David Bauder of the Associated Press reports that the 2019 World Series is on pace to be the least-watched ever, according to Nielsen ratings. The first five games averaged 11.6 viewers, falling under the 12.64 million viewers on average who watched the Giants sweep the Tigers in 2012.
Bauder also points out that Game 5 was severely outpaced, 18.3 million to 11.4 million, by the audience for the Sunday night NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. That’s the widest gap between an NFL game and a World Series game since Nielsen’s records became more precise in 1987.
We’ve covered in the past the myriad reasons for MLB’s lackluster television ratings, particularly in comparison to the NFL. Whereas NFL games are, for each team, once a week and a nationwide event, MLB games are frequent and highly regionalized. Baseball also has to compete with an ever-expanding swath of entertainment options besides the other three major sports. There are more than a handful of streaming platforms for movies and TV shows, several more for video games, as well as the usual YouTube and other forms of social media. It’s probably always going to be the case for the foreseeable future.
It is worth pointing out the play during this World Series hasn’t been terribly interesting. Given the non-baseball-related events like the Brandon Taubman saga, an umpire threatening armed insurrection, President Trump getting booed mercilessly, and the two flashers, the headlines and the general focus has hardly been on the play on the field. Add into the equation that the home team has not yet won a World Series game, and there haven’t been many comeback threats aside from Game 1. The 2019 World Series really hasn’t been that thrilling.
But! The World Series still has the potential for great drama. Tonight’s match-up between Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander should be thrilling inasmuch as it could be career-defining for both players. Verlander hasn’t earned a W in a World Series game yet in his illustrious career, and could clinch his team’s second championship in three years. Strasburg is a postseason king in the making. If the Nationals survive to force a Game 7, Max Scherzer — who sat out Game 5 due to a debilitating neck injury — would start with the potential to become the pitching version of Kirk Gibson in the ultimate game of the Fall Classic. A Game 7, if it happens, would be of historic intrigue. Whether or not the viewership at large agrees remains to be seen.