As the first year of MLB’s new national TV contracts begins to wind down, we can make some statements about how how Turner, Fox, and ESPN are feeling about things. In particular today, we’re going to focus on ESPN. One of the new quirks of the new national deal was the introduction of co-exist broadcasts on Monday and Wednesday night. That is, when a team was playing on either Monday or Wednesday Night Baseball, the local broadcast wouldn’t be blacked out in local markets – fans could choose between the national and local broadcast without having their choice made for them.
Through September 1st, there were 42 instances when a team saw their local Fox RSN rating clobber the local ESPN rating. According to data obtained from Nielsen, The average margin of victory for the RSNs was a staggering 541%. On average, more than five times as many local fans in these cases would choose to watch the local broadcast than the national, ESPN broadcast.
And while a 541% difference was the average, some of the high marks were staggering. The Royals-Cardinals game on June 2nd drew a 7.51 rating on Fox Sports Midwest in St. Louis, and just a 0.22 rating on ESPN. A’s-Yankees on June 4th drew a 2.73 on YES in new York, and just a 0.17 on ESPN. The Mets and Cardinals on June 16th drew a 10.06 on Fox Sports Midwest in St. Louis, and a 0.80 on ESPN. The Tigers-Yankees game from August 4th that aired on both YES and Fox Sports Detroit was the real eye opener, though. In New York, the game drew a 3.15 on YES, and a 0.26 on ESPN. In Detroit, it picked up a 6.51 on Fox Sports Detroit, and a 0.55 on ESPN. Both of those disparities favor the local broadcasts by a more than ten to one margin.
What does this tell us? Well, it just re-emphasizes the point that baseball is a sport that thrives locally compared to nationally. People love their teams, they love their local announcers, and they’re much more content in simply flipping to the same channel they always do to watch games instead of hunting down numerous other providers during the season. This actually makes ESPN’s overall MLB gains on the season more impressive – local fans aren’t watching Monday and Wednesday Night Baseball games on ESPN, but they sure as hell are watching them locally.