It's almost as if baseball fans also watch other sports, and playoffs trump regular season games. At any rate, MLB on Fox ratings in primetime on Saturday experienced a huge spike after floundering all season. With no NHL Stanley Cup Playoff or NBA Playoff games to worry about, this past weekend's Yankees-Orioles matchup on Fox drew a 2.5 overnight rating and 3.61 million viewers, the best rating and viewership numbers of the year. The previous high came during the first weekend in June, when the Yankees and Red Sox picked up a 2.2 final rating and 3.3 million viewers.
MLB on Fox's competition-free streak will end at one week this weekend because of Saturday night's primetime NASCAR race at Daytona on TNT. They have no competition the following weekend, their final primetime slate of the season before heading back to the familiar afternoon slot. Eight of the 12 MLB on Fox broadcasts have dropped in ratings this season, erasing some encouraging gains for the primetime broadcasts a year ago.
After the MLB All-Star Break in two weeks, Fox will transition to their afternoon schedule for the second half of the season. By doing that, they'll avoid competing head to head with marquee college football matchups on ESPN and ABC in primetime on Saturdays, and they'll also avoid cannibalizing college football primetime coverage on Fox Sports 1. However, the ratings over the next eight weeks are huge for the network and the league. If they can avoid declines, I'm sure they'll both be wholly satisfied with the season's performance considering the strong ratings the NHL and NBA drew in their head to head matchups.
For next year, it might make more sense to shift the primetime games to July and August where they won't have any competition with the other leagues as opposed to going head to head and getting creamed. It'll be interesting to see how Fox handles their MLB schedule in 2014 with Fox Sports 1 fully ingrained into our consciousness by then.