The Major League Baseball season wrapped up just a couple of days ago as the San Francisco Giants were crowned the World Series Champions after sweeping the Detroit Tigers.
Wait a second...they were still playing baseball just a couple of days ago?! The World Series was going on just a couple of days ago!? Someone won the World Series just a couple of days ago?!
Why didn't you hear about it?
Well, probably because you are just like a whole lot of other people who didn't hear about it, didn't realize it was going on, or simply chose to ignore it was going on. In fact, that's become the larger story than the series itself - the waning interest in the World Series this year and in recent years (with the exception of las year). This year the television ratings were at an all-time low for a World Series broadcast. In fact, the World Series has tied or broken its own previously low ratings with even lower ratings seven times since 2000. Yikes.
Now I'm not a big baseball fan. Sure, I played baseball from age 3 or 4 all the way through high school, but I have never cultivated an interest or an allegiance to the sport or any particular team. Perhaps it's because I'm from Indiana where we don't have a team (though I'm perfectly happy to spend $10 for a day at Victory Field - Indy's extremely nice triple a ballpark). Perhaps I'm not a sports "purist". Maybe I just don't have the attention span to sit through an entire game. Maybe there's just something wrong with me...
But it doesn't appear to just be me that's not interested. Low ratings signal large-scale disinterest in the sport, at least to some extent. Here are some interesting reasons for the low ratings that I came across on this blog:
- Sweep Madness: too many recent World Series sweeps
- Football: rising interest in football as well as scheduling conflicts; I have previously pointed out that the way the NFL season is structured and scheduled helps to make that sport more popular and easier to follow
- Local: only those with local teams are apt to pay much attention (this applies to my specific case that I stated briefly above)
- Starpower: a lack of stars in this particular World Series; I would argue a lack of stars in general in the MLB. As a slower moving game that is becoming less popular in some ways (attendance is high, but these broader ratings are clearly low), it also may not be attracting the best or most exciting athletes. If you look at World Series MVP winners since 2000, you will only see a few names that the casual sports fan is likely familiar with...the last big-name star was arguably Manny Ramirez in 2004.
- Kids out: he argues that we have lost a generation of kids as potential fans; these kids are more interested in football and are not growing up watching the World Series or thinking that it is important.
- Length of season: at least, this is what I assume he means when he says that it wouldn't seem right to have baseball in November. I would say that with so many games that span such a long period of time, it's hard for the average sports fan to stay engaged and excited about the sport. We might expect a dip in the middle of the season due to this with an increase in ratings as the playoffs arive and a revival of interest for the World Series; we do to an extent (baseball certainly isn't dead), but the World Series just doesn't seem to rebound to a high level of interst compared to other sporting events.
I would also add media attention/coverage to his list. In some ways (the general lack of) baseball coverage is a reflection of fans' decreased desire to view the sport. In other ways, this coverage does (or could), in some ways, drive and generate demand. It says a lot when sports media outlets would rather cover the NFL and NBA in their offseasons than they would in the middle of the MLB season. It also says a lot when weekly college football games (not even BCS games) as well as week 7 NFL football games dominate the highlight reels and cover stories over the World Series. Again, in some ways this is a reflection of fans' (lack of) demand, and in some ways it helps to shape and drive fans demand.
Although I am somewhat hard on baseball, I certainly don't wish for its demise or for it to fail. I do think that it clearly lacks the apeal and following of some of the other sporting events that Americans seem to be tuning in to watch; the low ratings are fairly clear. It is interesting to look at the sport in general as well as our culture and make some arguments as to why this might be happening. I found that particular blog to be compelling, and added onto it with some of my own insights.
What do you think?
Why have the World Series ratings consistently declined in recent years?
Anything to add or quibble with?
Is there anything baseball can do to boost these ratings moving forward?