Is it accurate to say that this World Series had it all? Let’s see:
Cy Young and MVP candidates, all-stars galore, and budding superstars? Yup.
Extra-inning games, walk-off hits, pitchers’ duels, comebacks, and a few high-powered shootouts? You bet.
Seven games of World Series baseball between two 100 win teams for the first time 80 years? Yes sir.
And let’s not forget home run, after home run, after home run, after home run, after home run. If it were not for a relative dud of a Game 7, the series would have been nearly perfect in terms of pure entertainment.
Springer got some good Wood on this one. https://t.co/wX4f7WtVIQ
— AJ Turner (@atoj247) October 29, 2017
Now that it’s over, many of us might be left thinking the same thing. This series was great for baseball. It has to be, right? All the homers, the drama, the excitement. More people than ever must feel energized about the league. I find myself to be one of those people. With that said, it remains to be seen if this series truly was what the doctor ordered for baseball, or if the excitement of the past few weeks is able to have any effect at all on fan interest.
I thought an indication could lie within the television ratings for this Series (as to whether he buzz around exciting games lead to an increase in viewership). And overall, this World Series did incredibly well. The Dodgers/Astros showdown averaged 18.7 million viewers per game, with an average rating of 10.6 per game. To put that in perspective, only one World Series since 2010 (last year’s Cubs/Indians series) has done better in those departments. The 2017 World Series also bested Sunday Night Football in ratings, and seemed not to be phased at all by Halloween and trick-or-treating (Game 6 had over 22 million viewers). The MLB has to be happy with this turnout.
So at first glance, it seems logical that there must have been an increase in the general population’s interest in this World Series. A superior product drew in more viewers than in years past, and more viewers means a heightened interest in the sport. Simple, right? Yes, although I think this conclusion may need a dreaded “yeah, but” attached to it, and here’s why. Consider the following per-game numbers:
2017 World Series (Dodgers/Astros) – 18.7 million avg. viewers, 10.6 avg. rating, 20 avg. share
2009 World Series (Yankees/Phillies) – 19.3 million avg. viewers, 11.7 avg rating, 19 avg. share
2007 World Series (Red Sox/Rockies – 17.2 million avg. viewers, 10.6 avg. rating, 18 avg. share
2005 World Series (White Sox/Astros) – 17.2 million avg. viewers, 11.1 avg. rating, 19 avg. share
The viewership numbers were pretty strong for this past World Series. That’s clear. So which other past Series boasted similar numbers? I went back and looked at other recent Fall Classics, and found that some of the most comparable series in terms of average viewing numbers were 2009, 2007, and 2005. What stuck out to me were two things. One: all of these series feature a team from a major sports market (Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Chicago). Two: the ratings are about the same for each series, but the entertainment level of these series varied greatly (this is completely subjective, but bear with me- I’m describing these based on what the average baseball fan would find entertaining). While the 2017 Series was laced with drama, 2005 and 2007 were largely unremarkable, with both series ending in sweeps. The 2009 Series between the Yankees and Phillies went six games, and was a solid product. But I think we’d agree it won’t be considered as memorable as 2017 will be in years to come.
This leaves me wondering: Does the excitement of a series actually translate into an increase in viewership? Or will the most-watched of World Series be that way because Boston, New York, and Los Angeles had dogs in the fight? Or put another way, would 19 million people per game still tune in to watch the Dodgers sweep the Astros instead of losing in seven? To judge a growth in interest based off only the ratings for the World Series, therefore, probably does not the whole story. Major markets and historical story lines will always be factors here, and make it tough to judge the effect of a compelling product on future viewing.
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III
I think the real teller will be regular season ratings for 2018. Regular season prime-time television ratings for teams in their local markets were down overall in 2017 by 6%, compared to the previous season. Perhaps this World Series could act as the perfect cliffhanger to build interest and bump up those numbers by the time next April rolls around. The postseason in general shined a healthy spotlight on guys like Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, and many other of the game’s rising stars. If this World Series had any tangible effect on interest in the game, it can be measured by early regular season ratings in 2018. If there’s a bump, it could mean that people liked what they saw this postseason and flat out want to see more. Although if that’s the case, we should have seen somewhat of an increase in ratings for last season following the incredible ending to the 2016 World Series (but as I mentioned, ratings on average were down across the board).
So perhaps hoping that the battle between the Astros and the Dodgers could spark interest in the game is somewhat of a naive notion. In the end, maybe the 2017 World Series will be simply a stand alone seven-games of baseball magic that had high ratings only because the Los Angeles market was tuning in. Personally, I think this series was fantastic for the game, and I am optimistic that it will have a ripple effect into next season. But it will take some time before we will know for sure. All I know is that I haven’t been this excited for Opening Day so early in to the offseason before, and I’d like to think there’s at least a few people out there who feel the same way.