World Series ratings at record-low mark

From 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, October 22, more people watched Desperate Housewives than the second game of the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers.

As a whole, the final round of the World Series received record-low television ratings over the five games played. These low ratings reflect that baseball is losing some of its luster due to the changing interests of the American viewing public.

This year’s ratings fell short of the previously record-low television ratings that occurred last year when the Chicago White Sox swept the Houston Astros. Being a Cubs fan, I can see why people don’t watch the White Sox or the Cardinals, since rooting for either of those teams is like sticking your finger in an electrical socket — you just don’t do it.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ game one victory on Fox, Saturday night, drew an 8.0 fast national rating and 15 share, a record low for an opener. The national rating is the percentage of U.S. television households tuned to a program, and each point represents 1,114,000 homes. The share is the percentage of television sets in use tuned to a specific program.

The ratings for the following four games weren’t much better, at 11.5/18, 10.2/17, 9.4/15, and 8.7/15 for the clinching fifth game. When the Boston Red Sox swept the Cardinals two years ago in the World Series, the ratings were never below 13.7/24.

St. Louis and Detroit are small-market cities, meaning that they draw from a smaller viewing base than, say, New York or Los Angeles. This amounts to about 1 million fewer homes tuning in to see their local teams, according to Fox spokesman Lou D’Ermilio.

But this isn’t the end of the story. Sure, neither the New York Yankees nor the Boston Red Sox — two teams that are guaranteed television draws — are playing in the series, but the World Series is the World Series.

These record-low TV ratings show that baseball is slowly becoming less and less “America’s pastime.” People aren’t as likely to sit down and watch a three-hour baseball game today as they were 20 or even 10 years ago. The recent technological boom plays a role, with people now able to check scores on their cell phones or follow games on the Internet. Steroids and their alleged use by players might be turning away viewers as well.

Nonetheless, MLB is not worried about the television ratings. “I’m not overly concerned,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in an interview last Wednesday with “The teams’ television ratings all year have been spectacular. Let’s wait until the World Series is over.” He went on to add that baseball has agreed to long-term deals with Fox and Turner Sports amid competition from other companies, showing that, as he said, “people in the television business like what they’re seeing.”

The Tigers and Cardinals players weren’t concerned about the ratings either. “We’re going for a World Series title. I’m not worried about the TV ratings,” Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander said in the same interview.

“The ratings are good in Michigan, the ratings are good in St. Louis, and they’re good in Birmingham, Alabama; that’s all I care about,” said Detroit closer Todd Jones, who lives in Alabama during the off-season.

In the past, poeple watched the World Series even when they had no connection to either of the teams competing. This is certainly not the case anymore, with viewers not seeming to associate with the sport of baseball as much as a specific team in the league. This trend is exposed in a World Series like this one when two small-market teams are competing.

Major League Baseball seems content with the low ratings, at least for the time being. The American public is paying less and less attention to the World Series, and until MLB becomes more “desperate,” the housewives are going to continue to reign supreme.