Who Are the Ad Wizards Who Can Rescue Baseball's TV Ratings Flop?

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Hey did you hear? Just a few months after the lowest-rated World Series since Philo Farnsworth patented the boob tube, television executives are scrambling because ratings are way down for baseball regular season games, too. Viewership for the Fox Saturday Game of the Week is off 9% since last season and 23% since 2000. Of course, you should ignore the fact that these ratings actually measure percentage of US households tuned into the sport and not total viewers.

Otherwise, that would actually imply that fewer people are watching baseball nowadays, which is just ridiculous. Ratings are down for every televised sports program that existed 30 years ago because of the explosion of cable and the proliferation of pogo stick jumping record attempts. People just have more choices, y'all!

But I digress. So does Bud Selig, who should be spending more time worrying about replacing foul poles with giant lasers that shoot off into infinity. Instead, he's putting on his television executive hat and solving that problem over there:

Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio confirmed network executives will head to Milwaukee next week to strategize with Commissioner Bud Selig about reversing the downward trends. "The purpose of the meeting is to find a way to boost the ratings for the All-Star Game and the World Series," he said. Plans include showing baseball movies on Sunday afternoons on Fox's sister channel FX, and promotional ads with broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

"Well, Marge, I wasn't going to watch the MLB All Star Game but that FX channel showed that movie with the baseball-playing dog last Sunday and they had some funny commercials with Joe Buck and some old man with Alzheimers and an awful dyejob, so I reckon I'm gonna check this All Star thing out."

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Fire Buck and McCarver and fans will be more inclined to watch the Fox game of the week.

Simple as that.

I think matt_T just nailed it.

That's not the only thing I nailed
(hint: Rob's mom)

Right after leaving the US Patent office , Philo Farnsworth gave up 4 runs in 1/3 of an inning and punched a metal fan in the dugout.

If they could get McCarver to do a Cialis® ad, I'd watch that.

There is not enough liquor in the world to counteract the horrors of Tim McCarver in a Cialis ad.

If they could get McCarver to do a CialisĀ® ad, I'd watch that.

If I wanted to watch Tim McCarver talk about a guy throwing a football through a tire instead of baseball, I'd already be watching FOX.

Tim McCarver already has his Steve Carlton stories; no need for Cialis there.

The method in which Nielsen measures the people in the top-38 markets (about 60% of the country's population) are also changed, which had a dramatic impact on viewership data. In the old method, people either wrote down their viewing habits in diaries, or a set-top box (much like a cable box) recorded the data and sent it to Nielsen. The accuracy of the boxes was always questioned (ie - if the TV is on, does that mean everyone in the household is watching? Of course not).

The new measuring devices are called people meters, and everyone in a Nielsen family wears a little beeper that records frequencies transmitted by the channel(s) that they are watching, and the beeper device sends the data that it records to Nielsen. However, the viewer must occasionally press a button on the device to signal that they are still watching TV. If they don't, no data is recorded.

If you're still reading this, you have probably figured out that the new method, while more accurate demographically, has glaring deficiencies that contribute to WHAT APPEARS TO BE a drop in viewership. But the majority of these drops occurred at the same time that the metrics changed, which is a bit too coincidental to be completely accurate. Of course, the proliferation of cable networks and alternative viewing options (internet, dvd, etc) all boomed at more or less the same time as Nielsen began rolling out the new measuring service. It all created one very, very messy gray area, which, on paper, makes it look like nobody is watching TV anymore.

So there you have it. I sincerely apologize for the length, tone, and preachiness of this comment.

Who let Ted the Nielsen Pollster in?

Being a Nielsen household sounds like house arrest.


We were a Neilsen household for pretty much the whole of 2008 and it is a godawful experience. The people meter is so fucking annoying and if you forget to log in or change the channel BEFORE logging in more than say, once in a blue moon, your rep is calling you the next day kindly asking you to knock it off. The fucking box beeps every forty minutes (i forget the exact number - 38 maybe? and you have to punch the buttons to log yourself in. You are also expected to log in the age and gender of anyone else who ever watches your tv if you have a visitor over.

I think we got paid a grand total of about $200 for our troubles. But, hell, at least Friday Night Lights got renewed under our watchful eyes.

And the Nats still had record low numbers in spite of my watching a good majority of their games as a Nielsen family last year.

Your family is ruining the advertising business, Jerkwheat. You proud of yourself? A multi-billion dollar industry is collapsing all around you, and there you sit, not pressing your button.

Sorry, Honeynut. I was too busy sleeping on the couch with the tv on and not verifying that I'm watching to hear you.

Jerkwheat falling asleep in front of the TV is why "Two and a Half Men" is still on the air.

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