How would YOU improve the World Series ratings?

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How would YOU improve the World Series ratings?

#1 Post by Marky » Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:45 am

Every year we hear the World Series- perhaps the country's most cherished sporting event- has taken a hit in the ratings.

Phils-Tampa Bay was, supposedly, the lowest rated Series on record.

And while we hear people make excuses about small markets (really? Fourth and 16th?) and length of games- I think there's more than that.

The purpose of this post isn't to say "The World Series games should start earlier." Of course they should.

What I'm frightened about is the ratings are so low right now that MLB couldn't go to a network and argue for affiliates to cancel their 7 p.m. syndicated programming for the World Series.

So- here are my ideas. Tell me what you think-

A- The wild card doesn't work. It pushes the World Series back to the point where had this one gone seven games the baseball season would have lasted longer than many high school football teams' seasons.

It also makes the World Series look like a freak event- with snow flurries in Cleveland or heavy rains in Philadelphia.

Furthermore, does anyone think this is fair? The wild card supposedly keeps teams in the pennant race. Does anyone think that a division makeup in which the Oakland A's only have to beat out three other teams for a playoff berth and the Milwaukee Brewers must beat out five (which they still have never done) is just?

Go back to two divisions- take out a week of playoffs- and the Series ends in mid-October when it should.

Or, begin the season in conjuction with the first day of spring. Schedule early season games with a slant towards domed stadiums and southern climes. Open spring training the day after the Super Bowl.

There will be the natural transition from football to baseball that way, and Opening Day will no longer have to fight with the Final Four for space on the front page.

Loss of revenue from the opening round? Maybe. But what about the LCS on cable and not network now? What kind of revenue are you losing with these low ratings?

B- The games last too long.

In 1948 World Series games lasted an hour and a half- the same amount of time the three suspended innings of Phils-Rays did.

How did this happen?

Part of it is longer time between innings for TV commercials. Part of it is pitching changes and DHs that add offense and pitchers who take too much time.

Sure- I think the easiest way is to eliminate the DH. You'd be surprised- but its not just the purists who enjoy 3-2 games more than 13-8.

But practically, the way to do this is look at commercial time.

If baseball were to adopt, say, a minute and a half break for commercials networks could make up the advertising revenue by charging MORE per spot but also by featuring innovative advertising.

Baseball broadcasting is filled with in-game ads- from Bob Wolf saying a Washington Senators home run was a "White Owl Wallop" to Henry Heilmann saying "Bugaboo! Another Fly is Dead"- whenever a Detroit Tiger pocketed a fly ball- which was a shoutout to Mobil Gas and some sort of bug spray they marketed at the time.

Might advertising be more effective if Bill Mazeroski, Kirk Gibson, or Joe Carter's legendary home runs were brought to you by someone? Wouldn't that be worth more than 30 seconds in the middle of the fourth inning?

The World Cup got on network TV in 1994 with no commercials. It was underwritten by Master Card- which had a logo on the screen at all times.

Couldn't baseball- not just the World Series but baseball in the regular season as wel- adopt this advertising strategy?

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#2 Post by duaneallman80027 » Sun Nov 02, 2008 10:59 am

I disagree with taking out the wild card. It brings more teams/markets in to the race at the end of the season and it also adds another dimension of excitement for more fans that wasnt there before so I think it results in improved ratings and revenue. My take on the low ratings is the New York/Boston nonsense, let me attempt to explain. Since the strike I think the fan base for baseball has been less "purist" and more "bandwagon" (not sure if thats the best way to describe it but all I can think of for now). The majority of people and companies in our buisiness lack diversity and our heavily (almost disturbingly so) from the northeast and they fed the fans this New York/Boston rivalry which was great for a while but created a fan base for baseball that lacks interest when other teams are involved. Im not sure if I described that to the best of my abaility but I'm sure that take should ruffle some feathers regardless! 8)

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#3 Post by sports_talker » Sun Nov 02, 2008 1:46 pm


I think you're absolutely right on the ball on this one. The problem is one that Fox (and to a degree, but likely to a lesser extent MLB) have in large part created themselves. By overhyping the Yankees and the Red Sox, the image has been created in the mind of the casual fan (the entity that truly drives ratings for sports) that if NYY or BOS aren't in the graphic at the top of the screen, the game doesn't matter.

I would agree that the games are too long. My dad commented on this while we were watching the series and I started counting commercials in between innings. NOT including promos for Fox shows, there were on average six 30-second spots between innings, twice the number you would get in a normal game. That's 24 minutes worth of commercials in a WS game than a regular one. No wonder the games take so long. Another thing you might have noticed with the commercials was the number of repeats. I understand you want to drive home a message, but how many times can you see the Bud Light "Drinkability" ads or, Christie Brinkley not withstanding, how many times can you watch Chevy Chase dive into a cold swimming pool.

Look, I understand as much as anyone that it's ad revenue that drives the broadcast. But no matter how many times you try to drive home a message, if no one's watching, the message isn't getting across. If a tree falls in the forest . . . .

Finally, this may be a controversial suggestion, but it comes out of both watching the games and from being at the victory parade (Hallelujah, The Curse of Billy Penn is OVER, at least so said the sign of the guy dressed up as the Philadelphia patriarch at the parade). There were no less than 10 signs I counted, in a concentrated area (since once you get your spot in the mosh pit of two million people, you don't move) that were berating the broadcast crew. As loyal as Phillies fans are to a fault to Harry Kalas, I can't imagine that Philadelphians are the only ones with that opinion. It was Joe Buck and Tim McCarver who were the ones that were on the network when the branding of the Yankees and Red Sox started and they seem genuinely upset they weren't calling games that included either of those teams. Perhaps if Fox and MLB want to shake things up and to start rebranding the product, there should be some fresh blood in the booth.

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#4 Post by bschultz » Sun Nov 02, 2008 2:36 pm

I remember when the "Game of the Week" on Saturday's involved nearly every team a couple of times each year. How many times were either the Yankees or Sox on this year? A lot more than Tampa Bay was. A lot more than Seattle. A lot more than Pittsburgh. I knew a lot more about all the team in the bigs when I got to watch them every Saturday. Now, of course, purists, or big baseball fans have the MLB Ticket. Those people watch the World Series all the time anyway.

The casual fan needs to see more than just the Sox or Yanks to get excited about baseball, and the World Series.

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#5 Post by RadioDaddyKat » Sun Nov 02, 2008 11:33 pm

OK, I have to weigh in on this one ...

First of all, I agree that MLB has to look at a new way to market the game. If that means they have to find a way to get Fox to show more teams ... or better yet, not regionalize the game of the week ... then do it. What you may lose in rights fees you have a chance to make up in other ways.

Secondly, and this one is totally on Fox AND whomever else shows playoff games ... stick to the rules! From last out to the next pitch is supposed to be 90 seconds. Up the rates, put more of a premium on between-inning games and sell the crap out of specialties. It works for everyone else!! You think Aflac minds their niche specialty?? Heck no ...

The two ideas I am totally against are dropping the DH and drastically changing the calendar. I believe an earlier start would work, and could you imagine playing playoff games in September?? There's no way the MLBPA would go for taking days off away (and I don't blame them one bit for that, either. If you have not done any pro baseball, you have no idea on what it does to the mind and body of a player.), but the early start time is an OK idea.

The problem with it, though, is that there are some teams who could play their way out of having a big Opening Day crowd, and those warm-weather teams (or domed teams) would have to deal with longer road trips more often. How the union would handle that one ... well, likely they would be able to handle it. How the schedule-makers would deal with it is another matter.

Personally, though, I believe that moving up the start time by just one week should at least get the World Series away from ever being played in November. And neutral sites?? Yuk. It's not the Super Bowl, which is one game ... it's a series. No one would think of moving the Stanley Cup or the NBA Finals to a neutral site .. it's a bad idea.

As far as Buck and McCarver ... I tune them out. I used to enjoy both of them, but now ... not so much.
Ben Catley
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#6 Post by Marky » Mon Nov 03, 2008 3:49 am

You bring up a common phrase I hear regarding the changes baseball needs-

"Good luck in convincing the players union . . ."

Doesn't that say just about everything you need to know?

How about standing up to the players union? How about realizing anything Marvin Miller touches turns to crap (US steel industry, baseball, etc.) and his comment in Ken Burns' "Baseball" that by not overspending for free agents in the '80s that it was an act worthy of the Black Sox was sheer lunacy? How about realizing the players union is a joke and that it is designed to break up competitiveness in small markets and give an Alex Rodriguez $25 million a year while players who played prior to 1975 have to struggle to get a pension and often die young when they are not able to get the medical attention they need without said pension?

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#7 Post by longball42 » Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:26 am

The Wild Card needs to remain, there's no good reason at all to eliminate it.

People are forgetting that the biggest problem with the Yankees and Red Sox not being involved with the World Series is that market size isn't as influential on the ratings. Yankees fans aren't that interested in other teams, and the Red Sox fans I knew didn't seem to really care (and more or less resented the Rays fans). So of course the numbers are going to be down.

You also drive out these people by starting games at 8:30 on the east coast, these games need to start sooner.

MLB needs to do a lot better job marketing its players that aren't from Boston and New York. There's a lot of great players in the league, and they need better folks showing off their personality. How many people knew of Chris Bosh before he had his YouTube video of getting into the All-Star game? A hell of a lot of people know him more now. Casual baseball fans didn't know who BJ Upton, Evan Longoria, or Scott Kazmir was. I doubt many knew that Chase Utley was miles ahead a better player than Ryan Howard was.

How many real STARS are there in MLB? Manny, A-Rod, Jeter, Ortiz and then .... Carlos Zambrano? David Wright? (who doesn't get enough attention). The NFL and NBA do a so much better job marketing it's personalities.

There also needs to be more real rivalries. This is what kills the NBA, everyone in sports now is such great friends because they have the same agents or they work out at the same training facility in the off-season, there doesn't seem to be bad blood anymore. Besides the Yankees/Red Sox most of the other rivalries are pretty tame in baseball, and baseball seemingly policing itself to keep the retaliation, hard slides, and that kind of thing in check in turn buries them in a hole. They need more drama outside of the northeast that people can care about.

Say what you want about the All-Star game deciding home field, that was amongst the best games I saw of the year.

The earlier they finish the season the better, you just can't compete with the NFL these days and as it gets deeper into the NFL season, the less appealing baseball appears to me as a fan.

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#8 Post by Marky » Tue Nov 04, 2008 7:24 am

Longball- You just expressed the reason to get rid of the Wild Card when you spoke of how long the season goes.

I love baseball. I remember as a little boy rooting for my least favorite team to win when they were losing in the sixth game of the World Series just so we could have a seventh game.

But playing in rain and snow, or at neutral sites, doesn't do anyone any favors.

The Wild Card does nothing but water down the playoffs. I submit to you Francisco Cabrerra's series-clinching single is more famous than Yadier Molina's series-clinching homer.

WHY? It's a single against a homer! It's a homer against a New York team! They are both unknown players rising to stardom- and catchers at that! Cabrerra's hit is 14 years older!

Maybe because Molina's homer is watered down with all the playoff games- as the continual drop in ratings since the Wild Card was put into effect indicates.

I agree with you baseball needs to promote rivalries. When I was a kid growing up in Central PA (I moved around a lot) nothing was bigger than Pirates-Phillies since they had spent so many seasons battling for NL East supremacy. Now, they only play each other once a year at each others park.

I do not think the trade of games against traditional National League rivals for an occassional visit from the Yankees (one to Pittsburgh since interleague play started) was a good deal.

As far as Red Sox-Yankees- again- good point. My joke has always been Bud Selig wanted to contract two teams and he wound up contracting 28.

But you're right. Whatever happened to Cubs-Cardinals? Giants-Dodgers? Bucs-Phils? Even Indians-Tigers?

The best thing baseball could do is embrace the things that made it unique to other sports- such as making sure you had to finish first to make the post-season and only playing teams in your own league.

It used to be other sports tried to be like baseball (creating an overtime system to break ties, for instance).

Now, baseball tries to be like other sports, and that seems to be its problem.

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