Imagine you own a baseball team and that you have the best record in the majors. Your home attendance was well over 3 million and, on top of that, your local TV ratings went up 26% over last season.
What could be better, right?
You’ve probably figured that I’m talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers and it’s true: According to SportsBusiness Journal, the Dodgers’ ratings on SportsNet LA were up 26% from 2016. However, the team ranks only 25th out of the 29 U.S. Major League Baseball teams in average ratings. SNLA’s Dodgers ratings averaged only a 1.55 for the year, despite being in the nation’s No. 2 market with MLB’s No. 1 team.
Of course, most Dodgers fans know that SportsNet LA, which is owned by Charter Communications, is available only on Charter TV to about a third of the L.A. market. So even though the ratings were up considerably, it was still limited audience potential.
The Dodgers still managed to have a better average rating than the Angels, who had only a 0.94 rating on Fox Sports West. The Angels saw their rating go down 8% from last season. It’s pretty incredible to see that the Dodgers, limited as their TV audience is, still had a rating 65% higher than the Angels.
It’s important to note the Dodgers’ 1.55 rating was their highest since 2012, two years before SportsNet LA launched, when the team was televised by Fox’s Prime Ticket.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians led MLB in regional ratings with an 8.33 average. That was up 28% from last season. Rounding out the top five were the Kansas City Royals (8.00), the St. Louis Cardinals (7.18), the Boston Red Sox (5.49) and the Baltimore Orioles (5.18).
Nationally, baseball ratings were up slightly. ESPN ratings were up 6%, with Sunday Night Baseball up 8% to an average of 1.7 million viewers. Fox was down 2% to 2.1 million viewers. Fox Sports 1 was flat at 448,000.
OVER AND OUT
The U.S. men’s soccer team’s 2-1 loss Tuesday to Trinidad and Tobago not only keeps the United States out of the 2018 World Cup, it also severely hampers Fox’s ability to draw big ratings from the tournament.
I’ve seen at least two quotes from people this week saying “there is no way to overstate” what a crushing defeat Tuesday’s game was both for U.S. soccer and for Fox. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, but whatever.
It’s not likely the United States would have lasted very long in the World Cup group stage anyway, not with the team that had so much trouble even in qualifying. But Fox now has the task of making the event from Russia attractive to U.S. fans who don’t have a team to pull for.
Some have said the network could spend more time on Mexico. SI.com quoted Fox Sports president Eric Shanks saying last month that Fox had already planned to market Mexico as its second team behind the U.S. There is also likely to more coverage of international stars, such as Argentina’s Leo Messi, Brazil’s Neymar and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
The soccer surge in U.S. popularity — though seen by some as glacial — will still bring viewers to the World Cup, no matter who’s in or who’s out.
ESPN has suspended Jemele Hill for another political Twitter post. In response to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones saying any of his players who knelt during the national anthem would be benched, Hill suggested Cowboys fans boycott the team’s sponsors.
The network said Hill would be suspended for two weeks. She had previously tweeted that President Donald Trump was a “white supremacist,” and later apologized.
ESPN’s public editor, Jim Brady, who criticized Hill’s tweets about Trump, said “when it comes to this latest action by ESPN, I am a bit perplexed.
“Don’t get me wrong, I understand exactly what it is that upset ESPN about Hill’s actions: One of its highest-profile personalities suggested an advertiser boycott that would impact an important network partner, and she did so on Twitter, the same platform she used to call out Trump. And, make no mistake: Many of the NFL’s advertisers are also ESPN advertisers. Additionally, the calling for a boycott — or, at least, a strong encouragement of it — treads close to activism.
“But it’s not the job of Hill — or any other ESPN journalist, for that matter — to concern herself with the network’s business relationships. In fact, the separation of ‘church and state’ is a longstanding core concept in any news organization worth its salt. So it shouldn’t matter whether Hill’s comments put ESPN in a bad position with the NFL, any more than with the network’s excellent reporting on concussions that has done the same. I’m not suggesting that months long investigative reporting efforts and tweets are of equal importance; they’re not. But both should be treated the same when dealing with the impact on ESPN’s core business relationships.
ESPN has dozens of journalists who spend much of their time chasing stories that don’t reflect well on the network’s business partners, and the network has done a good job defending its journalists in those cases. That’s why the company’s reaction to Hill’s tweets should be worrisome to other journalists at the company.”
UP & DOWN THE DIAL
CBS and NFL Network get a rare quality matchup on Thursday Night Football with the Philadelphia-Carolina game at 5:25 p.m. PDT. It’ll go up against Game 5 of the American League Division Series of the Cubs and Nationals on TBS, starting at 5. Sunday’s NFL games are New England-New York Jets at 10 a.m. and Chargers-Oakland at 1:25 p.m. on CBS, Rams-Jacksonville at 1 p.m. on Fox, and New York Giants-Denver on NBC at 5:20 p.m. The Monday night game is Indianapolis-Tennessee at 5:15 p.m. on ESPN. … Last week’s MNF Minnesota-Chicago telecast had an 8% boost in ratings to a 7.0, according to SportsBusiness Daily, thanks to the halftime unveiling of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer. … No. 13 USC hosts Utah at 5 p.m. Saturday on ABC. UCLA is at Arizona at 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks. … ESPN will make a GameDay visit to James Madison University from 6 to 9 a.m. Saturday before its game against Villanova. It’s the ninth trip the show has made to an FCS school. …
The NBA season tips off Tuesday with TNT showing the night’s only two games: Boston-Cleveland at 5 and Houston-Golden State at 7:30. ESPN will have a doubleheader on Wednesday: Philadelphia-Washington at 4 p.m. and Minnesota-San Antonio at 6:30. The Clippers and Lakers start the season Thursday by playing each other. TNT will have that game, too, at 7:30 p.m. … ESPN will show NBA Rookies: The Introduction at 5 p.m. Thursday, featuring Lonzo Ball of the Lakers, Markelle Fultz of the 76ers, Jayson Tatum of the Celtics, Josh Jackson of the Suns and De’Aaron Fox of the Kings. …
ESPN and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) have signed a five-year multiplatform agreement through 2021. … ESPN also announced it will not have its annual season-opening 24-hour college basketball marathon this year. Citing programming challenges, it will instead show a new early-season tournament, the Phil Knight Invitational from Portland, Ore.