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Fox Sports exec blames Red Sox' diminished appeal as one reason for World Series ratings drop

Alex Reimer
November 14, 2018 - 10:53 am
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This year’s marquee World Series matchup between the Red Sox and Dodgers was one of the lowest-rated Fall Classics ever, and one Fox Sports executive says the Red Sox’ diminished national appeal is one reason for the disappointing numbers.

In an interview with Sports Business Journal, Fox Sports’ executive vice president of research Mike Mulvihill said the Red Sox might no longer be a premier draw. Viewership for the World Series was down 25 percent in comparison to last year and the fourth-lowest ever.

“There are a number of things going on,” Mulvihill said. “It’s possible the national appeal of the Red Sox is not quite what it was in 2004 or 2007 or even 2013.”

Mulvihill went on to talk about how ratings shares –– which measures the percentage of televisions that are tuned into an event –– haven’t suffered nearly as much as viewership numbers in recent years, meaning baseball’s relative ratings woes might be more about the climate of television than anything else. But still, it’s hard to ignore the drop in ratings from the last two World Series. Viewership was down 40 percent from the Cubs’ seven-game victory over the Indians in 2016. 

Throughout the entire postseason, there was lots of bellyaching over the games’ late start times and interminable length. Contests routinely finished up in the wee hours of the morning, such as the classic Red Sox-Astros Game 4 battle, which saw its numbers for TBS peak between 10 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. –– well before the affair was decided around 1:15 a.m. 

Interestingly enough, large droves of fans stuck with the seven-hour Game 3 of the World Series past midnight. It attracted a higher average audience –– 14.13 million viewers –– between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. than it did prior to 11 p.m. (12.28 million). 

In most of these situations, there are multiple reasons for the end result. Most likely, a combination of baseball’s falling national standing, the lethargic pace of play and possible Red Sox ennui are contributing factors to this year’s low World Series numbers. 

No matter how you analyze the numbers, it’s bad news for MLB and Fox. The Red Sox and Dodgers are two of the most storied franchises in baseball and both boast high payrolls littered with star players. If they can’t draw, one must wonder who else can. 

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