Well, we’re all getting older. What’s relevant here is that the median age of the World Series viewer is creeping up and remains considerably higher than that of viewers of the other sports’ marquee events. Jonathan Mahler of Bloomberg explains why this is a concern:
For the time being, baseball can still sell plenty of ads for luxury cars and financial services and Viagra against its demographic. But at the end of the day, the inescapable reality is that baseball fans are old and getting older. At a certain point, about when 53.4 becomes 62.9, that’s going to be a problem.
Baseball knows this. That’s why it has been reduced to creating sideshows such as the Fan Cave, “a first-of-its-kind space mixing baseball with music, popular culture, media, interactive technology and art.”
I won’t put this one in the silly “baseball is dying” pile because unlike most of those efforts, here Mahler is pointing out a specific issue that could, theoretically, present a problem.
But I also question how big a problem it is. As we’ve noted several times before, baseball skews regional and the ratings of the national broadcasts like the World Series aren’t the best way to gauge its health. I can’t help but wonder if the same goes for its demographics, especially when the teams involved come from such established baseball towns like Boston and St. Louis which, one assumes, lend themselves to a lot of old timers watching broadcasts.
But even if the cities aren’t relevant to the analysis, I still wonder whether TV-watching metrics truly tell the whole tale about age about baseball’s overall demographic situation. It doesn’t apply to the playoffs, but how many baseball fans are consuming products via MLB.tv? How many “follow” baseball closely via digital means, even if they don’t watch every game? Baseball, after all, is an every day thing — not a weekly event like a football game or like an episode of “Big Bang Theory.”
Baseball also has revenue streams flowing from many different sources than just big broadcasts. It’s also the sport which boasts one of the best digital platforms in all of entertainment. It’s capturing eyes in many different forms and, I imagine, if you capture all of those various means of consuming baseball, you’d get a very different picture of the demographics of its fans than merely looking at playoff TV viewers will give you.
Which isn’t to say that it’s awesome that the median age of TV viewers is climbing. Indeed, it’s incumbent upon baseball, I believe, to try to get the people who consume baseball via a laptop, a phone and a Roku player to, come playoff time, switch on the TV, because that’s where serious money is made. Perhaps having Fox, ESPN and TBS approach baseball broadcasts in a fundamentally different way would be a good start because, boy howdy, the current broadcast product is pretty bad.
But I think that’s more of nagging problem to solve than it is some generational time bomb.