The seven lowest-rated World Series have come in the last seven years. And after Fox didn’t get much help Saturday night, its World Series looks on track to be the lowest-rated ever.
Which is weird, as there aren’t any obvious explanations for this Series to set that record. And that has to be troubling for Fox, which this month signed an eight-year extension for MLB TV rights that includes the World Series. MLB doubled its overall national TV money in also re-signing TBS and ESPN.
Good timing by MLB to get those checks guaranteed to be in the mail.
The WS averaged a 7.6 rating and a 12 share in 2012, the lowest ever. Each game’s rating was the lowest ever for the given game (i.e., Game 2 was the lowest-rated Game 2 ever).
I’ve been looking at this for several years now, and unlike Hiestand I’m under the impression that these numbers, while the lowest ever, are slightly higher than expectations. And they have been for most of the last few years.
I have a simple model I’ve been using to forecast Series ratings for a while now. The original model was built in 2007 based on 1971-2006 data. The newer model is slightly enhanced and is fit based on data through 2011. The elements are as follows:
Length: Ratings go up for the Series the longer the Series goes. A 7-game series will get higher ratings than a sweep. Around +1 rating point per game added to the average rating.
Year: Assumption is that ratings started a slow and steady decline in the late 1970s, about -0.3 rating point per year.
Network: Yes, there is empirically a FOX penalty.
Market(s): Different TV markets attract different ratings. Both models have a 4-point swing in total depending on the teams involved; the two models have different bonuses by team, mostly because…
Drought: In the newer model I’ve added a component signifying that a given team is ending a huge championship drought. How huge? Phillies (1980), Red Sox (2004), and White Sox (2005) are the only qualifiers, so 86 years minimum. There’s a 4 point ratings bonus for this in the newer model. The older model doesn’t have this component, and as such the Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia markets get a bigger bonus in that model than they do in the newer version.
Based on the actual 2012 Series info - Giants vs. Tigers, on FOX, in 4 games - the models predict as follows:
old model: 6.9 rating
new model: 5.6 rating
...both of which are below the actual rating of 7.6.
One of the interesting things is that if I go back and generate a “prediction” on the model data, both models are generally underpredicting recent years. (The new model underpredicts back to 2006; the old model, back to 2003.) This means one of 5 things:
1. Randomness. Not buying this one, but it is possible that the deviation from the model is random.
2. I’m not using the proper model form. This is just linear regression; maybe there’s something better.
3. I’m missing something important.
4. FOX isn’t so bad any more. Maybe the sizable gap between FOX and NBC/CBS is no longer what it was.
5. MLB is no longer in decline, and hasn’t been for many years now.
Regardless, ratings are beating my expectations, even if they suck.