Pages

13 October 2009

A's TV ratings down in 2009

The move to CSN California may be good for the A's long-term financial security, but they sure have taken a major hit on TV to do it according to Sports Business Journal. Having moved from CSN Bay Area to the sister network, the A's posted a paltry 0.82 rating locally for the season, a drop from 1.72 in 2008. The Giants, having been in playoff contention until the last week of the season, scored major gains of 25,000 households, or roughly one full ratings point.

The drop can be traced to two major factors, team performance (poor for most of the season) and channel availability. Lew Wolff pointed to the lucrative dealed ink with Comcast as a source of financial stability. Both parties must have known about a possible drop in viewership and Comcast more or less subsidized the move, as it wants to beef up CSNCA in order to push other non-Comcast cable operators like Charter to add it into their systems. Comcast would then get subscriber fees from a competitor. The cable giant has been on a content grab over the last several years, potentially culminating in an acquisition of NBC-Universal (at least one game theory expert thinks it's going to happen). Comcast already has stakes in 11 regional sports networks including the aforementioned CSNBA/CSNCA, plus Versus, The Golf Channel, and an equity share of MLB Network. A merger with NBCU would give Comcast unprecedented control over content availability. Never mind that NBC has languished in last place among the four major networks for years. Content is king, and with content Comcast gets major leverage.

So if you're thinking that the A's are but a mere pawn in a much larger game, well yes they are. Comcast is in a position to seriously challenge ESPN and its networks, which bring in the heftiest subscriber fees thanks to bundling. Team performance notwithstanding, the A's need Comcast to win its battles for greater carriage. For most of you, it'll be difficult to root for a company like Comcast that's so often anti-consumer. Just don't think about it for now, and dream about IPTV being the technology that, once mature, will bring down the ridiculously archaic barriers (such as blackouts) that we deal with now.

19 comments:

Zonis said...

The ratings drop is massive, and it does appear that almost all those whom the A's lost went to the Giants.

And frankly, I think I know the reason for it, and it is a simple one-the DTA Box that Comcast required people to get to watch A's games.

It is common knowledge that the casual fan likes convenience. Only die hard A's fans were likely to go out of their way to order and set up the DTA to watch A's games. The rest stuck with their current cable set up, and that set up basically removes the A's, and leaves the Giants as the only baseball team to watch. So, if you want to watch Baseball, and you never bothered to get the DTA to watch he extra 5 channels you probably didn't care that much about to begin with, you're either watching the Giants or the odd ESPN/Fox game.

Move the A's to channel 41 right next to the Giants, and the ratings would probably go back to normal.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree with Zonis 100% on his suggestion.

Anonymous said...

ML - I thought the Cubs and White Sox were primarily on WGN. Or does CSN Chicago = WGN?

Dan said...

It's obviously the reason this happened. Combined with the issues DTV and Dish network customers had getting games early on it's surprising the drop wasn't even more.

Ezra said...

I wish the A's would go back to KICU. I loved being able to watch games without needing to have cable.

@Anonymous 9:55
The Cubs and Sox very rarely had any games on WGN this season. Similar to how TBS never shows Braves games anymore, WGN will probably stop showing Cubs and Sox games completely in the future.

Dan said...

Hate to agree with Ezra, but I thought the A's were better off on KICU then they are on CSNCA. Particularly now that the Giants have largely abandoned network TV.

Anonymous said...

KICU, with no hi-def, left something to be desired.

Bill said...

For someone who lives outside the greater Bay Area, the move to CSNCA was a godsend. I hated the KICU thing.

Jeffrey said...

CSNCA is a heckuva a lot better than KICU, in my opinion. The question I have is... how many people still watch TV via antenna? How many potential viewers are cut out by going all cable/satellite? Does anyone know?

Ezra said...

According to some statistics, 60% of Americans have Cable/Satellite, which means 40% only get broadcast TV. Assuming those are accurate, that means with a CSA of 7,354,555 there are 2,941,822 that can't watch cable only baseball games in the bay area.

And with the bad economy there are a lot more people dropping their cable subscriptions because they can't afford $100+ a month for the few shows they do watch.

Sure KICU wasn't HD. But I'd rather watch A's games in standard definition than not be able to watch them at all. And they do have the ability to broadcast in HD now when they have the content to do so.

Marine Layer said...

When we discussed the digital transition earlier (can't find the thread), the percentage of OTA households in the Bay Area was in the single digits. Terrain and the area's relative affluence contribute to greater pay TV penetration.

Ezra said...

Ah. Here's where you say it's 6%. I didn't realise it was so low. That's only around 441,273 people.

I'd still imagine that the number of those who get OTA only (or switched to a cheaper cable package) has gone up with the bad economy, but I may be wrong. You can get KICU in HD (via Clear QAM - no STB needed for most HDTVs) for $12/month. To get CSNCA in HD, you need to have a HD digital cable package (cheapest I see is around $60/month).

Anonymous said...

There's no mystery here. The A's are simply becoming less popular due to the widespread impression they are the tool of a money grubbing real-estate scammer, and not an actual competitive baseball team.

Dan said...

I think it's far more likely that no one (relatively) gets CSN-CA. As for the A's being "less popular" because of Wolff, I seriously doubt it. More likely they're less popular because of the afore mentioned TV issue, the team being poor on field the last 2 years, and the fact they're the last team playing in a decaying 1960's multipurpose stadium that's in a decaying industrial neighborhood that's not particularly inviting to anyone.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how the stadium is such a big issue for TV ratings. The games look great on HD, you never get the impression that the concrete edifice or surrounding neighborhood bring down the quality of the broadcasts.... Plus, CSNCA is available in exactly the same number of homes as CSNBA. The A's were on from opening day forward, with no effort for DTV and Dish customers, and by installing the free converter for non-digital Comcast customers. I'll accept that losing is also a factor though. But that comes back to Wolff too.

Dan said...

Are you sure? From what I read and experienced CSNCA was an expanded cable offering, not in basic packages like CSNBA.

Anonymous said...

Every Comcast, Dish, and DirecTV package that offers CSNBA (except analog cable on Comcast, which was entirely discontinued four months ago), has CSNCA too.

So, basic-analog Comcast people that refused to go digital by opening day, but waited until the last moment at the end of July, would have missed half the season. But they had to upgrade to digital anyway, regardless of the CSNCA switch, to be watching any television at all by July! So I think we're discussing a pretty small number of luddites with trouble here.

Satelliltes were already digital-only, no impact on them.

gojohn10 said...

It does seem strange that the Sharks aren't having the same ratings problem despite being on CNSCA. It will be interesting if that holds true throughout the season.

As far as the stadium affecting ratings, I think it's pretty obvious to the TV audience when there is little energy in the stadium. I think it trickles down to the announcers (Korach excluded -- the man is a true professional). People complain about the A's TV announcers being boring, but it has to be extremely difficult to feign enthusiasm. On the opposite end of the spectrum, announcing a playoff game seems relatively easy. The crowds in So Cal and back east have been energized.

Anonymous said...

I think Lew Wolff is secretly a Giants fan. He has basically given the A's fanbase to the Giants. I mean, who wants to be a fan of the A's anymore?