TV ratings down, too?

May, 26, 2009
5/26/09
3:46
PM ET
Attendance and TV ratings are down? The Wall Street Journal's Matthew Futterman finds at least one concerned TV network ...
    Seven months after recording the lowest-rated World Series in history, Major League Baseball's national broadcast business is still waiting for a recovery.

    Lousy weather, delayed games and a lackluster matchup hurt World Series ratings last October, but household ratings for Fox Saturday Baseball, the sport's so-called Game of the Week, are off 9% to date from last season, and 23% from 2000. With attendance down about 4%, one might assume that television ratings would be up. Renewed interest in the NBA and NHL playoffs might have postponed the general sports fans' usual springtime turn of attention to baseball. Additional revelations of steroid use certainly haven't helped.

    Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio confirmed network executives will head to Milwaukee next week to strategize with Commissioner Bud Selig about reversing the downward trends. "The purpose of the meeting is to find a way to boost the ratings for the All-Star Game and the World Series," he said. Plans include showing baseball movies on Sunday afternoons on Fox's sister channel FX, and promotional ads with broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver...

Yes. There's nothing wrong with the ratings -- and especially that coveted 18-48 demographic -- that a few spots with McCarver can't fix.

No. We kid McCarver because we love him. If they get the guys who made the Holiday Inn commercials to make these new spots, they might bump up the audience by half a point or something (hey, stranger things have happened).

The "problem" for Fox is that baseball has become more parochial with each passing season. Twenty or 30 years ago, you watched games between teams you didn't love because those games were often all you had. So you followed the Cubs on WGN and the Braves on WTBS. But with the proliferation of the local team's games on cable and satellite and the Web, you can now watch almost every single game your favorite team plays, if you like. So why bother with some Saturday afternoon game between the Giants and the Phillies?

Fox's ratings are not a good barometer of the nation's interest in baseball. Attendance is down and television ratings aren't up? Poppycock. The notion that "additional revelations of steroid use certainly haven't helped" is pure speculation, and ill-founded speculation at that. Anyway, the only ratings that matter are the local ratings. Show me that those aren't up, and I might be a tad concerned. But I'll bet they are up.

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