As long as people stop dying, the World Series will do just fine.

The average age of the this year’s World Series viewer was 54. Five years ago the average age was 49. See where this is going?
At this rate, in 25 years, the average age of a World Series viewer will be right around 80.

That’s not good for Major League Baseball.

Back in 1980, the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the Philadelphia Phillies was watched by an average of about 50 million people.

Game 7 Wednesday night between the Royals and the San Francisco Giants drew 23.5 million viewers. The first six games averaged about 12.5 million and, if there had been no Game 7 to pump up the final numbers, it would have been the lowest rated World Series ever.

Apologists for Major League Baseball will tell you that it’s unfair to compare TV ratings when people have 150 channels from which to choose to ratings from a time when their were less than 10 choices for most people.

That argument might be valid if not for the NBA’s ratings.

Back in 1980, the Los Angeles Lakers of Jabbar and Magic played the Philadelphia 76ers of Dr. J and Julius Dawkins. The games were televised by CBS. You know how many people saw it on live TV.
It was on taped delay.

The 2014 NBA Finals on NBC averaged 15.5 million viewers, including 22.4 million for Game 5, when the Spurs clinched the series.

There was a time when the World Series was the most anticipated, most watched, most talked about sports event of the year. And that was when it was played in the afternoon.

Now MLB and Fox Network have to avoid scheduling games on Monday and Thursday nights to avoid getting smoked in the ratings by an NFL regular season game.

The Sunday Night Football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos had two times the audience of Games 1 and 2 of this year’s World Series.

And, as the New York Times pointed out, “NCIS: New Orleans” and “The Big Bang Theory” had more viewers, So did “The Walking Dead,” a cable show about zombies.

When baseball was king, kids used to get in trouble for listening to the World Series on their transistor radios during school and they would hustle home in hopes of catching an inning or two on TV.

How many kids do you think were watching Game 7 Wednesday night? How many kids even knew it was on?

Kids 6-16 made up less than four percent of the World Series audience this year and that number is inflated by the huge number of kids in Kansas City who got special permission from their parents to stay up late.
The 54-year old average viewer who tuned into this year’s World Series is old enough to remember when people watched or listened to the games at work and the local drug stores and barber shops knew it was good business to have a TV turned on for their customers who considered it can’t miss TV.

Nobody should be feeling sorry for anybody associated with Major League Baseball. The local TV ratings during the regular season are huge and the ball parks are filled. The owners and players are making more money than they’ve ever made before.

And they’ll continue to make obscene amounts of money in the future. How far into the future is a different story.

Thirty years from now, those 54 year-olds will be 84 and telling their grandkids about the good ol’ days when the World Series really mattered.

  • Ken Rosenzweig

    It’s sad, but then I think about my own viewing habits with baseball. I’m 51 and I guess I should still be in the audience (although I actually did watch more of the Series his year than I have in a while). There was a time when I watched or listened to every Pirates game and tons of out of market games. Now I catch an inning here and there. It puts me to sleep. Pace of play is part of it, with so many games stretching to the three-and-a-half-hour mark. I just don’t feel like spending that much of my life in front of the TV. The other thing for me is that the game has changed and I haven’t. The specialization and constant pitching changes have hurt the game for me; it’s also a major factor in longer and longer games. Even when it’s the Pirates, I find myself oddly satisfied when the “closer” brought in to replace a pitcher who had been cruising along nicely blows the game. They’ve managed truly great starting pitchers (ones that dominate for nine innings) out of the game and it’s really hurt my enjoyment of baseball. It was nice to see Bruce Bochy ignore pitch counts and let his ace, Bumgarner, pitch and win games. Joe Posnanski did a great piece on the “myth” of closers showing that teams don’t hold a lead with any more frequency now than in any past decade to the 1950s.

    I think that the number of choices on TV now may play some part, but only in that the game has slowed down so much that you have time to explore other channels and sometimes you don’t come back after a commercial break or pitching change. Back in 1980, you had a handful of other channels so it was much less likely that something else would hold your attention. Most of those 200 channels that we have now may be showing garbage, but something may hold your attention for a bit.