Game 1 of Major League Baseball’s “Fall Classic” turned out to be a ratings classic, in that it was classically awful.
Viewership for the game came in at 9.2 million. Big numbers if you’re the NBA who didn’t reach that mark in any of their Finals games. However, for MLB, it was the lowest number of viewers in recorded history. The pathetically small viewing audience resulted in a 25% drop from Game 1 of the 2019 World Series.
These numbers are beyond alarming.
Even more troublesome when you consider that one of the teams in the series is the Los Angeles Dodgers who come from the country’s second largest television market. The Rays don’t come from a major television market, but they are clearly the best team in the American League and should have at least intrigued fans.
Would a Dodgers vs. Astros series have been a sexier matchup for fans? Sure. Though, with numbers this low you’re still looking at near historic lows in viewership and ratings.
Major League Baseball began their season with a tribute to Black Lives Matter and with widespread league-endorsed displays of social justice messaging. Did that alienate a ton of fans? Absolutely. But even that doesn’t account for the sheer magnitude of audience collapse that MLB is currently experiencing.
The truth is, the NBA and MLB are experiencing an unprecedented collapse in popularity fueled by factors in and out of their control. The social justice messaging was bad. Though, even more evident is that fans just don’t care anymore. Politics, everything from the election, to Covid, to economic collapse, to China, and whatever the scandal of the day happens to be, has become better theater than sports.
A point that is buttressed by the booming cable news network ratings that are occurring when matched up against sporting events. The only question is, assuming the current madness of 2020 eventually subsides, will sports regain the same levels of popularity it once held?
That question, and whether the madness of 2020 continues into 2021, will remain unanswered questions for some time.