In a previous post, I discussed how pro football has come to dominate American sports and supplant baseball as the national pastime. Ironically, the compelling seven-game World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers only made this clearer.
On the one hand, this year’s World Series garnered television ratings 19 percent higher than last year’s five-game set between the Rangers and San Francisco Giants. While a seven game series should get a higher rating than a five game series, any time the ratings increase for a sporting event these days it must considered a success, given the continuing growth of other entertainment options.
A closer examination of the data, though, shows the relative strength of football. Though World Series games 3 and 4 beat Sunday and Monday Night football one-on-one in viewership, this past week’s Sunday night game between the Cowboys and the Eagles got a higher rating than Game 6, a dramatic affair that will go down as one of the greatest World Series’ games ever. While Game 7 of the World Series got higher viewership overall than Cowboys-Eagles, it performed lower among the 18-49 demographic coveted by advertisers. Unbelievably, more young people watched a regular season football game than the first Game 7 of a World Series since 2002.
Indeed, the World Series lagged the NBA Finals for the second straight year, providing a cautionary note regarding the potential costs of the current basketball lockout. The tremendous interest generated by LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, culminating in their loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, boosted the sport’s fan base. Those gains could be squandered if significant portions of the 2011-2012 season are lost.
It will be interesting how the ratings for this weekend’s college football “Game of the Century” between LSU and Alabama measure up against the World Series.