The MLB Wild Card round concluded on Friday night and the Division Series started on Monday, and before we start diving into the LDS numbers (which we will later this afternoon), let’s take a final look at the Wild Card viewership.
Over 18 games, airing across TBS, ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2, the Wild Card round this year averaged 1.609 million viewers per game. The most-watched series was the Yankees’ two game sweep (feels weird calling two games a sweep, but whatever) of the Indians, which drew 2.564 million viewers in primetime on ESPN. The least-watched series was the Rays’ two game sweep over the Blue Jays, which drew just 574,000 viewers on TBS.
Here’s your full chart, now featuring the missing data for the three ABC games (thanks to the weekly sports roundup at ShowBuzz Daily).
As you can also see, the most watched game of the round was not either Yankees-Indians game, but the Cardinals-Padres winner take all Game 3 matchup, which aired in primetime Friday on ESPN. That game drew 2.599 million viewers, one of six games that topped two million. Of those six, four aired in primetime on ESPN and two aired on ABC.
Looking at the data, I have several takeaways.
- Winner take all games matter. We only got two of them, but the two Game 3 matchups both hit series highs (even more impressive for Chicago-Oakland, which aired at noon locally in the Bay Area). The slight increase from Game 2 to 3 in the St. Louis-San Diego series is also somewhat impressive, given that it aired on Friday night (4 PM locally in San Diego).
- ABC helped, but wasn’t a game changer. Two of the three ABC games cracked two million viewers, but still lagged behind the four games that aired in primetime. The third ABC game, slid into an eight game schedule on the day, lagged behind the most-watched games of the round, but still finished second on the day. The three games that aired on broadcast did far better than they would have in the same windows on ESPN2 (not that this was an option on Wednesday, given the jammed up schedule), but they didn’t set the world on fire.
- About that Rays-Jays series… Should we blame Canada, the Rays, TBS, ESPN, or the overall game quality for the piss poor viewership for the Rays’ two game sweep of the Blue Jays? I think the answer is a combination of all four. The Rays are not a strong national draw, and their Division Series viewership should be bolstered by playing the Yankees this week. Toronto isn’t included in the American viewership numbers, so (as always) there was no local market bump for them in this series. As for the networks, as this was the one series not on the ESPN family of networks, it seemingly wasn’t promoted much at all in the Fall Frenzy campaign during the other games. If you didn’t know it was happening, you wouldn’t have been told it was when watching the other games. The timeslots also sucked – Game 1 started two hours into a tight White Sox-A’s game, and Game 2 started while Chicago-Oakland was still rolling along and was essentially over right as Cardinals-Padres was starting. Toronto never led in the series, and scored just three runs in their exit. It was just a perfect storm of negative factors for the two-game sweep.
The Division Series round is going to be interesting for MLB, Turner and Fox. The four series all have consistent start times, with Braves-Marlins airing first on FS1, followed by the American League doubleheader on TBS (including, as always, the Yankees in primetime), and concluding with Dodgers-Padres on FS1. Will that consistency help or hurt overall viewership, and how much of an increase will the games have over the Wild Card round? Additionally, over the next three days, the primetime games will face competition from the NBA Finals, the VP debate, and Thursday Night Football. Will MLB be able to hold up against those three events, expected to draw varying levels of impressive viewership, or will it fall apart?