“Obviously, it’s more fun when ratings are up and the Series goes 6 or 7 games,” the exec wrote in a thread on Twitter/X, “but the expectations for MLB in 2024 are unchanged.”
The 119th edition of baseball’s Fall Classic, which ended Wednesday with the Texas Rangers claiming the first Series crown in their history, drew the smallest audience in history. The five-game victory by Texas over the Arizona Diamondbacks averaged 9.11 million viewers, according to Fox and Nielsen, worse than the previous low of 9.79 million for the LA Dodgers’ win in Covid-stricken 2020. Fox first carried the Series in 1996 and became its exclusive network home in 2000.
Part of the issue this year was the Series lasting only five games, as tune-in generally improves as games are required to settle the best-of-seven matchup. The Rangers and Diamondbacks are also teams with decidedly regional followings, and more marquee draws like the Dodgers, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves were eliminated in the playoffs. The past 10 Series have produced nine different winners, Mulvihill noted. “A byproduct of that variety is that there are inevitably going to be some pennant winners that have less of a national following than others,” he wrote. “It doesn’t make them or their fans any less deserving of playing for a title and it’s not ‘bad for baseball’ when they do.”
While baseball’s status as “America’s pastime” has long been eclipsed by the NFL, Mulvihill said the ratings should not be misinterpreted. “There’s no denying the audience was down this year,” he wrote, “but thankfully the grand statements that used to be made about the state of baseball based on [World Series] ratings seem to be a thing of the past.”
MLB attendance in ballparks exceeded 70 million fans in 2023, posting its biggest increase in three decades, according to Mulvihill. Regional sports networks have gained attention due to the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports Group and the widespread recognition of the flaws in their traditional business model. Still, Mulvihill noted, “As much as we rightly talk about the RSN business being challenged, most RSNs were up for local MLB” this season.
Mulvihill took issue with some pundits noting that Game 1 of the Series was on Friday night. “I’m skeptical of the idea that the Friday night start was a driver of viewership decline,” he wrote. “This is the same schedule that produced an 11.8m average last year. Still, it’s our job to be open-minded about possible changes to the schedule.”
For the full thread, see below: