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MLB on FOX ratings tanking ... what does it mean?

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Ratings are down across baseball. Should we be worried -- and perhaps more importantly, when will MLB be worried?

Patrick McDermott

MLB on FOX's ratings have never been worse, failing to draw a 2.0 rating in each of its first six broadcasts this season, according to Awful Announcing. Last weekend, regional coverage anchored by a Reds-Phillies contest drew a rating of just 1.2, attracting approximately 1.7 million viewers.

This past Saturday, the viewership went up by about a half-million people in the first primetime broadcast of MLB on FOX, but baseball still lost out to the NHL Playoffs, particularly in the area of the 18-49 demographic, which saw the Red Wings-Blackhawks game earn a preliminary 1.1 rating compared to baseball's 0.5. The overall preliminary rating for the NHL game came in at 2.0, meaning baseball likely finished below that for the seventh consecutive week.

It's not just the Saturday game of the week that's scuffling, either; ratings for Yankees and Mets games in the country's largest metropolitan area are down 39 percent, and that's coming off of a season in which the teams set new lows -- or in the case of the Mets, came close to it -- in ratings.

Of course, there are some caveats here. With the increasing availability of streaming broadcasts, the number of people who watch games the old-fashioned way has dwindled. That, combined with the fact that baseball fans -- particularly those who fall within the aforementioned demographic -- are widely considered a forward-thinking bunch, could be a partial explanation for the ratings dip.

But, let's not kid ourselves here. The young adults of the current generation simply don't have the same interest in baseball as those who came before them. The perceived lack of action has hurt the game, as has a number of other things -- some of which are actually controllable, such as instant replay, speeding up the game and making the regular season more meaningful.

It likely won't happen within the next decade as most baseball teams either just signed or will soon sign TV deals that will bring in more money than they've ever seen in that area. However, when the next round of TV deals come around, teams may find that a lack of ratings will result in less money. That may be the time when baseball is forced to look in the mirror and re-evaluate some things. Shorten the season by 20 or so games? Not likely, although it would do baseball's regular season and postseason a favor. Institute full instant replay? Maybe. Speed the games up? That may require managers to change how they approach their style, so who knows how that would go over.

Regardless, MLB is going to have to adapt in order to keep of with the ever-changing landscape of sports and entertainment.

Off-topic

Links

SB Nation's Marc Normandin took a bunch of mock drafts and compiled them into a consensus list, which has the Rockies taking a bat at No. 3.

This is pretty good news for today, hopefully: