After Years of Football Dominance, World Series Poised to Top NFL for 2nd Straight Year

AP Photo
The Associated Press
Auburn, AL

In a shocking reversal, more fans tune into Fox for baseball’s Fall Classic than for their NFL games for the second straight year. From 2010 to 2015, an average of 14.5 million viewers watched Fox for each World Series game while 20.4 million (41% more) tuned into Fox for their average football game.

This Sports Illustrated piece in 2015 predicting their was no ceiling in sight for the NFL ratings, and listed the average Fox viewership for an NFL game from 2009 to 2015 on the table below. Even assuming Fox averages one million more than the overall NFL average this season, that would yield 16.9 million viewers last year and 16.1 million this year.

Millions Viewers Fox NFL Fox WS
2017 16.1 15.5-20.0
2016 16.9 22.8
2015 20.8 14.5
2014 20.7 13.9
2013 21.2 15.0
2012 19.7 12.6
2011 20.1 16.5
2010 20.1 14.2
2009 19.1 19.3

Many predicted a dropoff when the Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. While the Yankees do boost ratings (they were the last team to best the NFL when they were in the 2009 Series), the ratings have been fantastic even without the Yankees.

Fox is the gold standard in promoting sports broadcasts, so for all the excuses made by NFL apologists, comparing their higher viewership on Fox is a fair apples-to-apples comparison to the World Series, which is absent anthem protests and airs all seven games (if necessary) on Fox.

Last year the historic Cubs World Series run obliterated NFL viewership, topping out at 40 million viewers for Game 7, which is the all-time average Game 7 viewership for all televised games since 1984.

As sports fans look for alternatives to watching protests before NFL games, this years playoffs maintained surprisingly strong ratings and the World Series started with almost 15 million viewers and has become the first series in years to increase viewership each game of the series.

The World Series is averaging 15.5 million viewers and history indicates that number will be higher by the end of Games 5 and 6, and could reach 20 million since the average Game 7 draws almost twice as many viewers as other World Series games.

While no TV events draw as many as TV of the 1980s, which saw so little competition, you can see the reason the average ratings for World Series rise the more games are played in the Series (e.g., a 7-game series vs. a 4-game sweep).

Since 1984, the average viewership:

World Series all games = 23.0 million

Game 1 = 20.8 million

Game 2 = 22.1 million

Game 3 = 21.4 million

Game 4 – 22.7 million

Game 5 = 23.6 million

Game 6 = 27.0 million

Game 7 – 40.0 million (Cubs-Indians 2016 hit the average exactly)

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