In a time where many sports are struggling to find ratings growth, at least one event is seeing its viewership numbers skyrocket this summer.
That event is the College World Series. This week ESPN says its overnight ratings are up a whopping 50% versus last year for the college baseball championship and that the network is setting streaming records for its games.
Leading into the College World Series Finals, ESPN’s College World Series overnight ratings (June 17-June 24) are up 50% from last year, and is the most-streamed early-round ever. On TV, this year’s CWS provided the highest-rated CWS early-round since 2014, and ties for second-highest rated early-round on record*. The 14 non-Finals CWS games of the 2017 Series garnered a 0.6 average overnight rating, and an average minute audience of 28,000 viewers with 120,000 unique viewers watched a total of 5,628,000 minutes. The success of the CWS thus far is a continuation of the early trend through the first six games (June 17-June 19), which were the most-viewed since 2011.
Of the early-round games, 13 of the 14 matchups were up from 2016, with Game 7 equaling the same rating as last year. Saturday’s matchup featuring Florida vs. TCU (Game 14) earned the highest overnight rating with a 0.9, which ranks as the highest-rated non-Finals CWS game since 2014 (40 games). Every matchup of the early-round also saw streaming growth in average minute audience and total minutes viewed.
The ratings growth are proof that ESPN has been rewarded for their investment in the NCAA baseball tournament. And that’s not just for the CWS in Omaha, but for the early rounds of the tournament as well. The more games ESPN has shown across its networks, the more it allows fans to become invested in the event. Showing games from the Super Regionals through the Championship Series allows fans time and space to become college baseball fans at a deeper level. Thus, when ESPN gets to Omaha, it’s already established interesting storylines and followed these teams throughout the tournament.
It should also be noted that ESPN might be helped by the fact that it’s something of an off year on the world stage this summer. There’s no men’s or women’s World Cup in soccer and no Summer Olympics. The Confederations Cup is just an exhibition tournament so right now the CWS has the stage pretty much all to themselves.
This news also comes on the heels of a very successful Women’s College World Series on the softball side. It’s great signs for both sports as college baseball and softball are both entering into an era of increased ratings and attention.