A World Series featuring the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers was expected to pull in major ratings numbers for Fox, but it didn’t turn out that way.
According to Variety, an average of 14.3 million viewers watched over five World Series games, a 23 percent drop from the 18.7 million that watched the 2017 World Series. And 2018’s numbers are a staggering 38 percent decrease from the 2016 World Series, which averaged 22.9 million viewers and was the most watched since series 2005. Out of every World Series since 2010, the 2018 iteration was the fourth-least watched.
Game 5 was by far the biggest ratings-getter of any World Series game this year. None of the first four games averaged more than 13.8 million viewers, while Game 5 averaged 17.6 million. Those numbers don’t include viewership from Fox Deportes and Fox’s streaming platforms, and when those numbers are added, Game 5 viewership comes in at 18.5 million. That handily beat NBC’s Sunday Night Football, but it pales in comparison to 2017’s final game (which, to be fair, was a Game 7 and not a Game 5), which pulled in over 28 million viewers.
For anyone who wants to know why ratings dropped so much when two popular, marquee franchises were playing each other, there are no easy answers. It could be that the narratives of the Red Sox and Dodgers weren’t terribly compelling, with the Red Sox going for their fourth championship in 15 years, and the Dodgers struggling to end a 30-year championship drought that non-Dodgers fans can’t seem to get excited about. On top of that, the MLB season as a whole was devoid of stories that captured the attention of fans and non-fans alike.
MLB can’t control who gets into the World Series, but it can control how it markets the sport. The only prevailing narrative from the 2018 season was that baseball is bad and broken and needs to be fixed. It’s hard to sell a sport when that’s the only thing you hear about it, and MLB didn’t do a great job of countering that narrative.
There’s nothing that commissioner Rob Manfred can do about that now. The 2018 season is in the books. As they say in baseball, there’s always next year.
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