Good news on the popularity front for Major League Baseball: Game 7 of the 2016 World Series was the most-watched baseball game since 1991, as 40 million people tuned in to see the Chicago Cubs break a curse and capture their first championship since 1908.
This year’s World Series featured some truly outstanding storylines. The Cubs featured a 108-year futility streak, complete with a curse from the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern. Cleveland, now considered to be a city on the rise, features an Indians team that’s not won since 1948. The Cubs certainly had some star power (Bill Murray, Eddie Vedder) and some pop-culture references (Ferris Bueller, Back to the Future II) going on as well.
And in the end, people responded to those great storylines. From Ad Week:
The thrilling Game 7 matchup in which the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings, overcoming several Cleveland rallies and a 17-minute rain delay at the end of the ninth, had 40 million viewers, according to Nielsen fast national ratings, and a 12.6 rating in the 18-49 demo.
Viewership peaked with 49.9 million viewers watching between 11:30 and 11:45.
It is the most-watched World Series game in 25 years—50.3 million tuned in to see the Minnesota Twins defeat the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series—and just edges Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, when 39.1 million watched as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees.
But this rating was not an aberration, as Ad Week also reports that baseball ratings were strong this postseason:
Earlier this month, Cubs playoff games led Fox Sports 1 to record ratings. The National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers averaged 7 million viewers, and Game 6 had 9.7 million viewers to become the most-watched telecast in network history. The week of Oct. 10, FS1 beat ESPN for the first time ever in both prime-time and total-day viewers.
Now, one year does not a trend make, but it’s clear there’s a basis there for strong ratings in coming years. The issue will be whether the rating continue if the Cubs aren’t involved.