December 2, 2022

MLB’s Jacked-Up Wild Card Format Offers Softer TV Odds


Major League Baseball’s new steroid postseason format appears to have had a diluting effect on television ratings, as the expanded Wild Card round failed to match the recent outsized audience. years.

According to Nielsen live and same-day data, the four playoff series averaged 2.75 million viewers over the course of nine games. While that number far exceeded regular-season national baseball television attendance (the league averaged 927,896 viewers per game on Fox, ESPN, TBS, and FS1), Wild Card deliveries were disappointing compared to to the grades ordered under the old playoff structure.

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Leading all comers was the Padres-Mets series, the only pair of the four to require a rubber game. San Diego Decisive 6-0 shutout New York in Game 3 was the biggest draw of the playoffs so far, as ESPN averaged 3.96 million viewers during its Sunday night TV broadcast. That’s about half the turnout of last year’s Yankees-Red Sox skirmish, a knockout matchup that averaged 7.69 million viewers, and a far cry from the Cardinals-Dodgers playoff analog. by TBS, which spooked 6.67 million viewers the night after Boston knocked out New York. .

The Padres’ one-shot also fell short of the Brewers-Nationals (4.73 million) and Rays-A (4.54 million) single-serve Wild Card matchups in 2019 and was eclipsed by the Rockies-Cubs ( 6.33 million) and the Yankees-A. (6.16 million) in 2018. A similar trend emerges when you compare Sunday night deliveries to the Twins-Yankees (6.73 million) and Rockies-Diamondbacks (4.39 million) in 2017; in fact, the Padres-Mets series-clinching frame was overplayed by each of the 18 standalone TV shows that aired during the expanded Wild Card era that began in 2012.

While the Mets failed to match the Yankees’ streak of playoff muscle deliveries, the Amazins were saddled with a prime-time slot that put them in direct competition with Sunday night football. With an average draw of 15.9 million linear viewers, NBC’s presentation of the Bengals-Ravens game was down 9% from 17.5 million a year ago, but still by far the biggest draw of the night. Under the retired Wild Card format, AL and NL games aired on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, a pattern that kept baseball out of harm’s way.

Whereas MLBRelentlessly toying with its legacy rarely pays off in improving the fan experience, Disney can’t really complain about the new playoff structure. ESPN walked away with what amounted to seven bonus postseason games, and because the league allows its network partners to sell more ads during the playoffs – the maximum number of October units is 52 per game, compared to 42 in the regular season – the network booked an estimated additional revenue of $35 million.

The numbers for the new-look Wild Card round are starting to look a little less worn if you compare them with the turnout for the COVID-hampered 2020 playoffs. After a truncated 60-game season, MLB introduced an interim Wild Card schedule featuring eight best-of-three series. Fan response was mixed, with individual game shipments ranging from a low of 345,000 viewers (on TBS) to a high of 2.6 million. ESPN averaged 1.7 million viewers during the first leg of this heavily asterisked postseason series, which translates to a 60% improvement this time around.

Of course, media buyers and advertisers are rarely, if ever, swayed by this kind of statistical selection, so anyone can guess who might benefit from doing what amounts to specious composition. In total, the Padres-Mets set averaged 3.5 million viewers, surpassing the Phillies-Cards two-fer (2.82 million) and the Mariners-Jays TV pair (2.2 million) . Bringing up the rear were the Guardians and the Rays, who pulled in 1.82 million viewers in their two early afternoon windows.

Primetime action resumes tonight, when the Guardians take on the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS on TBS. Fox Sports 1 closes day one of divisional round with a delay Padres Dodgers beginning.

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