As I write this blog on a grey, wet, chilly day in March, all of the Major League Baseball teams are soaking up the rays down in Florida or Arizona. And — if only the exhibition season (along with the calendar) would just hurry up a bit — we could all share in the joy of a timeless game played in warm, balmy weather. So, here’s to a speedy start to the 117th season of Major League Baseball, which stretches from early April to the end of September — a 6-month stretch in which 30 professional teams battle it out over the course of a 162-game schedule. By my count that comes to something like 2,400+ games, and covering many of them is ad-supported cable television. At the tip of the iceberg are five core national cable networks (MLB, ESPN, FOXS1, TBS and ESPN2) which have aired well over 300 games over the past three baseball seasons:
But national cable networks carry only a fraction of major league baseball games! During the past two seasons, for example, Viamedia’ s local cable clients appeared in over 1,100+ major league baseball games of which 83% aired on regional cable networks:
Premium Local Market Ratings
As is the case with all other team sports, there is a significant divergence in local market ratings when a market’s local Major League Baseball team appears on a national telecast. Below are several ESPN games in which local market ratings soared well past the national average. For example, last year’s World Series winner (the Chicago Cubs) visited the San Francisco Giants on May 22nd. According to comScore, the game pulled down a 1.42 U.S. household rating. But in the Cubbies’ home market of Chicago, the local rating was over 4-times higher (5.93), while in San Francisco the rating was over 3-times higher (4.77):
While there is an upscale component to major league baseball viewing, that has to be qualified based on which network one is referring to. TBS, Fox Sports 1 and the MLB Network all have audiences that more or less mirror the average household income nationwide. Baseball on ESPN and ESPN2, however, attracts higher income audience levels with national ratings peaking within homes that have an average annual income of $175,000 – $199,999:
Local Cable Advertising
I’ll leave it to others to debate whether or not football has displaced baseball as our “American Pastime”, but when it comes to the sheer number of spots that we run on local cable, there is no argument – baseball, hands down.
Over the past two baseball seasons (excluding the playoffs), over 1,200 clients have ordered 82,400 30-second spots across 71 Viamedia markets (practically our entire national footprint.) That comes to an average of 32 Major League Baseball spots per client (per year.) Source: Viamedia B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module). Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
And as is the case with every major sport on ad-supported cable TV, automotive advertisers (both manufacturers and dealerships) represent far and away the greatest level of Major League Baseball support – nearly 60% share of local cable advertising. That’s practically double the share level we normally see for this category company-wide. The second highest share (at 9%) accrues to the Hardware & Home Improvement category, which is also nearly double the figure for that category company-wide:
A Timeless Game
The calendar says that it’s now spring here in the New York Tri-State area, but the manicured green baseball diamonds are still just a dream buried under a frozen layer of snow and slush. But, maybe, that’s what makes baseball such a wonderful sport — the anticipation of a warm weather game played at a leisurely pace with no timekeepers and no clocks. It is also a game that has hardly changed over the past 100 years, making baseball our true national pastime with its own unique internal rhythm that is familiar to fans from one generation to the next.
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP Media Research, Viamedia