In what is becoming a dangeous trend for MLB on Fox, Baseball Night in America once again lost the ratings battle to the NHL on NBC. Fox's MLB coverage, headlined by the Red Sox and Yankees, drew 3.27 million viewers while NBC's Bruins-Penguins matchup drew 3.43 million. Both games drew a 2.5 overnight rating, which was actually a high point for MLB on Fox so far this season.
Perhaps more troublesome for MLB and Fox isn't the fact that they lost to something considered the fourth major sport in America once again, but the fact that their viewers trended much older than the NHL's audience. The MLB timeslot drew a 0.7 rating in viewers 18-49, while the NHL game drew a 1.2 in that same demographic. That's not good for the long-term health of MLB on national TV.
But honestly, I don't think they had a chance this week. Fox was betting on the huge Boston and New York markets to tune in for this game in droves, and when the Bruins and Rangers met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it was evident that one of them would be in the Eastern Conference Finals and would be dragging viewers away from their beloved baseball teams. Sure enough, Game 1 drew a 19.6 overnight rating in Boston, the best ever for a non-Stanley Cup Final game on NBC in the market.
The bad vibes will likely end up continuing for a third week next weekend, when the Red Sox are once again the headliner on Fox. This time, they'll take on the Angels, and will be going head to head with Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the Kings and Blackhawks (if Chicago doesn't sweep, that is). Of course, the Angels and Kings are both aired locally on Fox Sports West, and MLB will likely once again lose a significant part of their audience to hockey. With no NBA game as competition, maybe MLB can pick up some of the casual fans that likely gravitated towards TNT on Saturday in their valiant quest to topple the NHL in the network ratings battle.