One of the best pitched baseball games of the year happened last night in Chicago between the Cubs and the Dodgers. One of the worst played, but seemingly enjoyable football game was played at the same time in Houston between the Texans and the Colts. The NLCS, a game that truly mattered with two giant television markets garnered a 5.0 rating — a record for FS1. The NFL game scored a 9.0 on the overnight. The NFL won on a regular season game between two mediocre AFC South teams and still won in the ratings battle. But, it feels like MLB won and the NFL is losing.
It’s all relative. MLB is setting record ratings and improving on where the game has been the past few years. There are compelling storylines, young talent, big market success, and small market Cinderella stories. Some games feel like they are moving faster — the one hour and six minute seventh inning in the NLDS game with Washington and L.A. hasn’t been the norm. It felt like a lot of internet taste makers have been talking, tweeting and creating content around baseball. Relative to where the game of baseball was in past years, it feels like it is improving. There’s a lot of optimism and good reason for it.
That’s opposite with the NFL. The problem is the story about their ratings declines aren’t going away. That’s bad optics as the league and its TV partners pitch any sponsor or advertiser. No one wants to buy in at the drop awaiting the downtrend. That’s bad business. The Texans and the Colts were down 38 percent from the Week 6 match up last year. Even the most ardent NFL supporter can see there are problems.
This is when someone says, “but it’s all relative. The NFL regular season still out rates MLB playoffs. Sure, that’s correct but the NFL won’t be able to charge exorbitant fees if ratings keep dropping. They will be able to charge fees similar to MLB and NBA. So relative to what the NFL has received in the past, it could be lower.
Of course if ratings are down on everything across the board — which they are — then it is all relative. People still watch ESPN, people still watch the NFL. It may not be as many people in the past, but nothing comes close to it comparatively.