For baseball fans, next week should be an exciting time with the Major League Baseball playoffs starting on October 3rd. MLBbro.com is in the final planning stages to cover what should be a fast and furious sprint from 12 teams representing the American League and National League to win a World Series championship.
But according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, despite the network that he works for having exclusive rights to the Wild Card Rounds, baseball will not be a top priority on his show First Take. With NFL football dominating the sports headlines (Anyone heard about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce lately?) along with MLBbro icon, Deion Sanders coaching the Colorado Buffaloes to must see TV college football, Smith says based on the ratings, no one cares…
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) September 21, 2023
While the viewership for the sport has suffered the last few seasons, MLB has made some positive strides this season…
- The pitch clock is considered by many a huge success decreasing game times to the point the practice will be used in the postseason.
- The attendance numbers (Except for Oakland!) was encouraging.
- Surprise teams will be participating in the postseason like the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and the Milwaukee Brewers.
- The American League West sprint for first place and potential Wild Card spot with the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
- Shohei Ohtani was having one of the greatest seasons of any era before he was shut down with injuries.
- Ronald Acuna Jr. sets an all time mark with 40 homers and 70 stolen bases
- Even Aaron Judge’s extended stint on the IL still didn’t keep him off the top five list for home runs with 37 and counting…
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) September 25, 2023
But what is getting lost in all of the ratings debates and Stephen A. Smith’s take on baseball is MLB’s commitment to bring diversity to the game with a concentration on African Americans. One of the things done that is evident of that is the partnership MLB has with this website MLBbro.com founded by Rob Parker who laid out the plans in the mission statement for this movement back in April of 2021…
“MLBbro.com will cover Black and brown Major Leaguers. We will chronicle the paths of both present and past Black players, highlight their achievements in the game right now and from a historical standpoint.
We will give Black players a voice and put a context to their presence in the game. In the process, we will display the culture and flair Black players bring to the table.
If done right, MLBbro.com will reinvigorate the interest of baseball to the Black community, reconnect a sport that is deep-rooted in our culture.
Best of all, MLBbro.com will also nurture and develop the next generation of Black writers.”
Plus this is not the first time Smith has spoken out recklessly when it comes to baseball. There were the Shohei Ohtani comments that received backlash…
I'm sincerely sorry. pic.twitter.com/pANjWTrD4X
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 12, 2021
But Is Smith Correct About the Ratings By the Numbers?
So now that it is established that there are some out in the sports world that care deeply for the game of baseball, the next thing to look at is the numbers of viewers this season according to Sports Business Journal…
- ESPN averaged 1.45 million viewers for Sunday Night Baseball which is on pace from last season.
- These ratings include ESPN2’s KayRod Cast shows starring Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay. With a 30 percent decline and an average of 138,000 viewers, the KayRod cast ends this year.
- On the surge of the start of the season which was as high as 41 percent, TBS had a drop significantly as of late to finish at four percent. At the peak TBS averaged 338,000 viewers.
- Fox/FS1’s numbers were mixed due to low individual numbers of games but with an increase of more games broadcasted, viewership numbers increased. FS1 had record lows (278,000) while Fox dropped 10 percent with an average of 1,89 million viewers.
The Reality of What’s Happening With Television Ratings
Nationally Known Teams Aren’t That Good:
No matter how fun the game has been overall, nationally certain teams have to perform well for the type of ratings Stephen A. Smith is talking about. The St. Louis Cardinals had a down year, the New York teams (Anyone forget Smith is a Yankees fan?) dove off a cliff after the All-Star break. Don’t forget the Boston Red Sox have been on a slow decline since MLBbro superstar Mookie Betts left for the West Coast Dodgers. Traditional teams like these count ratings wise no matter what the sport with the majority of the fanbase.
Major League Baseball Has Been Besieged With Blackouts Of Games:
One of the biggest problems on MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s to-do list is ending blackouts. The words used concerning this problem were “top priority”, “massive undertaking” and “fundamental reordering” when it pertained to media rights in baseball.
Can MLB get rid of blackouts?
Listen to the Marchand & Ourand Sports Media Podcast here:
YouTube: https://t.co/AU4sz36fTC pic.twitter.com/W9RiHCmREZ
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) September 27, 2023
“I believe that one of the fundamental goals that we have as the media landscape is reworked is that whatever exclusivity we give to a particular cable provider, we oughta have the ability to go side-by-side with a digital product so that people are not blacked out,” Manfred said. “That is business objective number one at Major League Baseball right now.”
“The reason it has taken a long time to get at this blackout issue is that when clubs make long-term RSN (Regional Sports Networks) agreements, they historically grant exclusivity that covers both sides of the house to that cable provider. If that cable provider doesn’t get distribution in a particular area, you have a blackout right? And that’s beyond our control.”
For next week, blackouts won’t be as big of an issue to fans during the Wild Card Rounds unless ESPN is not a part of the TV package. But Stephen A. Smith is wrong about fans not caring based on TV ratings.