Major League Baseball couldn’t have fans in the stands for the 2020 season. Because of that, you would have thought that tv ratings would be up, right? Well, Nostradamus, you would be correct. Local ratings of Major League Baseball was up 4% when compared to 2019. Or so that’s the headline of the article at Forbes that was published on Monday – but the headline isn’t exactly correct, either.

Nielsen, the company that tracks all of the television ratings, tracked things differently in 2020. This is both good and bad. This year was the first year that Nielsen began to track digital views rather than just “normal” television viewership. That’s good because it’s going to provide a more complete picture of the numbers of people actually watching the program in question. But, the data also is not complete. Cincinnati, for example, does not count digital views – only “normal” television viewership. Nielsen does not track “digital views” in all markets.

We did get to see that the Reds viewership on “television” was down 18% in 2020 when compared to 2019. In the 2019 season the Reds had a 5.72 rating, but it dropped to a 4.67 during the 2020 season. That, however, also doesn’t tell the whole story. From the article:

In addition, because Nielsen moved to track people who are mobile, the total number of traditional TV households has dropped. With that, nearly every MLB RSN shows a ratings decline while viewership has gone up. So as with so much else in 2020, the question of whether viewership was up, down or sideways requires some guesswork.

The article goes on to note that by their estimation, Cincinnati likely held steady with how many viewers they had last season when accounting for everything. Given that overall Major League Baseball’s ratings were up – that’s not a good sign for the Reds. The team made the playoffs for the first time in seven years – also having their first winning record for the first time since then, too. But that didn’t exactly translate in ratings/viewership. Perhaps it was that for the most part of the season, the team was well under .500 and the games featured little action as the team spent nearly half of the season struggling to score three runs in a game.

For Reds ownership, who also has an ownership stake in Fox Sports Ohio, that may feel like a double whammy. Ratings didn’t really move much despite a better season from a record standpoint and an offseason that saw them go out and do things they’ve never come remotely close to doing before. Everything changed in March, of course, and threw a big wrench right into the motor that was Major League Baseball – but that happened for every team, too – and most of them saw viewership move in the right direction, especially teams that played well.

37 Responses

  1. DataDumpster

    I tend to listen to the radio as often as watch the game on TV. So, I guess in the last few years my personal viewership would be way down. The bottom line is that this team, outside of a few pitchers, is not very compelling to watch. Probably not unique to the Reds but somewhat exaggerated here. More walks than hits, little clutch hitting, no bunts, sacrifices (yeah zero) or squeezes, very little hit and run or surprising gambles but more than enough of pinch hitting, inconsistent lineups, baffling substitutions and so on. One of the most memorable moments on TV did not favor the Reds but had some poetic justice to it. One of the Braves was up in a key situation and the Reds moved Castellanos in from the outfield to play third base essentially. The batter scanned the field and then just plopped one over the pitchers head for a hit to essentially lock up the victory. However, the Red’s batters nearly always pull a little harder one bouncer right into the shift. So unlucky!
    If fans were allowed in this year, I would have seen if I could have gotten together one outing during the last couple of weeks of their streak but that’s it. So, I don’t know how much ownership considers playing and management style for their personnel decisions, but this team is boring, devoid of enthusiasm, and always caps a loss with the same low key, nonsensical drivel from David Bell. Without a new attitude and manager, I expect TV viewership, attendance and team results to decline further.

    • Charlie

      I listen to Tommy and the Cowboy 5 nights a week at work on SiriusXM, stream the TV broadcast on weekends. So Nielsen definitely isnt capturing younger fans like me in there.

  2. Bred

    I watched most games on MLB.TV, but I typically started an hour late and fast forwarded through parts of the game and past commercials.
    The game has changed from when I was a kid so much that I find the shifts and home run or strikeout game less enjoyable than the old days. I don’t mind games that last 3 hours or more if there is action, but watching K after K is dull.

    • Frostgiant80

      I made this same argument to my dad the other day. Extended rallies were (Reds don’t do that anymore) exciting to watch and putting the ball in play is fun to watch. The shift and K after K after K just bores me.

      • JayTheRed

        Honestly the shifts should be made against the rules. It is taking so much away from the game. The interesting parts and so few great diving stops from SS or 2b like it used to be. Batters should learn how to hit balls the other way but honestly. I miss my old baseball too.

  3. Chuck Marz

    There are lots of fans that would like to watch, but they black the games out. So I don’t know how they can complain about viewership if you can’t watch it on tv if you want to.

    • Doug Gray

      Well, this is only in-market ratings, where no one is blacked out.

  4. Mike V

    I agree with every comment so far .. K after K after K with a few walks thrown in is boring .. The good teams still make contact and score runs but only the good teams , not the Reds .. Let’s lower the mound , outlaw the shift , whatever it takes to get more contact and base running into the game. . I’m not looking for slow pitch , beer league softball , but this team’s(and others ) lack of contact and lack of base running skills were Ridiculous… The Younger audience won’t watch this and we can’t blame them .

  5. Chuck Marz

    I liked some of the new rules. The runner on 2nd to start extra innings kind of added excitement to me, and made the 18 inning boringness go away. When you have a game go that long, it’s like losing twice. You exhausted your entire bullpen, then have nobody the next day so you are playing worse players. I also loved the 3 batter minimum. It gets old having to watch a commercial after every hitter so a new pitcher can come in and warm up. I’m getting so tired of this righty lefty bs. If you are good at baseball learn to hit. I also hate the shift when it takes a way a normal line drive base hit to the outfield. I have no problem with a 2nd baseman backing up, but having a 3rd baseman playing 2nd is ridiculous. I also think major leaguers should learn how to poke it the other way too. I love the universal DH. I hope it stays mostly. I have been a huge Reds fan all of my life, but I got to admit when it got to the 8th batter, I’m on my phone because I know the next person is a pitcher and he is gonna watch 3 pitches go by. Having a threat all the way down makes the game more fun. Yes when bunting and squeeze plays were being used, that was ok, but now with none of that, just DH then.

    • JayTheRed

      Wow we are on the same page on everything you just said. Thanks for summing it up for me. I pretty much agree with it all.

  6. RedsFan11

    It’s not only strikeout after strikeout, its 3 pitches and K. How many times did Saurez and Castellanos walk up and just wail at 3 pitches in a row. How many times did Aquino first pitch roll over a ground ball to third. Or Joey “walk or look at strike 3” not even take his bat off the shoulders. At least Winker was interesting to watch to see how many times he fall to the ground swinging to hard…

    In reality Shogo was one of the few players I liked watching bat. He has, dare I say old school, Votto in him where he battles and fouls off pitches, always putting a good at bat together. Hopefully the team as a whole can revert back to that some more in 2021

  7. Chuck Marz

    Most frustrating person on the team was Galvis. Management stupidly let a great SS go in the offseason. Galvis was supposed to be the replacement. They think because he can hit a few more HomeRuns that he is great. He was TERRIBLE defensively! He has no idea at all about the strike zone. His at bat to come in as a sub against the Braves was the worst at bat ever. We had runners in scoring position. He sits there with his bat on his shoulders at 2 balls right down the center of the plate. Then swings at a ball 3 feet outside. I hope we don’t resign him. Give Gregorius the big payday.

    • JayTheRed

      We sure could have used some singles and batting average and on base skills this year which Iglesias had. He was so good defensively too. Galvis had some good moments this year but I would have rather had J. Iggy there still.

  8. Chuck Marz

    Surely we will sign a markee name this year, but as it stands right now, I hope Bell uses a better lineup. Votto needs to be a bench player now. Sorry Votto, but your hitting is not there, and you are the worst defender in the league. He was our best player for many years, hats off, but now he is past his prime. When he is playing bat him toward the bottom. Hopefully Castellanos chooses to walk too. Another horrible defender, although nice play against the Braves. Let’s play some players where they will be better suited defensively.

    1. Shogo Akiyama LF / CF
    2. Nick Senzel CF / 2B
    3. Jessie Winker DH / RF
    4. Mike Moustakas 1B / 3B / 2B
    5. Eugenia Suarez 2B / 3B / 1B
    6. Aristides Aquino RF (or Castellanos platoon here)
    7.Free Agent (Springer, Semien, LeMahieu, Gregorius, Simmons, Pederson, Brantley, LaStella, Puig)
    8. Jose Garcia
    9. Barnhardt / Casali (orRealmuto (Unlikely)

    • Chuck Marz

      Bring back Puig. Our defense will go from the worst in the league to the best with Shogo, Senzel, and Puig in the outfield.

      • Charlie Waffles

        Is that the same Puig that couldn’t find a job in MLB in 2020 and is still unsigned??

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        Puig agreed to sign with Atlanta. But during his physical he tested positive for COVID-19 and Atlanta moved on at that point.

        Still adding Puig won’t do much to fix the defense. He’s better than Castellanos out there with the glove/arm but Cincinnati has a lot of weak spots on defense.

      • JayTheRed

        I don’t get why nobody gave Puig a chance he wasn’t that bad in Cincinnati. Not even a bench player job… Ouch.

    • Rednat

      i would take Puig back in a heartbeat. crowd pleaser, great defender. was on pace to join the 30/30 club before the trade. the club needs a “hook” to get fans back in the park. the current club doesn’t have that. Puig can be that guy. just look at the 2019 attendance for the reds

      • Jim wright

        Start every inning with a base runner on second

  9. RedFuture

    I agree that MLB needs the concept of an illegal defense like other sports have. The infielders must stay on their respective sides of second base. Firstly, hitters should have a reasonable chance of hard hit balls going through. Secondly, extraordinary infielders should have a reasonable chance of showing off their range to make a play. Thirdly, more exciting baseball comes from better chances of rallies. Strikeouts and homeruns are not exciting and a lot of future fans are going to be lost.

    • JayTheRed

      I agree too illegal defenses should be something. Maybe if they are caught doing it running gets to advance a base or if there are no runners on then its a free walk. Curious what other ideas people here have about this.

  10. RedNat

    Great comments so far. I told myself I would watch as many games as I could on TV this year. Because I felt, and still feel, the players are showing so much courage by playing during the pandemic. But honestly, I wound up turning off the game after a few innings in many instances. Is there anything more depressing in sports than your team getting supreme pitching without offense and defense to back it up? I hope baseball can get fans in the stands next year at least on a limited basis because I can’t watch them on tv anymore. Just cant

  11. LeRoy

    I would change the shift to allow any infielder to shift anywhere they want to in the infield but with the stipulation that they have to stay in the infield and not in the outfield like a rover in softball. The most irritating hits to me are the line drives or hard hit grounders that are fielded in the outfield and turn into an out. These should be hits. Make outfielders play outfield and infielders play infield. I think this may help a lot.

    • Bill J

      How about if a shift is used they have to stay in the shift the rest of the game, no going back to their original position.

      • JayTheRed

        That would not be likely approved by anyone… I could maybe if they want to stay in a shift for that inning perhaps though.

  12. TR

    Baseball, certainly offensively, has become an increasingly boring game. I don’t remember when this shift business became de rigueur, but how many times in a game can you watch hitters ground out to an infielder in shift mode who is sometimes in the near outfield. Something has to be done about this to bring back the beauty of offensive baseball and keep young people interested in the game. Don’t forget Cincinnati now has a major league soccer team and a new stadium on the way in the west end

  13. John A.

    I don’t mind a good Pitcher that piles up the Ks in a game. I don’t mind the Manager putting a shift on. What irritates me is Hitters not being willing or good enough to make the adjustment. Cutting down your swing with 2 strikes. Hitting the ball the other way in a shift. The strategy and team play is non existent in today’s game. Sure I’m old school, and people want to criticize the way the game was played for years. But for me, it was much more enjoyable to watch. You can still use your spray charts and analytics as a Manager. But it’s up to the talent of the Player to try and beat it.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      Not good enough to make the adjustment is the issue. It’s not a lack of effort thing. It’s a situation where todays pitchers throw 92 MPH sliders and 98 MPH fastballs for 9 innings. Thirty years ago no one threw sliders like that and a handful of guys could throw that hard. Now half of the league can do it. Pitching is simply too far ahead right now for hitters to realistically as a whole be expected to adjust to that. It is likely to be a problem long into the future. Pitchers train to throw harder and harder because it works. Hitters do not have an equivalent method to improve their chances and odds of success.

      • Mike V

        Exactly and very well said .. The Pitchers are just too big and throw too hard for today’s hitters .. There are just very few good hitters around today .. The Hitters need some help !

  14. Christopher Hoeb

    You are stuck with Joey Votto for another year. I would trade Barnhart and let Tyler Stephenson get all the experience he can an last I would pursue Lidnor hard they have the pieces to but you can’t rent him you must sign him.

  15. Colorado Red

    Odd year, Viewership for most sports (not seen number on NHL), where steady or down. Several reasons for it. (no comment on why). So this is not abnormal.
    Problem for me, is the game is getting boring.
    K’s and HRs, and that is it.
    Also, not a lot of trust in the team to win.
    Hopefully next year is back to some semblance of normal.

  16. MK

    Lets face it they were offensively a pretty boring team to watch. As far as having a winning record that didn’t happen until the last week. There was really no marquee player to get excited about except Bauer which was exciting once or twice a week. The fact they broke even should be a positive thing.

  17. Charlie Waffles

    The NBA Finals ratings are down 50% to 60% from last year. You reap what you sow. So down 18% for the Reds might not be too bad a thing. I watched most games on TV as I usually do. Watching the Reds while they were pitching was good. Watching the Reds hit was painful, not very enjoyable, and downright bad. The product the Reds put on the field this year was a mixed bag. One where many people weren’t interested in buying. I just wonder though if Dick Williams took notice. It wasn’t bad luck, or bad BABIP, it was bad fundamentals and very bad instruction.

    • JayTheRed

      Don’t forget lineup cards that were just odd in my opinion and also everyone has to play every day mentality.

  18. Bill J

    I think some of us know why viewers are down in sports, because of the kneeling.