Barring a four-game sweep by a New York Mets team that suddenly appears to be about as impregnable as the original Death Star, TBS is on pace to deliver its highest MLB playoff ratings in five years.
Through the first two games of the best-of-seven NLCS series between the Mets and Chicago Cubs, TBS is averaging 7.23 million total viewers and a 4.1 household rating, up 41% in total deliveries and 32% in the guaranteed metric versus the year-ago period. In 2014, Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS battle between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals averaged 5.1 million viewers and a 3.1 HH rating, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data.
The Mets-Cubs showdown is also up 37% in total viewers and 52% in the household rating versus TBS's coverage of the first two games of the 2013 NLCS, which featured the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Should the NLCS require at least six games before either the Mets or Cubs goes on to represent the National League in the World Series, the pennant-deciding series has a real shot at breaking every one of TBS's postseason ratings records. At present, the Mets-Cubs showcase is trailing the first two games of the 2010 ALCS by two-tenths of a point (4.3). That year the Texas Rangers eliminated baseball's biggest national draw, the New York Yankees, in six games before going on to face San Francisco in the Fall Classic. (For what it's worth, the Giants' definitive 4-1 victory over the hapless Rangers remains tied with the sodden 2008 Rays-Phillies slog as the second lowest-rated World Series of all time.)
Game 1 of the NLCS averaged 7.89 million viewers and a 4.4 household rating, this despite airing on the lightest TV-viewing night of the week. Game 2 delivered 6.57 million viewers and a 3.8 household rating, a strong showing in light of the competition the game faced. Thanks in part to the reunion of the two principal parties in last winter's Deflategate scandal, NBC's "Sunday Night Football" averaged 22.8 million viewers and a 13.1 household rating, while AMC's "The Walking Dead" scared up 12.2 million viewers in its second outing.
The Mets and Cubs suit up for Game 3 tonight at 8 p.m. Kyle Hendricks takes the hill for Chicago's first home game of the series, while the Mets will send out their floppy-haired 27-year-old ace Jacob deGrom.
Setting aside the possibility of a blowout, TBS tonight faces a relatively unimpeded path to ratings glory, as the only true Tuesday night reach vehicles with which it must contend are CBS's "NCIS" and NBC's "The Voice." But for a Stars-Flyers NHL game on NBCSN and NBA preseason action on ESPN, the Mets-Cubs skirmish is almost literally the only game in town.
If TBS is basking in the refracted glow of the meeting between the No. 1 and No. 3 TV markets, its counterpart at Fox Sports has been dealt a much more gloomy hand. The ALCS features the representative of the No. 33 DMA, the Kansas City Royals, and the non-affiliated Toronto Blue Jays -- a tough matchup for a sport that draws much of its sustenance from local markets.
Game 1 of the 2015 ALCS drew 6.54 million viewers and a 4.0 household rating on Fox Friday night, up 30% versus the opener of the network's year-ago NLDS. But Game 2, a Saturday afternoon broadcast on Fox's emerging cable network FS1, drew just 2.7 million viewers, down 37% versus the year-ago Giants-Cardinals game, and the overnights (2.1 HH rating) for Monday evening's Game 3 were flat when compared to the third game of the 2014 NLCS.
It's worth noting that Games 2 and 3 faced tough competition from college football and ESPN's "Star Wars"-goosed "Monday Night Football" broadcast. Final ratings for the Giants-Eagles game will be available later today.
Game 4 of the Royals-Jays series begins this afternoon at 4 p.m. EDT, on FS1. The Royals have a 2 games to 1 advantage over Toronto, which is playing in its second home game of the ALCS.