Last October, baseball enjoyed impressive (sometimes record-breaking) postseason ratings, thanks in large part to the Chicago Cubs’ pursuit of their first World Series title since 1908. A year later, with the Cubs’ story played out, it was fair to expect a decline in playoff viewership.
Enter the Yankees.
According to Sports Media Watch, FS1 averaged 3.8 million for the ALDS, due in large part to the high interest for the Yankees-Indians series. That number was actually up from last year’s NLDS, also broadcast on FS1, which included the four-game Cubs-Giants series and the epic five-game Nationals-Dodgers matchup. Game 5 of the Yankees-Indians series averaged 7.6 million viewers, up 22 percent from the last ALDS Game 5 (Royals-Astros in 2015) and up 60 percent from the Washington-L.A. NLDS Game 5 last year, per SMW. It was reportedly the second largest Division Series audience since 2011.
When people joke about network executives rooting for the Yankees, they’re not just being cute. The Yankees do have a notable and measurable positive effect on ratings, thanks to millions of fans and millions more haters. Their presence in the playoffs is always an incredible boon to ratings, and the fact that their series with Cleveland was close, dramatic and controversial surely didn’t hurt.
Compared to FS1, TBS got a bit unlucky by missing out on both last year’s Cubs and this year’s Yankees, but the network is also doing just fine. On Friday, TBS announced it had averaged 3.7 million viewers for the NLDS, up 29% over last year’s ALDS.
Meanwhile, the news should continue to be positive for FS1, Fox and TBS moving forward, given that the four teams that advanced to the LCS represent the four biggest cities (and four of the eight biggest media markets). The Yankees are still around in the AL, while the NL features the highly juicy Dodgers-Cubs matchup. If New York can sneak by Houston into the World Series, Fox’s ratings for the Fall Classic could approach the crazy numbers of last year.
And the best part for the networks? The Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers are all stocked with young stars and could be boosting October viewership for years to come.