Fox had to be expecting a year-to-year drop for the 2017 World Series ratings. After all, last year’s edition had just about an unbeatable narrative, as the Cubs ended their historically lengthy drought. That the Cubs came back from down 3-1 and clenched in a thrilling Game 7 resulted in what might be an unbeatable ratings high for baseball.
2017, though, featured the big-market Dodgers against the big-market Astros, both teams having spent most of 2017 as very good baseball teams. The series itself was probably more exciting game-to-game, and the numbers bore it out.
Last week’s Nielsen top-10 is littered with wins for FOX, as Games 1-5, out of order, were the five most-watched programs on television, with Game 5, which the Astros won 13-12 in 10 innings, taking home the top spot with nearly 19 million viewers despite going head-to-head with Sunday Night Football.
We talked about the big ratings Game 6 and Game 7 pulled yesterday, and those numbers combined with the strong series totals from last week to push the 2017 World Series to a hefty average viewership total.
Per Sports Media Watch:
The seven-game Astros-Dodgers World Series averaged a 10.7 rating and 18.9 million viewers on FOX, down 18% in ratings and 19% in viewership from Cubs-Indians last year (13.1, 23.4M) but up 23% and 29% respectively from the five-game Mets-Royals series in 2015 (8.7, 14.7M).
Outside of the Cubs’ historic victory last year and the Yankees’ six-game win over the Phillies in 2009 (11.7, 19.4M), this year’s World Series was the highest rated since 2005 (CHW-HOU: 11.1) and the most-watched since 2004 (BOS-STL: 25.4M).
That’s a very big deal for the sport. Before the series, the Awful Announcing staff took a stab at guessing where the ratings would come in. The staff guessed anywhere from 15-17 million viewers per game, while the Twitter polling public were much less bullish:
Where do you think the average World Series viewership this year will fall?
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 23, 2017
It looks like everyone underestimated just how big baseball can still be. The market sizes certainly helped, as did the storylines, but it seems likely that what propelled the ratings growth throughout was the excitement level of the games themselves. The 2016 World Series featured a classic Game 7, but the rest of the series featured only two close games.
— Sports Media Watch (@paulsen_smw) November 3, 2017
As Sports Media Watch pointed out, it’s the second double-digit rating year in a row for the World Series, after a string of single-digit ratings from 2012-2015. But that 2012 series looks more like the nadir, and since then, baseball has had a string of better matchups in terms of stories and markets. Plus, the Cubs run in 2016 really did capture public interest for the sport on a level it hadn’t seen in a while; it’s reasonable to assume that played some part in the continued big numbers this October.
Whatever the underlying causes, though, it’s reason for baseball to celebrate. Two of the sport’s highest-rated World Series just happened over the last two years. It’s hard to spin that any way but positive.