For years, people have said that if the Cubs ever win the World Series it will be the biggest sports story of all-time or at least on the short-list. So when the North-Siders got to Game 7—with their 108-year championship drought meeting the Indians 68-year drought, no less—we expected national interest to be huge.
Per Fox Sports PR, Wednesday night’s World Series Game 7 was the most watched baseball game in 25 years.
World Series Game 7 average audience is over 40 million viewers – it is
the most-watched baseball game in 25 years.
— FOX Sports PR (@FOXSportsPR) November 3, 2016
The last game to draw more than 40 million viewers was Game 7 of the 1991 World Series between the Twins and Braves. There had been five Game 7s between then and Wednesday, ranging from 23.5 million viewers (Royals-Giants in 2014) to 39 million viewers (Diamondbacks-Yankees in 2001).
This year’s Game 7 saw a huge boost in viewership over Games 1-6, which had all averaged fewer than 25 million viewers.
Overall, this series severely bucked the trend of declining World Series viewership, drawing ratings that almost equaled the 2004 series featuring the Red Sox and their 86-year “curse” and were in line with (or better than) ratings from the late-90s. Obviously the Cubs in a Game 7 is an extenuating circumstance, and these numbers don’t mean baseball is back on the upswing nationally, but at least the sport showed it’s capable of drawing a massive audience when all the stars align.
That Game 7 number, however, might be close to un-toppable. It’s hard to imagine a scenario would that would generate more interest in a Game 7 than the Cubs seeking to break their famous streak. A starting pitcher who had thrown two straight no-hitters? A super-beloved star playing his last game? Some sort of unusually captivating or polarizing team?
Basically the only way this rating ever gets topped is if baseball returns to its glory days as America’s most popular sport (or close to it. That seems almost entirely improbable, but hey, so did the idea of the Cubs winning the World Series.