TV Ratings: MLB 2020 World Series Least-Watched of All-Time

by Chris Haney
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On Wednesday night, Nielsen Media Research announced the ratings for Major League Baseball’s 2020 World Series and they were not good, to say the least.

This year’s World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays drew the least amount of viewers ever. During the six games played, Fox’s broadcasts averaged a record-setting low of 9.78 million viewers per matchup. Indeed, the rating is so low that it is 32% below the previous lowest World Series ratings.

The drop is more evidence towards the overall decline in viewership of live sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, baseball is not alone. The ratings for all major U.S. sporting events have declined to a certain degree during the pandemic.

The 2020 NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals saw a decline of 61% in its viewership compared to last year’s championship series. Viewership declined 56% for the final round of golf’s U.S. Open held at Winged Foot Golf Cub in Mamaroneck, NY during September. Additionally, the 2020 NBA Playoffs between the L.A. Lakers and Miami Heat dropped 37% in comparison to 2019.

Some analysts, and even some politicians, have said that the NBA’s ratings took a dive this year because of the players’ social activism. Yet, various factors have contributed to the declining viewership. 

Earlier in October, a Marist Poll reported that 35% of sports fans confirmed that their “concerns over the coronavirus” led them to not watch as many sporting events. Also, 21% of fans said the abundance of other home entertainment options and streaming services is the main factor as to why they’ve watched sports less. Furthermore, 20% of fans said presidential election coverage on television has been their priority instead of live sports.

World Series Ratings by the Numbers

During the six World Series games that aired on Fox, the championship series averaged a 5.2 rating and 9.78 million viewers. That means only 5.2% of viewers watching television while the games were on tuned in to the Dodgers-Rays matchup. In 2019, the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros faced off in the World Series. In contrast, an average of 14.1 million viewers watched the Nationals-Astros matchup, which earned the series an 8.1 rating.

The numbers get worse for the 2020 World Series when compared to all-time ratings. There has never been a single World Series game that drew fewer than 9.8 million viewers – until this year. In fact, four of the six championship games fell below the threshold of 9.8 million viewers. 

On Tuesday night, the Dodgers series-clinching Game 6 victory was the only outlier of the six games. Game 6 pulled in a 6.8 rating with an average of 12.6 million viewers, which helped increase the overall series’ viewership numbers. The final game saw the Dodgers win the World Series for the first time in 32 years. But, even then it was still the lowest viewed Game 6 in World Series history.

For reference, the record for the highest average number of viewers is held by the 1980 World Series. The Kansas City Royals and Philadelphia Phillies drew an average of 42.3 million viewers per game. And during Game 6 of the 1980 series, an astounding 54,860,000 viewers tuned in to watch the Royals-Phillies matchup.

[H/T Forbes]

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