It seems like this World Series matchup between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers isn’t the ratings draw MLB was hoping it would be. The ratings for both Games 1 and 2 are down from their 2017 counterparts, and represent the lowest ratings for those games in at least three years.
World Series ratings dip
According to Sports Media Watch, Tuesday’s Game 1, played at 8 p.m. ET local time at Fenway Park, came in at an 8.2 rating and 13.76 million viewers. That’s a 6 percent drop in ratings and an 8 percent drop in viewers from 2017’s Game 1 between the Houston Astros and the Dodgers.
Comparing 2018’s numbers to the ratings behemoth that was 2016, it’s even worse. This year’s Series is down 27 percent in ratings and 29 percent in viewers from Game 1 between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians in 2016.
Game 2 didn’t fare better, scoring a 9.9 overnight rating, a three-year low. (Viewership numbers aren’t yet available for Game 2.) That’s a 10 percent decline from Game 2 for the Astros and Dodgers in 2017, which drew an 11.0 rating. But unlike Game 1, the disparity between 2018 and 2016 isn’t as big. Cubs-Indians in 2016 pulled an 11.2 rating, which is just a 12 percent drop.
Some good news for baseball: the World Series was the most-watched program on TV on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Why aren’t people watching?
As far as TV markets, a contest between the Dodgers and Red Sox is promising on paper. Los Angeles and Boston are two of the largest TV markets in the U.S.; Los Angeles is No. 2, and Boston is No. 10. And both teams have compelling narratives. The Red Sox charged into the playoffs after winning a franchise-record 108 games, while the Dodgers overcame a dismal start and injuries to key players to win the National League West in a tiebreaker.
Plus, the Dodgers and Red Sox have some of the most exciting and talented players in baseball. Mookie Betts is the likely American League MVP. Manny Machado has been making noise and sliding dirty. Game 1 featured Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale, two of the best pitchers in baseball, going head-to-head! Both teams are so hyped that even a walk draws celebration from the dugout.
So with large TV markets and two popular, exciting teams, why aren’t people watching? While many will point to game length as one of the main culprits of the ratings slide, that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with it. From Sports Media Watch:
Game 2 ended an hour earlier than last year’s extra-inning marathon, an indication that length of game is not a factor in the declines. Game 1, which ended more than a hour later than last year, posted a smaller decline.
One factor could be start times. With Boston and Los Angeles on two separate coasts, almost any weeknight start time is going to cause problems. Games that start at 8 p.m. in Boston start at 5 p.m. in Los Angeles, meaning that many Dodgers fans are finishing up their workday at game time. Even the games being played in Los Angeles are starting at 8 p.m. ET, so West Coast viewers will be in a tough spot throughout the entire series.
With the Dodgers down 2-0, it may not last much longer. That’s probably not comforting to Dodgers fans — or to MLB executives hoping for a long series to boost their ratings numbers.
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