In TBS' second and final year of broadcasting both of Major League Baseball's Wild Card games, a new scheduling strategy led the network to better ratings overall.
The Turner-owned network's coverage of the two Wild Cards averaged 4.7 million viewers. TBS and MLB scheduled the games to air on Tuesday and Wednesday night, as opposed to last season, where they aired in a doubleheader format. The NL game, which aired in the afternoon, benefited from the primetime exposure.
Pittsburgh's victory over Cincinnati in the NL Wild Card game drew 4.6 million viewers. That's a 15 percent increase from last year's NL game, a controversial, wild Cardinals/Braves tilt that garnered 4.0 million viewers. Of course, a reminder is necessary that the NL Wild Card game aired in the late afternoon in 2012.
Still, the excitement in Pittsburgh was palpable. The game drew a 33.7 rating in the Steel City, highest ever for a baseball game in that market. For context, the Penguins' Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final drew a 42.2 rating on NBC. Baseball is back in Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, the AL Wild Card game featured Cleveland and Tampa Bay, and a Rays victory. Now, while Cleveland and Tampa (I know) are both strong MLB TV markets (the game drew a 25.2 in Cleveland and a 15.5 in Tampa) the game was a bit of a snoozer. Running nearly four hours. Indians-Rays drew 4.74 million viewers, down from 5.3 million from the Baltimore/Texas Wild Card of last year.
Also worth noting, the Tampa/Texas tiebreaker on Monday drew 2.9 million viewers. That was down 55 percent from the Minnesota/Detroit tiebreak in 2009 (6.5 million) and 29 percent from the Minnesota/Chicago tiebreak in 2008 (4.2 million). However, those two games occurred in the middle of the week, and didn't have to deal with football. Rays/Rangers was even with the last Monday night tiebreak, San Diego/Colorado in 2007, in viewers.
Overall, TBS averaged 4.7 million viewers for the two Wild Cards, up two percent from last year's average of 4.6 million. Next year, however, ESPN will get a bite at the Wild Card apple as the two networks share the MLB Postseason's opening round.