Ratings are down

So sayeth the Wall Street Journal:

Lousy weather, delayed games and a lackluster matchup hurt World Series ratings last October, but household ratings for Fox Saturday Baseball, the sport’s so-called Game of the Week, are off 9% to date from last season, and 23% from 2000 . . .

. . . Fox Sports spokesman Lou D’Ermilio confirmed network executives will head to Milwaukee next week to strategize with Commissioner Bud Selig about reversing the downward trends. “The purpose of the meeting is to find a way to boost the ratings for the All-Star Game and the World Series,” he said. Plans include showing baseball movies on Sunday afternoons on Fox’s sister channel FX, and promotional ads with broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

Forgive me if I don’t agree that throwing more Joe Buck and Tim McCarver at the problem is the right answer. Indeed, each time I’ve checked my guide on Saturday afternoons this season to see whose playing, I notice that something called “The Tim McCarver Show” is the lead-in. Instead of clicking over to something as ominous sounding as that, I usually just keep watching whatever bad 1980s movie is on basic cable at that time, and hey, sometimes I forget to click back. And I’m a baseball freak. Imagine what normal people do.

McCarver-bashing aside, I wonder if it’s desirable to mess with start times a bit. I can’t speak for everyone, but my Saturdays are pretty much set in stone by 3:30 or 4pm, and if I don’t specifically plan to watch the Game of the Week that day, odds are I’m not going to see it. I’ll be out with the kids or working in the yard or something. Granting that west coasters would complain, but I wonder if a 1pm start wouldn’t do better. Heck, maybe the west coasters wouldn’t complain. Everyone I know who lives out there talks about how awesome it is to wake up and watch early football and still have the whole day ahead of them. Baseball would have to be the same way, wouldn’t it?

Unlike a lot of things, I don’t even pretend to know what I’m talking about when it comes to television ratings, so take that for what it’s worth. I’m just trying to think of ways to boost ratings that don’t involve insufferable promos.

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  1. George said...

    As MLB and the networks continually moved back the start times and force fed the country more tim mccarver, people have said, “they know what they’re doing.”  And it was just accepted that they were right.  Year after year of declining ratings have proven that they were wrong.  It’s far more important that the east coast can catch the end of playoff games than the west coast can see 90 minutes of mind-numbing pregame. 

    I’m positive that ratings would improve by 50% immediately if Tim McCarver was taken off the air.  If I found out my favorite pitcher was throwing a perfect game into the ninth inning and I turned my TV on and heard McCarver’s voice, I’d immediately turn the tv off and go find a radio.

  2. Paul said...

    10am baseball *is* awesome. It rarely happens though unless my A’s are playing a midweek game back east, in which case I’m at work.

    Saturday 1pm ET games don’t count because they are blacked out thanks to Fox. Of course hell *could* freeze over and I could see A’s on Fox.

  3. lar said...

    Living most of my life in California, I loved Fox Saturday baseball games because they started at 1pm. It just made so much sense. Now that I live in Wisconsin, it still seems weird to me to have to wait until 3pm for the games to start. It’s a waste of the early afternoon.

    Personally, I think MLB should do what the NFL does. Have all the games start at 1pm local, so that East coasters can get their 1pm Red Sox game and a 4pm Giants game. That’ll allow the West coasters to wake up to the early baseball, just like with football, and then still have the pleasure of a 1pm game.

    Or does that make too much sense?

  4. BillyBeaneismyHero said...

    No…more…Tim…McCarver.  Actually, as much as I can’t stand McCarver, I find Joe Buck to be equally as objectionable.  Just once, I’d like to turn on a baseball game, and hear some intelligent discussion. 

    The start time idea made by lar is great.  That probably does make too much sense though.

  5. Grant said...

    As an East Coaster who likes to go out late on Fridays, I can think of nothing better than an early Saturday game. I’m often kind of hung over late Saturday morning/early Saturday afternoon, and some baseball would really help me through. As it is right now I listen to music or watch whatever movie is on TV. Much rather see some ball.

  6. YankeesfanLen said...

    I hate these 4PM games, they get in the way of EVERYTHING on a Saturday afternoon.  And of course the Yankees are on a lot them for “ratings”, much like the lack of “getaway” days.
    To solve the problem of Tim and Joe, just mute the tv and crank up XM (or John and Suszyn)

  7. Jamie said...

    You’re right, the 4:00 start times are the worst; by that time I’ve already committed to something that has me leaving the house, either before the game starts or before it is finished. However, I would guess the ratings decline has more to do with increased supply and decreased demand; if you want to, and you have the money, you can pretty much watch baseball any day of the week. I don’t even have mlb.tv or one of those fancy cable packages but between ESPN 1&2, MLB Network, and WGN, I can see 5 or 6 games a week even if I miss the “game of the week”.

  8. Eric/OR said...

    My personal PST perspective: I love the 10 am start times for NFL games during the winter and fall seasons, particularly when I’m planning on watching the late game; there’s at least a passable chance of getting something done after football that day.  It’s less enjoyable for MLB games during the summer, though, when I tend to sleep in on balmy weekend days.  Of course, if the Red Sox are playing, a 10 am start time doesn’t say much – one could sleep in until 2 and still catch Papelbon struggling through a save.

  9. The Ghost of Phil Rizzuto said...

    The ratings for baseball on FOX are down.


    I hope they go to zero or at least low enough for FOX to give up the ship and spare us from their uniformly awful coverage, stupid sound effects, 2.5 minute half-inning breaks, announcers that make you want to hang yourself after two innings and World Series games that start too late for most of the country to see the end.

  10. BillyBeaneismyHero said...

    hermitfool…don’t forget Steve Phillips, Buck Martinez, David Wells, John Kruk, and Harold Reynolds.

  11. hermitfool said...


    I’m with you 100% on your additions.

    Who would you choose to go first?

    Are we missing anyone? I’m not familiar with the producers of the Fox baseball broadcasts, but assume the producer would be the dunderhead deciding viewers have so little interest in the game they prefer to watch some talking head interview a celebrity in the stands while boring stuff is happening off camera on the field. Fox isn’t the only offender, but you have to start somewhere.

  12. jlive said...

    Jamie’s post and lar’s post both seem really reasonable.  Too much supply, too little demand, and too little motivation for watching *one* game on Saturday that you might not be interested in anyway.

    I *do* have MLB.tv, which is pretty cool, despite a few glitches here and there.  And I find myself cursing the Saturday game of the week, because (1) those games are blacked out on MLB.tv and (2) my local Fox affiliate (I live in Pittsburgh) always shows the *wrong* game as far as I’m concerned.  As a Cards fan in exile, I’m perpetually disappointed when RedSox/Yankees is shown on Saturday instead of Cubs/Cards (which airs at the same time).

  13. hermitfool said...

    If Fox wants higher ratings they could hold a baseball trivia contest to select the most deserving fan who gets to throw the switch on the electric chair hosting Tim McCarver, the next week Joe Buck, the next week Joe Morgan, the next week Rick Sutcliffe, the next week Chip Caray.

  14. NZ said...

    I don’t know what could be done to help the ratings, but I’m not sure I trust Selig and the others to make the right decisions.  As long as they don’t cancel the all-star game again or do some other incredibly stupid thing.  Showing baseball movies around the game seems like a good idea.  Yahoo or some other fantasy host might also start trying to put some ads out to get people involved (but that may be more of a pre-season thing).

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