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.