18 October 2008

MLB TV ratings drop, A's stay steady

Sports Business Journal reported earlier in the week that MLB's ratings slipped compared to last year. The hit was taken for both national and local broadcasts. Some of this can be attributed to the Yankees' on-field performance. Typically, they're a massive ratings grabber that pulls the league's weight, but as it became clear they wouldn't surpass either the upstart Rays or the World Champ Red Sox, ratings plummeted. Surprisingly, the Red Sox had an even bigger percentage drop than the Yankees despite their success (are Red Sox fans getting spoiled?).

A look into all of the local ratings for 2008 (courtesy Sports Business Journal) shows some interesting market characteristics.

Here in the Bay Area the Giants took a big dump, as was expected with their first post-Bonds lineup. The A's, who came off a disappointing 2007 season and went into full rebuilding mode, didn't show a significant ratings drop and generally held onto their audience. That's good news, as it indicates there may be a baseline from which the A's TV audience can be built - especially on a different network that features them more prominently.

The table also shows which markets are "baseball towns" as opposed to "football towns." Midwestern markets with the exception of the two Ohio teams and Kansas City pulled in ratings of 6 or 7. Three of the four AL West teams don't do great within their own markets, whereas Seattle holds up fairly well. And the combined Washington-Baltimore market is absolutely pitiful. MLB and the O's have to be looking long term with MASN, because they're severely overpaying the Nats for TV rights.

Going back to the baseline, the A's respective numbers (1.7 rating/42,000 households) set a bar that other cities would have to significantly clear in order to attract the A's. Let's see how these numbers hold up against three would-be out-of-state candidates. First, a comparison of the Bay Area to the three candidates in terms of Nielsen market size:
  • Bay Area (#6 in nation): 2,476,450 households
  • Sacramento (#20): 1,399,520
  • Portland (#23): 1,175,100
  • Las Vegas (#42): 728,410
That puts the Bay Area as 77% larger than Sacramento, over twice as large as Portland, and over three times the size of Vegas. So for those three to match the A's rather lackluster ratings in the Bay Area (each rating point here equals 24,400 households), they'd have to hit the following local numbers:
  • Sacramento: 3.0
  • Portland: 3.6
  • Las Vegas: 5.8
Sacramento's target would be the easiest of the three to reach, but their lack of corporate dollars and their own difficult economic status would drive the ratings requirement higher. The Northern California/Nevada television region, which is shared by the Giants and A's, would also likely be redrawn to divide it between the Bay Area, Central and North Coast (Giants) and the Central Valley (A's). The net result would diminish the market size for both teams. Portland isn't as hard hit economically as Sacramento, but their bar isn't exactly low as they'd have to approach a 4 to make it worthwhile, a number that would make it second to Seattle among West Coast teams. As for Vegas, fuhgetaboutit.

This is a good sign for the A's as we await an announcement about their television future. I don't expect the A's to surpass the Giants anytime soon. The Giants are sinking back to earth after repeatedly doubling the A's ratings in their Bonds period. If the A's ratings can consistently stay above 2 (or roughly 50,000 households), they'll be in pretty good shape for the foreseeable future, even with the economic crisis we are currently muddling through.


Georob said...

What's your take on the latest potential crisis in the A's radio situation, what with KFRC 106.9 planning to simulcast KCBS 740?

My guess is that the A's stay on 106.9, since those that want news instead of baseball can just switch over to AM, a luxury that oldies listeners didn't have. Plus, the connection to a powerhouse like KCBS(even via FM) can't hurt the A's from a marketing point of view.

But despite what KCBS is saying publicly, I have to think this is a temporary move and that KFRC must have really been doing badly(partly due to the A's poor performance?) to have brought about this move.

Therefore, how long do the A's have a contract for 106.9, and what happens if it goes away? I can't imagine 1550 AM being the only option, so is this where KTRB 860 finally rides in on a white horse to save the day?

But as I said, the KCBS connection could prove to be a good one. It's just unfortunate that HD radio isn't yet in the mainstream. Can you imagine the A's on an HD-2 channel for KCBS AM broadcasting all the way from Oregon to LA?

Note to Tony: If you want to further develop a relationship between the A's and SJ, why don't you talk to KLIV? Have they ever considered the A's? Of course I remember back in the dying days of Charlie Finley's ownership when San Jose's KXRX was the only station for the whole Bay Area and you could barely pick it up at the Coliseum.

Marine Layer said...

Unless I hear that the A's have been dropped, I'm going to assume that they're sticking around. The current deal runs through at least next season.

It's wishful thinking, but I'd like to see CBS sell the station to the A's. CBS hasn't shown much patience with the different formats that have been on 106.9. That's what worries me.

HD radio on AM has been problematic largely for technical reasons. There's even a movement among old school AM listeners to stop HD AM because the digital broadcasts create interference!

Radio is a chicken-and-egg scenario. Stations won't offer to broadcast A's games if they don't have ratings, and the ratings won't go up if there's no continuity in its radio situation.

KLIV probably won't happen unless it's part of the network, not the flagship. Its current transmitter is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, making a power upgrade difficult.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see how many anti-fremont posters expressed their opinions on the recent sf chronicle article on the mayoral race in fremont!

wonder what wolff will do if/when morrisson wins the mayor's race?

Anonymous said...

Fremont mayor recovering from 2nd bout with pneumonia
Matthew Artz
The Argus
Article Last Updated: 09/23/2008 11:00:20 PM PDT

FREMONT — Mayor Bob Wasserman has been diagnosed with pneumonia for the second time in less than three years. However, the mayor said this case isn't as severe as the one that kept him home for more than two months in early 2006.

Wasserman, 74, said he was hospitalized Saturday with a low-grade fever and other pneumonia symptoms. He was released Monday and ordered to rest for several days.

Wasserman was able to walk around his house Monday and joke with a reporter, but at times had to breathe through an oxygen tube.

The mayor's health could be an issue as he seeks re-election in November. A slow recovery could keep him off the campaign trail and the illness could raise questions about his ability to maintain a full schedule during the next four years.

Troy said...

The A's averaged 42,000 watching each game, I assume those are just the games that were actually televised?