This past weekend, the Yankees/Red Sox three-game series was televised nationally on MLB Network, FOX, and ESPN, respectively, and all three games received record-like ratings. Here's the breakdown, courtesy of timesunion.com's Sports Media blog:
MLB Network’s Friday night telecast, which was blacked out in the Capital Region as well as the New York and Boston areas, was the second highest-rated game in network history, drawing 563,000 viewers. Only last year’s Stephen Strasburg’s major-league debut gained a larger audience.
The Saturday afternoon matchup on Fox (part of the country saw Phillies-Giants) drew 4.1 million viewers, the network’s biggest audience for a non-prime time baseball telecast. It was the biggest regular-season Saturday baseball audience since July 5, 2008 (Yankees-Red Sox, Cardinals-Cubs).
The teams generated a 3.6 overnight Nielsen rating, ESPN’s highest “Sunday Night Baseball” rating of the season and largest total audience (4.7 million) for the network since June 3, 2007, when the same teams attracted 5.3 million. ESPN’s Sunday night package shows a 9 percent audience gain from last year.
Fans complain that the networks shove this historic rivalry into our eye sockets on a yearly basis, but some of the same people have to be contributing to its record ratings. These ratings certainly are not going to convince MLB Network, FOX, or ESPN to stop scheduling this rivalry on a regular basis.
Now, the ratings do not necessarily suggest viewers can't get enough Yanks/Sawx because it's must see TV. First of all, a match up between two teams involved in one of the closer divisional battles in baseball is inherently compelling on its own. When the games also last for 1/5 of the day, it's not uncommon for fans to want to at the very least check in on it.
Pete Dougherty of the aforelinked Times Union Sports Media blog also noted that the Friday night telecast received 33-percent higher ratings than last year's match up on the same weekend, suggesting it had something to do with the fact that the NFL Hall of Fame game, scheduled to air on NBC, was cancelled this year.
Whatever it might be, the numbers these three games received are only going to reinforce the scheduling of Yanks/Sawx series in every available nationally televised slot - awesome, go ahead and pat yourselves on the back for that.