Count yours truly as one of those casting an askew glance in the direction of the World Series this week.
No, it’s not because the Boston Red Sox or St. Louis Cardinals hold much in the way of interest. The curiosity lies in what kind of numbers the series would pull among TV viewers.
ESPN’s ratings for nationally televised games were up 14 percent over last year, according to reports. Ratings for other MLB national partners, Fox and TBS, were unavailable.
Locally, league-wide, ratings proved to be a mixed bag. Fifteen teams were down. Fourteen teams were up, the Indians being one of them, according to the Sports Business Journal.
The reality, however, is that those regular-season ratings mean little in an era of national sports network proliferation. Those stations — the ESPN family of networks, Fox Sports 1, NBC Sports Network and the CBS Sports Network, along with all of those mini-sports netlets — need programming.
The audience and the money are in postseason games. Had the two championship series tanked ratings-wise (they didn’t) and the World Series struggled out of the gate, an observation that MLB was in trouble would be coming from this corner.
Major League Baseball isn’t in trouble.
For the first two games in the World Series, the national ratings have risen significantly.
Game 2 on Thursday night, a Cardinals victory, brought in 9 percent more viewers than last year on Fox (WJW Channel 8).
Game 1, a Red Sox victory Wednesday, fared even better with 18 percent more viewers than last year.
With the Series tied 1-1, it’s a safe bet that Fox officials are hoping this one goes all seven games.
As for baseball itself, the game has lost some shine with a modest decline in attendance, but a successful World Series would do a lot to put it back on.
On the other side
The NFL is looking to get richer — as if that’s a big shock to anyone.
Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports that the NFL is looking to spin off eight games of the Thursday night package, leaving its NFL Network with eight games. They’re seeking $700 million in the deal.
And they’ll get it — if not more.
A Thursday night package would go a long way toward lifting the fortunes of two of the newer sports networks.
The report said Turner Sports (TBS), Fox Sports 1 and the NBC Sports Network were interested. Although Turner once held NFL broadcast rights, let’s count them out, shall we?
If I were a betting kind of guy (and I’m not), I would suspect this comes down to the other two. They’re already NFL partners, and they already have the sports infrastructure — on-site production capabilities and ancillary programming — to hit the ground running with any such endeavor. And let’s be honest, both are a little ratings-starved right now and need something to differentiate themselves from the lower cable sports nets and to compete with ESPN.
The NFL hopes to do this by 2015 or 2016, according to reports.
Playing this weekend
The Kent State-Buffalo football game will be on the Time Warner Sports Channel on standard definition at 311 and 1311 in high definition. Don’t have TWC? Stream it courtesy of ESPN3.
SI on NBA
Sports Illustrated is picking LeBron James’ Miami Heat to play the Oklahoma City Thunder for the NBA title. As for the Cavs? They don’t even see them making the playoffs.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sports Media blog at http://www.ohio.com/blogs/sports-media. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.