In what is becoming a dangeous trend for MLB on Fox, Baseball Night in America once again lost the ratings battle to the NHL on NBC. Fox's MLB coverage, headlined by the Red Sox and Yankees, drew 3.27 million viewers while NBC's Bruins-Penguins matchup drew 3.43 million. Both games drew a 2.5 overnight rating, which was actually a high point for MLB on Fox so far this season.
Perhaps more troublesome for MLB and Fox isn't the fact that they lost to something considered the fourth major sport in America once again, but the fact that their viewers trended much older than the NHL's audience. The MLB timeslot drew a 0.7 rating in viewers 18-49, while the NHL game drew a 1.2 in that same demographic. That's not good for the long-term health of MLB on national TV.
But honestly, I don't think they had a chance this week. Fox was betting on the huge Boston and New York markets to tune in for this game in droves, and when the Bruins and Rangers met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it was evident that one of them would be in the Eastern Conference Finals and would be dragging viewers away from their beloved baseball teams. Sure enough, Game 1 drew a 19.6 overnight rating in Boston, the best ever for a non-Stanley Cup Final game on NBC in the market.
The bad vibes will likely end up continuing for a third week next weekend, when the Red Sox are once again the headliner on Fox. This time, they'll take on the Angels, and will be going head to head with Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the Kings and Blackhawks (if Chicago doesn't sweep, that is). Of course, the Angels and Kings are both aired locally on Fox Sports West, and MLB will likely once again lose a significant part of their audience to hockey. With no NBA game as competition, maybe MLB can pick up some of the casual fans that likely gravitated towards TNT on Saturday in their valiant quest to topple the NHL in the network ratings battle.
Let's overturn the matter. I'd have entitled the article "Regular Season MLB on Fox almost beats NHL on NBC". I don't find it surprising that a marquee Hockey matchup between two teams deeply rooted in their local markets, a Game 1 of a Conference Final, beats a meaningless (at least for the standings) Baseball game with Regular Season being just one-third on its way. I'd have been much more surprised by the contrary.
I don't see this as a disturbing trend for baseball...just Fox. I rarely watch their televised games...really, I don't watch most of the nationally televised games, unless I'm forced to. Furthermore...as a Cubs fan & a Blackhawks fan, I have been hip-deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs for over a month. Still manage to watch the Cubbies, unless there's a conflict. But would I not watch an NHL playoff game in order to watch the Red Sox & Yankees (again) on Fox? Not on your life.
Oh fiddlesticks. It's not as if every game was a 4 or 5 hour marathon, for crying out loud. Baseball - with its no-clock structure - has been fine for well over a century. It's the strategy...the game-within-the-game...that makes baseball what it is. If you're bored - watch something else!
No way will that ever happen. On the contrary batters will likely get better opportunities to hit because pitchers will have to attack the strike zone instead of nibble nibble nibble.
The only people that seem to complain about time in baseball are the people at home. Who has ever gone to a live game and said this is taking too long I must get home right away and not enjoy my night at the ballpark.
Its only because its the playoffs..If it was during the regular season Fox would have been watched by more people
Red Sox/Yankees is a tired narrative that plays out way too often on national television. They are rivals, sure, but they are also divisional opponents. So, when they meet so often, yet are still on national t.v., people stop caring.
While the playoff context for the NHL played a role, the reality is baseball is a game in need of changes - it needs to rid itself of the entitlement culture that permeates clubhouses; it has to kill the pack-it-in-and-grind-out strategy that permeates games in general and Red Sox/Yankees games in particular; it needs to make some radical changes to speed up the game - count fouls as strike three (no more allowing batters to prolong at-bats with nonstop fouls); mandate a 15-second between-pitch clock with automatic on-base for the batter on a balk i.e. the pitcher takes too long; no more allowing time to be called - make the pitcher pitch.
To be fair, one matchup was a run of the mill regular season game in a sport that boasts more regular season contests than any other, while the other was a playoff game, to be more specific, the conference finals. I'd be concerned if the results went any other way. Besides, while it may not be the most popular sport in our country, a lot of people like hockey. There's nothing wrong with that. Not the end of the world that people were more interested in playoff hockey as opposed to a regular season MLB game. Both will surely coexist in the world of media for a long, long time.