Matt Foran, Nielsen Sports
With Major League Baseball's opening day fast approaching, big league teams are looking to surpass last-season's finish and to collect more eyeballs for their advertisers and corporate sponsors. A look back at the stats from locally and nationally televised games from the 2008 season reveals impressive numbers and teams will hope to carry that momentum throughout the 2009 season... and perhaps the playoffs.
Locally, Boston continued to show the power of Red Sox Nation, with a 10.1 HH AA% on NESN (New England Sports Network), the highest average local rating on a regional sports network of any MLB team. Additionally, the national pastime continues to be as strong as ever in America's Heartland with the St. Louis Cardinals (7.9), Minnesota Twins (7.2), Milwaukee Brewers (7.0), and Cincinnati Reds (6.8) following as the next highest rated markets.
Several teams also boasted significant increases in ratings on their regional network. Most notably, the Tampa Bay Rays, whose incredible worst-to-first turnaround contributed to an impressive 94% jump over last season's ratings on FOX Sports Florida. Other notable increases were the Chicago White Sox (69%), the Cincinnati Reds (39%), and Colorado Rockies (34%).
FOX's Saturday Baseball averaged 2.9 million viewers, with a high mark coming on July 5th when 4.5 million tuned in for Yankees vs. Red Sox or Cubs vs. Cards. ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball also owed its high point to the Yankees and Red Sox (July 27th -4.2 million). For the year, Sunday Night Baseball continued to be a staple of primetime cable programming with an average of 2.5 million viewers.
A thrilling post-season was highlighted by the most-watched cable baseball game ever: the Red Sox-Rays ALCS Game 7, with 13.4 million viewers on TBS. The Rays' storybook run, however, came to an end at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies in a rain-soaked World Series which averaged an 8.4 HH rating and 13.6 million viewers.