22.5M

12.7M

NBA Finals*

25.3M

16.5M

22.8M

12.2M

NHL Stanley Cup*

4.6M

6.3M

7.2M

3.8M

Note: *-final game of each Series: Game 4, 5, 6 or 7, depending on the year. Source: Nielsen, NNTV, Total US, average minute audience persons 2+ L+SD, 1/1/1992-11/1/2023


Meanwhile, baseball and basketball have just lost their punch. Before 2020, it was a safe assumption that around 20-25 million people would watch the final game of the MLB or NBA season. In the 2010s the most viewed deciding World Series game was Game 7 in 2016 (40.0 million for the Chicago Cubs long awaited championship). Even the weakest Game 7 that decade produced 23.2 million viewers in 2019 for Washington-Houston. And the weakest deciding game of the entire decade (2014’sGame 4 when San Francisco swept Detroit) still mustered 15.5 million viewers, more than this decade’s early average that contains three Game 6’s and no Game 4’s.


The audience for every major sport has aged significantly over the

past few decades, as television viewing has given way to more streaming, especially with younger generations. But one constant in the chart below is that baseball has the oldest audience of any sport by far, usually about 10 years older than the audiences for the other sports in each decade. And last night’s Game 5 boasted a median age of 60.0 years, up more than 2 years from last year (57.9 years) to a benchmark that MLB would rather not see.


CHAMPIONSHIP SPORTS TELECASTS

AUDIENCE MEDIAN AGE (YEARS) BY DECADE

1990's

2000's

2010's

2020's

Change

NFL Super Bowl

37.9

41.5

44.6

49.2

+11.3

MLB World Series*

45.9

48.7

53.1

57.3

+11.4

NBA Finals*

37.9

41.4

42.7

48.9

+11.0

NHL Stanley Cup*

34.5

41.0

47.6

53.4

+18.9

Note: There are 32 Super Bowls in these data: 8 from 1992-1999, 10 from 2000-2009, 10 from 2010-2019 and 4 from 2020-2023. There are 31 World Series deciding games, with only 7 from 1992-1999 because of the 1994 strike year. There are 32 NBA Finals deciding games, and 29 NHL Stanley Cup Final deciding games, with 9 in the 2000s because of the 2004 strike year and only 6 from the 1990s because ratings for Sports Channel America in 1992 and 1993 are not available. Each sport with a final series has a similar proportion of long series versus short series: 18 of 31 World Series ended with a Game 6 or 7; 20 of 32 NBA Finals ended with a Game 6 or 7; 19 of 29 NHL Stanley Cup ended with a Game 6 or 7.


While the NFL advertisers might not be pleased with any rapidly aging audience, the massive size of the NFL audience make it a fundamental part of any serious media plan. The NFL will continue to enjoy premium pricing power for all of its media rights. But the sizable audience declines for the other sports – combined with aging audiences – will put downward pressure on future media rights deals.

 

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