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Friday, August 06, 2021

MLB Seeing Local TV Households Decline Dramatically Compared With Last Full Season

While the 29 domestic regional sports networks saw a slight increase in TV households watching Major League Baseball at the All-Star break, compared to the last full season in 2019, the league is seeing a double-digit drop. The reasons why are numerous.

As of July 19, the saw a designated media market (DMA) TV household average for the league of 1,836,749 compared to the 60-game shortened 2020 season average of 1,804,540 — a +2% increase according to Nielsen NLSN +0.2% Media data provided by Home Team Sports, a division of Playfly that purchased the company from FOX Sports that tracks the media landscape.

Compared to 2019, the last full 162 game season, the 29 regional sports networks measured by Nielsen saw a drop of -12%. What is concerning for the league is all RSNs saw a drop compared to 2019, except for the Tigers (+40%), Padres (+71%), A’s (+24%), Giants (+54%), Dodgers (+49%), and Chicago White Sox (+123%). And without the White Sox dramatic increase, decline for the league compared to 2019 would assuredly be lower still.

Looking at 2021 compared to the shortened season last year, 12 of 29 see drops in TV households with the biggest drop being the A’s who are +24% compared to 2019, but down -13% when measured against 2020.

On the plus side, the Boston Red Sox on NESN is seeing an average TV household of 84,731 at the All-Star break compared to 49,307 in 2020, a +72% increase. Still, when compared to 2019, TV HHs are down -32%.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 06, 2021 at 10:14 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tv ratings

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   1. Buck Coats Posted: August 06, 2021 at 11:20 AM (#6033182)
Tigers fever!
   2. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 06, 2021 at 11:43 AM (#6033188)
When I moved a couple of years ago, I switched from DirecTV to YouTube TV, in part because it was so much more portable and easier to deal with. At the beginning of the truncated 2020 season, I sat down and tried to find the Rockies Opening Day game, only to realize that YouTube TV didn't carry the local RSN. I looked around and found out that the only online TV provider in the area that carried the Rockies games was the AT&T outlet - what had once been Root Sports and a few other names but was now branded as AT&T Rocky Mountain, or something like that, so that made a little sense.

But for a 60-game season in which the team wasn't expected to compete, it hardly seemed worth switching, so I decided I would do it prior to the next full season in 2021. Of course, the team then gave away Nolan Arenado, signaling that it had no intention to compete, so I decided not to bother for the 2021 season, either.

Now, I could switch providers and watch all the games, that's true. At the same time, it seems awfully short-sighted for the Rockies to get whatever amount of money they're getting from AT&T in return for severely limiting the number of fans who can actually watch the damn games. That's what I think about when I see stories like this: Do the teams want to expand the fan base, or do they want to extract a few extra dollars from their TV partners? This is what happens when you choose option number 2.
   3. DL from MN Posted: August 06, 2021 at 01:12 PM (#6033213)
I'm never going back to cable or satellite television. I'd love to subscribe through MLB.tv and get in-market games but they won't make that option available even though it would be overwhelmingly popular.

   4. aberg Posted: August 06, 2021 at 01:44 PM (#6033221)
I've thought about this a lot: if there was an a la carte option to get your home market team's games streaming (through MLBtv, its own platform, or something like YouTubeTV), what would you pay for that? I'm in the same boat for the Mariners and I think I would pay about $20 per month, less when the team is horrible.
   5. sanny manguillen Posted: August 06, 2021 at 02:32 PM (#6033232)
f there was an a la carte option to get your home market team's games streaming (through MLBtv


If the Pirates weren't blacked out in Pittsburgh, I'd go pretty close to $200 per season for the full mlb.tv package.

The thing is, it's not even that they don't want my money. It's me they don't want. My weary, wary eyes that no longer respond to advertising.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 06, 2021 at 02:34 PM (#6033233)

I've thought about this a lot: if there was an a la carte option to get your home market team's games streaming (through MLBtv, its own platform, or something like YouTubeTV), what would you pay for that? I'm in the same boat for the Mariners and I think I would pay about $20 per month, less when the team is horrible.


Sinclair has been pitching investors to a standalone streaming service for $23 per month, which would be pretty much what you're talking about.
   7. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: August 06, 2021 at 02:57 PM (#6033240)
I don't know if the RSNs are in league with the cable companies or what but they seem to be going out of their way to make it difficult for the streamers to carry them. NESN (Red Sox RSN) used to be on all the streamers, now it's Fubo or bust. I'm with aberg, I'd be happy to pay $10 a month (and even $20) for a standalone option. I wonder if that's something that is going to be a part of the CBA talks. I assume there are all sorts of issues around that.

But if I'm paying $13 a month for Netflix another $15 for NESN would be so appealing. I'm at the point where I'm pretty well willing to punt my streamer if I could get access to NESN without one.
   8. kcgard2 Posted: August 06, 2021 at 03:11 PM (#6033243)
The reasons aren't that numerous: what Tom Nawrocki describes above is pretty much the universal landscape for MLB. I refuse to go back to cable. The only "streaming" option for MLB games in my area is AT&T. which is not true streaming, it is a streaming option offered via a cable company, with jacked up prices that are bad even by cable standards. I'm not doing that. So I haven't watched an MLB game in two years, and lo and behold I haven't missed it very much. If MLB didn't have what I consider pretty massive problems with pace of play on one hand, and an almost ridiculous level of gambling/advertising shenanigans on the other, I would have been very tempted to go back to cable to get MLB games. However, MLB is making an extremely short-sighted money grab with their high-level business operations over the past handful of years, and this is the first sign that the market is getting very tired of bearing it.
   9. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: August 06, 2021 at 03:11 PM (#6033244)
Do the teams want to expand the fan base, or do they want to extract a few extra dollars from their TV partners?

Yes.
   10. dejarouehg Posted: August 06, 2021 at 03:18 PM (#6033249)
I still love watching baseball and have MLB Network or a baseball game on 75% of the time the TV is on.

Last month, it cost me $500 to take my family of 4 to Citifield, and as much as I enjoyed it, the treachery of dealing with traffic on the Grand Central Parkway, the idiotic decisions of the police who were maneuvering the traffic to get into the ballpark, and then the near-bumper car experience to get out of the lot reminded me of how much more I enjoy watching the games without all that torment.

(I guess between keeping FIOS ($200/mo including ISP)for access to the Yes network, the MLB package ($$150/yr??), and YouTube TV ($65/mo, which included the YES network when we first got it as we prep to finally eliminate FIOS.))

I'd be thrilled to pay any reasonable amount to pick & choose my channels and would no doubt save plenty of money. Either way, it would take an awful lot for me to consider going to the ballpark again.



   11. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: August 06, 2021 at 03:24 PM (#6033250)
I'd be thrilled to pay any reasonable amount to pick & choose my channels and would no doubt save plenty of money


I think a lot of what you say is accurate but I suspect that depending on what you mean by "reasonable amount" wouldn't be something palatable to the powers that be if it would save you money. Still, I wish it was an option. I don't mind paying money for what I want but it's frustrating to pay for something I don't want.
   12. tonywagner Posted: August 06, 2021 at 03:39 PM (#6033257)
I don't know if the RSNs are in league with the cable companies or what but they seem to be going out of their way to make it difficult for the streamers to carry them. NESN (Red Sox RSN) used to be on all the streamers, now it's Fubo or bust. I'm with aberg, I'd be happy to pay $10 a month (and even $20) for a standalone option. I wonder if that's something that is going to be a part of the CBA talks. I assume there are all sorts of issues around that.

Shouldn't have anything to do with the CBA. I think each team and network can already decide where they want to be offered and even offer standalone streaming packages if they so choose.

The Blue Jays are already on a standalone in-market streaming service in Canada: Sportsnet Now. $20/month or $150/year will let you stream Blue Jays games, plus one of Canucks, Oilers, or Flames if you are in one of those markets, plus some Raptors, plus national Sportsnet games across all sports. Another package removes some of the out-of-market NHL blackouts for a total of $35/month or $250/year, although the hockey streaming situation is further confused by TSN networks, Leafs games beings split across networks, etc.
   13. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 06, 2021 at 05:00 PM (#6033280)
Supposedly some teams are upset with Sinclair's stance with streamers. Sinclair is playing hardball to get high carriage fees, leaving a lot of fans in the dark.
   14. salvomania Posted: August 06, 2021 at 06:02 PM (#6033298)
I'm never going back to cable or satellite television. I'd love to subscribe through MLB.tv and get in-market games but they won't make that option available even though it would be overwhelmingly popular.


My internet provider is Comcast (Boston area), and I had an internet-only package from them---no box, no router, etc., just the pipeline. They eventually discontinued internet only, meaning I have access to "basic" channels whether I want it or not, and I refused to pay for their box or any other rental equipment.

But with my Comcast log-in I do get the local RSN (NESN) on my computer, as well as all the other basic channels (ESPN, etc.) which I can also stream to my TV.

So I pay for internet, and MLB.tv (I'm a Cardinals' fan), but not for cable or satellite, and I can watch all the baseball I want.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: August 06, 2021 at 07:43 PM (#6033305)
I can answer this one pretty precisely. Being in Oz, I get unrestricted mlb.tv -- all the games (except maybe the occasional freak facebook or youtube or whoever exclusive), including the playoffs. I forget what mlb.tv goes for these days but it's around $120 which is $20 per month of play. If they offered something like $120 for the team of your choice or add $60 and get the rest of the games, I'd go for the $120 option. If somehow they said "we see you're a Cub fan, they're blacked out but you can have all the other games for XXX", XXX would have to be really low.

To be honest, I've been shocked at the popularity of mlb.tv ... there can't possibly be that many Yanks/Cubs/Dodgers/etc fans that will pay for access to out-of-market. I guess there are enough folks living outside their favorite team's market to make it work. I wonder how much of it is sports bars? (Are there still sports bars? I haven't been in one for probably a dozen years.)

I'd be thrilled to pay any reasonable amount to pick & choose my channels and would no doubt save plenty of money.

This is rarely the case -- buffets almost always cheaper than a la carte. To an extent, you can already buy show-by-show but that would be outrageously expensive. If I want to watch something on Netflix, something on Prime, something on Disney, something on Stan (sort of a Hulu down here), anything good on HBO and some sports ... I'm pretty sure that's at least $90 a month plus $40 for the internet. That's about the same price as the satellite used to be and I'd still be watching less than 5% of what those channels offer.

I know folks were frustrated that they only watched 5 of the 200 channels they got with their cable subscription but the folks watching whichever 5 of those other 195 weren't happy about the existence of your channel either. Yes you were paying 50 cents a month for HGTV that you never watched but the reason you were only paying $1.20/month for ESPN is because all those people not watching ESPN were also paying $1.20/month for ESPN. ESPN on its own? Probably $12-15 just like every other reasonably popular streaming service.

The key is to land a good enough job that you completely stop worrying about whether you've got the $20, $50, $100 in the account to cover whatever, put it all on direct debit and then completely forget about it. You'll not be getting your money's worth but it won't cause you any stress.

The full a la carte model might be an interesting one for sports. What's your price point for watching today's game? Demand pricing such that you can watch your team against the Rangers for less than the Yankees? Unless you're a Cub fan in which case at the moment we might have a chance against the Rangers and I'd have no desire to watch us get beat up by the Yanks.

I probably don't actually get my money's worth out of mlb.tv although internationally (or as #14 notes, as long as your favorite team is out of market), it's potentially an awesome deal. That's a time zone thing -- Wrigley day games are 4 am here, night games are 9 to 12 (east to west) when I'm at work. So I get to watch night games on the weekend (your Fri/Sat). So I probably see maybe 40 games and am paying about $3 per game. I'll frequently dial into other games on the weekend but that's usually as background and not something I'd pay for on a per-game basis, at least until the playoffs maybe.

But yes, every team needs to offer a straightforward "pay $X and watch our games on whatever device at whatever time you want" option. It's been obvious for at least a decade. But of course I'm not a team owner locked into an onerous 20-year contract with a RSN that pays me $250 M a year.
   16. Tom Goes to the Ballpark Posted: August 06, 2021 at 09:48 PM (#6033318)
To be honest, I've been shocked at the popularity of mlb.tv ... there can't possibly be that many Yanks/Cubs/Dodgers/etc fans that will pay for access to out-of-market. I guess there are enough folks living outside their favorite team's market to make it work. I wonder how much of it is sports bars? (Are there still sports bars? I haven't been in one for probably a dozen years.)
Bypassing the blackout is trivial.
   17. RickG Posted: August 06, 2021 at 10:33 PM (#6033324)
My in-laws, who moved from the STL Metro to the Chicago burbs, can't live without their MLB.TV. I hear complaints when, say, the Cardinals are playing the Cubs and they have to watch (gasp) the Marquee feed.

I have enjoyed MLB.TV occasionally, but I have also gotten it free through T-Mobile for the last few years. I don't know that I would pay for it myself (though I would certainly glom on to my in-laws' account).

The White Sox number above, +123%, doesn't surprise me in the least. For one, it's not that hard to go from a .2 rating to a .5. But also, the Sox are good again, and they have a fabulous broadcast to go with it (Benetti, Stone, and a pre/post with Ozzie and Big Hurt). They're able to attack both the niche and the casual viewer. There is some real gold there.
   18. Jack Sommers Posted: August 07, 2021 at 02:03 AM (#6033359)
MLB already knows it's future is as a niche sport, so they are hastening that along and honing their skills at $$ extraction from a smaller pool
   19. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 07, 2021 at 10:55 AM (#6033374)
I see the future of TV through my daughters' eyes, who are 16 and almost 18. We still get cable through Infinity (Comcast), and they literally do not watch anything that is not streaming with a monthly subscription (Netflix, mainly). They don't watch sports, they don't watch cable news, and there are no traditional network series they watch. There is nothing. I asked them about this, and none of their friends watch any this stuff, either - same viewing habits as my kids. One of my daughters has a boyfriend who loves sports, and he watches NBA basketball and NFL football, so there's that. But that was it.

FWIW, if the only way I could watch the Red Sox was by paying for a specific subscription package, I would gladly pay $20/month to do so, probably more, especially if it contributed towards my home feeling good about cutting the cable cord out.
   20. DL from MN Posted: August 07, 2021 at 12:55 PM (#6033380)
If MLB controlled their streaming subscription I think you would see deals bundling the subscription with partial season tickets.
   21. Hombre Brotani Posted: August 07, 2021 at 03:30 PM (#6033392)
Bypassing the blackout is trivial.
Bypassing the blackout without an MLB account is trivial. I cancelled mine some years ago, but then T-Mobile made their deal with MLB so everyone on that carrier gets free yearly subs. Very handy, but even though I have the account, I still often watch out-of-market games through other means, just to avoid the ads.

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