Heading back to Houston for Game 6 on Tuesday, the 2021 World Series ticked above the 2019 matchup in Games 4 and 5 in total viewership, though it’s still trending as the second least-watched series ever through five games.
Game 3 on Friday, a 2-0 Braves victory, drew 11.232 million viewers on Fox (11.471 million when including Deportes and Fox streaming). That’s up 37% from 2020 (which drew just 8.156 million viewers on Fox, an all-time low for any World Series game), and down 9% from 2019 (12.22 million viewers).
Game 4 on Saturday, a dramatic 3-2 Braves win, drew 10.511 million viewers on Fox (10.771 million when including Deportes and Fox streaming). That’s up 12% from 2020 (9.332 million), and is also up 2% from 2019 (10.219 million), this year’s first victory compared to last year’s matchup.
Game 5 on Saturday, a 9-5 Astros win that including an early rally down from a 4-0 hole, drew 13.644 million viewers on Fox (13.933 when including Deportes and Fox streaming). That’s up 35% from 2020 (10.059 million) and 19% from 2019 (11.39 million). Dialing back the clock a little bit, 2021’s Game 5 was also able to top 2014’s Game 5 between the Giants and Royals (12.635 million).
Overall through five games, the 2021 World Series is averaging 11.295 million viewers on Fox. That’s up 23% from 2020 (9.14 million) through five games, and down 2% from 2019 (11.59 million) through five games.
I have a couple of quick thoughts here. First, Games 3 and 4 were much better and more competitive when compared to Games 1 and 2 (which were essentially over in the second inning). We can see that reflected in the peak viewership for each game: while Game 1’s viewership peaked in the 9:30 PM quarter hour and Game 2 peaked in the 8:45 PM quarter hour, Game 3 split the difference by peaking in the 9:15 PM quarter hour, and Game 4 far later in the 11:30 PM quarter hour (also helped by the conclusion of the Penn State-Ohio State game on ABC). Game 5, a potential clincher for the Braves, was the strongest performing game of the series so far, and peaked in the 10:15 PM quarter hour – right around the time when the Astros broke it open and took a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Game 6 has a lot going for it on Tuesday night. There’s no NFL on the schedule, but a trio of college football games, along with a couple nationally broadcast NBA games and the NHL on ESPN+. Some fans will undoubtedly opt for Election Night coverage, but that attrition shouldn’t be as significant as it would be in an even year. Viewership almost always ticks up from Game 5 to Game 6, with 1995 (a drop of around 1.5 million viewers, which came with a network shift from ABC to NBC), 1997 (around half a million viewers), and 2016 (less than 300,000 viewers) as drops over the last three decades. And if we get to a Game 7, forget about it: the 23 million that watched Game 7 of the 2019 World Series seems like a floor, barring a blowout.
The main takeaway here: closer games and longer series are a good thing for viewership. Fox and MLB will be giddy with a close, exciting Astros win on Tuesday, and a close, exciting game on Wednesday in a potential Game 7. The worst outcome? Well, that would be the best outcome for this writer: a repeat of Game 1, with the Braves jumping out to an early, large lead, and not letting go.
[Data via Fox Sports]