Same Teams, Same Championship, but Different Year, Different Ratings

Rash Report: Major League Baseball Playoff Ratings on Broadcast, on Cable

By Published on .

MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Baseball may be America's pastime, but local markets matter, at least in another competition: the Nielsen ratings race in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. And, evidently, which network airs the series plays a factor as well.

The Phillies won the NLCS in five games again this year.
The Phillies won the NLCS in five games again this year. Credit: AP
But what's impossible to measure are intangibles. Namely, is there any buzz behind the baseball series? And how hot is Major League Baseball compared to America's real national pastime, football? (Sorry, purists.)

For example, this year's American and National League Championship Series offers divergent data. This year and last year, the NLCS had the same two teams, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both years the Phillies won in five games. Last year, the NLCS ran on Fox and averaged a 2.4/7 rating and share. This year saw the same teams, same games and same outcome, but a different network, TBS. And there was also a different delivery, as this year's Phillies' repeat delivered a 1.9/6, which is about 20% lower than last year.

So network vs. cable is the difference, right? Well, maybe, maybe not.

Comparing the ALCS, for instance, brings less clear results. Through last night's Angels' victory (which in the fast-affiliate ratings -- live plus same-day data may differ -- notched a 3.3/9 rating and share that would put Fox in second-place overall) Fox is averaging a 2.9/10 over four prime-time games and one afternoon game.

Last year's seven-game series (six in prime, one during daytime), which was won by the Tampa Bay Rays over the Boston Red Sox, came close, with a 2.6/8, which is only about 10% fewer viewers in the demo. And the highest-rated game over the two years in both leagues wasn't on Fox, but TBS, as last year's Game 7 scored a 4.7/12. (To be sure this may be topped by a later game on Fox during this year's ALCS.)

Of course what isn't accounted for in the ALCS is market size. Last year had Boston and Tampa, the seventh and 13th largest TV markets in the country, while this year's teams represent the top two. (In the NLCS, the Dodgers play in the second biggest market as well, while Philadelphia is fourth.)

Once final data is released, it's possible last night's game will be a series high point for Fox. But some of this may have been due to CBS and the CW benching their lineups with reruns. CBS averaged a third-place 3.0/8, as both "CSI" (2.1/6) and "The Mentalist" (2.7/8) ran repeats, which led to a decline of 42% and 23%, respectively, from last week. At 8 p.m. an original episode of "Survivor" thrived, up 11% to a 4.0/11. The CW finished fifth as both "Vampire Diaries" (.9/3) and "Supernatural" (.8/2) averaged a 8/2.

The repeat of "The Mentalist" didn't have a discernable effect on "The Jay Leno Show" (1.6/5) however, which will need to see a surge against reruns in order to turn around its ratings. Earlier, NBC fared a bit better as "The Office" (4.2/11) was up a tenth of a ratings point and lead-out "30 Rock" (3.2/8) grew two-tenths from its season starter last week. And both "Community" (1.9/6) and "Parks and Recreation" (2.1/6) were each up a tenth of a ratings point from last week as well. But it didn't lift NBC out of fourth place, as it averaged a 2.4/7.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

And although ABC finished first with an overall 4.0/11, its three dramas were all right about at last week's levels, too: "Flash Forward" (3.0/9) was down a negligible tenth of a ratings point from last week, as was "Private Practice" (3.7/10). Indeed, only "Grey's Anatomy" (up two tenths of a ratings point to a 5.2/14) managed to steal any viewers, on a night when others were stealing a look at Fox to see if the Angels could steal a game -- and maybe, possibly, the series -- from the heavily favored Yankees.

Friday: Accessible academia on ABC's 20/20, with a report on the new book "SuperFreakeconomics."
Saturday: What else? Game six of the Yankees vs. Angels on Fox.
Sunday: Game seven, if necessary. If not, sports fans can flip to the Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Giants on NBC's Sunday Night Football. Or take a family break for the season premiere of PBS's superb "Nature."

Will tonight's program premiere of USA's "White Collar" be another black mark against Jay Leno, as it becomes the latest cable show to beat it in the ratings?

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun's Compass Media, Minneapolis. For more, see

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