Earlier this week, I asked the question are the Rays bad for baseball? While my answer was an emphatic no, I’ll concede the Rays, a team of unknowns playing in one of the league’s smallest markets, aren’t exactly ratings dynamite. Neither are the Dodgers, apparently, with Wednesday night’s Game 2 reportedly the least-watched broadcast in World Series history (or at least in the Nielsen Era, which began in 1968), luring a mere 8.95 million viewers to Fox. That figure rises to 9.26 million if you include Fox Deportes and various streaming services.
Game 1 Tuesday night wasn’t much better on the ratings front, capturing an audience of just 9.2 million, according to sports media reporter Richard Deitsch. The least-watched World Series broadcast prior to Tuesday’s opener was Game 4 of last year’s Fall Classic between the Astros and Nationals, which garnered a pedestrian 5.9 rating. Eleven years earlier, Game 3 of Rays/Phillies (notice a theme here?) was seen by just 9.84 million eyes, making it the lowest-rated World Series broadcast ever at the time.
Per John Lewis (aka Paulsen) of Sports Media Watch, Game 2, which the Rays won to even the series at one apiece, drew the fifth-largest non-NFL sports audience since COVID shutdowns began in March, eclipsed only by the previous night’s Game 1, Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Georgia versus Alabama last Saturday and Sunday night’s NLCS Game 7. Locally, Game 2 garnered a 16.4 rating in Tampa, the highest for a Rays game since 2013 and well ahead of Games 1 and 2 of last month’s Stanley Cup Finals, which the Lightning won in six games.
Viewer fatigue may be setting in with the Dodgers appearing in their third World Series in the last four years. Game 1 Tuesday night earned a relatively sluggish 20.0 in Los Angeles, a 19-percent drop from the Dodgers’ opener against Boston in 2018 (24.8). To their credit, the Dodgers are drawing more eyes than the Lakers did during their Finals run, which ended earlier this month (13.2 and 12.0 for Games and 1 respectively).
MLB can’t be happy with the numbers it’s seeing, though the World Series likely dodged a bullet with today’s off day, avoiding competition from the final presidential debate as well as Eagles/Giants on Thursday Night Football. Wednesday marked the 45th anniversary of Carlton Fisk’s iconic walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Over 41 million television sets were tuned to that game. At this rate, the Rays and Dodgers would be lucky to get 41 million viewers for the entire series.