History was made at the first 2020 World Series game, both good and bad. On the bad side of the ledger, the initial Rays/Dodgers game from Globe Life Field was the least-watched World Series broadcast ever, with fewer than 10 million fans tuning in.
Though it was the top-rated entertainment telecast so far this week, the Fox broadcast drew 9.481 million viewers on Fox (just 9.1 million on broadcast outlets), Fox Desportes and Fox streaming services. That’s lower than the 9.84 million tuning in for Game 3 of the 2008 World Series between the Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies. (There’s an asterisk here: that game was delayed 90 minutes by rain.) It’s also the lowest Game One broadcast ever: the prior low came in 2014, when 12.19 million total viewers tuned in.
Not all the rating news was bad. In an era of fragmented viewing, the broadcast garnered a 2.4 rating among adults 18-49, according to final Nielsen numbers. That’s not the lowest on record, but it is low for a Game One: it’s been 1999 since a World Series Game One notched a 2.4 rating.
It’s hard to say what lessons can be learned here. Fox, predictably, pumped the news that the game was the highest-rated entertainment telecast of the week. And, Quibi aside, streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ are eating away at the edges of broadcast TV, with cord cutters gaining some momentum in this COVID-19 times. Overall prime-time television consumption was down 10 percent in September 2020, according to Nielsen, though viewership of news networks like Fox and MSNBC were up.
Are there lessons here? Perhaps only that we live in weird times, and a compelling presidential rate is temporarily shifting some consumption patterns. In general, ratings for live sports is down: the overall ratings for the NBA Finals were down 49 percent, the overall ratings for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals were down 61 percent, and through Week Five NFL ratings were down 13 percent. Or, heck, just blame it on Tampa Bay, with the Rays and the Lightning part of the declining numbers in the World Series and Stanley Cup finals.
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