Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Monday, October 27, 2008

Does Baseball Need a Game 6?

This morning on Colin Cowherd's ESPN radio show, one of the topics under consideration was whether baseball needed the World Series to extend at least to a sixth game. Cowherd felt that another short series (the World Series hasn't gone past 5 games since 2003), combined with late start times, has contributed both to a decline in ratings overall AND a decline in the critically important (for sporting events) young male demographic. Over the long term, the lack of young males watching a sport is likely to reduce the overall ratings in a significant way, of course, as those young males age without having picked up the habit of watching baseball. Cowherd's shorter-term thesis, however, was that if the series ends tonight it could very well mean that FOX will bail completely from the baseball broadcasting game -- and he also feels that ABC, CBS, and NBC will stay away as well. Cowherd sees a future with the World Series being aired on ESPN or TBS, and posits that such a result would lead baseball in the direction of hockey -- a fairly marginalized sport.

There are two things to ask here: first, is it likely that such a result will occur; and second, would the World Series being on cable matter all that much?

On the first, my guess is that baseball is secure on one of the "Big Four" networks for some time. Certainly, none of the networks is likely to pay a king's bounty for the rights -- but they will probably pay more than one of the cable nets would pay, simply because they can still get advertising money and draw bigger ratings than could be achieved on cable. The preliminary rounds might get moved off of the broadcast nets (we've already seen that happen to a great degree, with TBS airing a sizable chunk of the playoffs this year). This makes sense -- FOX has realized that tearing up its fall schedule is not a smart investment, because it reduces ratings on the fall series that have to take a 3-4 week break in a critical month to for building audiences (and coming right before the crucial "sweeps" period that falls in November and determines ad rates). Airing just the World Series, though, doesn't present such a problem -- it's at most a 9-day event (7 games and 2 off days), which any of the networks could absorb. I strongly suspect, then, that the World Series itself will remain within the Big 4.

But what if the Series did move? Let's say TBS made a huge offer to try to draw in bigger ratings for itself, and suddenly the series was not on one of the Big 4 networks. The ratings still demonstrate that the major networks draw bigger audiences for events, but the quality of the sports airing on cable versus the major networks also hasn't exactly been equal to this point. In other words, there hasn't been a fair test to this point. While it's probably true that the World Series ratings would be lower on TBS (there are, after all, still a lot of people who don't have cable), I'm not convinced it would be a huge difference. More and more people are getting cable or satellite television, making networks like ESPN and TBS available. I don't even distinguish between the traditional "cable" and "broadcast" networks anymore -- and what channel the World Series is actually on doesn't affect me one way or the other. So long as it's on, I'll find it.

My conclusion: I want the Rays to win tonight both because I want them to win the Series (and still hold out hope) and because I just want more baseball. If the Phillies pull it off tonight, however, I'm not a fatalist. Baseball will not shrivel up and die if the poor fans of Philadelphia finally get a celebration for the first time in 25 years.

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2 Comments:

  • At Mon Oct 27, 01:11:00 PM , Blogger Josh's Thoughts said...

    Nice post, Josh. It certainly would be more entertaining to see the World Series get to 6 or 7 games.

     
  • At Mon Oct 27, 01:48:00 PM , Anonymous SethSpeaks said...

    It would be entertaining to watch a 6th or 7th game, but I don't think it would necessarily hurt baseball to not have it.

    I mean, baseball fans will be right back next year to support/watch their teams anyway. It's those people that only watch the World Series that might be disappointed. But if that's all they watch anyway, they'll probably come back too.

     

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