I came across this interesting story in the local City Pages, talking about the collapse of the TV audience for Major League Baseball. The 2012 World Series, it says, between the Giants and the Tigers, had an average viewership of 12 million people — a drop of nearly 80% from the 1980 World Series.
Baseball’s TV audience ratings have fallen steadily since 1980, and yet the networks, Turner, Fox, and ESPN, are doubling their annual payments for the right to broadcast the games. How this can be?
Well, athletic events are one of the few TV offerings that people generally want to watch in “real-time” – including all the commercials. More and more broadcast TV is being recorded by consumers and watched at their convenience, sans commercials. (Tricky consumers.)
The Networks also will pay that sort of money because they can still bundle the channels; all those non-baseball fans are still supporting baseball because bundling channels forces them to pay for channels they really don’t want. However, there is a case now in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Cablevision Systems Corp. v. Viacom International Inc, which threatens to overturn this practice of bundling, and allow people to choose the channels they want to watch, and pay for them, individually. Which would probably be a big loss of money for baseball. Which would mean… ? Well, I guess we will have to stay tuned.
And 80%? Really?