The 2023 World Series got the lowest ratings of any World Series since they’ve been tracking such things (back to the 1960s). The Series averaged 9.11 million viewers, with Game 5 being the most watched with 11.48 million viewers. Monday’s Game 3 was the least watched with 8.13 million viewers. This year supplants 2020 (the Covid year) at the bottom of the heap viewer-wise.
There are a bunch of factors that people are blaming for the low ratings. The biggest could well be the matchup — the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Texas Rangers. They’re not exactly rivals and neither has much of a national audience. There just weren’t any storylines to entice anyone outside of Arizona and Texas.
There was also a lack of star power. There was no Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout. No Mookie Betts or Freddie Freeman. And certainly no Derek Jeter or Big Papi. The two biggest names in the series, both on Texas, were Corey Seager and Max Scherzer, and it can be argued neither is known outside of baseball circles. They don’t feature in any national advertising. Seager did his best to become a nationally recognized star, winning the series MVP, but Scherzer left his one start early with an injury. Again, nothing to entice the non-fan or casual fan.
The schedule probably made a difference, too. Game 1 was on Friday night, and Friday is the worst night for television. It’s where networks put shows to die. Game 3 was on Monday night, against Monday Night Football. The NFL game outdrew the baseball by about 7 million viewers. That’s a lot. Football is more popular than baseball, but it’s a little surprising that a midseason football game almost doubled the viewers of the World Series.
Finally, there was the series itself. It only went five games and, with the final three games, there wasn’t much drama. The Rangers just outclassed the Diamondbacks. A more competitive series would have gotten more viewers, especially if the plucky underdogs had prevailed.
The depressing thing about this is that it indicates a lack of general baseball fans. It seems that once a team has been eliminated, all that team’s fans stop watching. If there were more fans of baseball instead of fans of specific teams, things would be different. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t have favorite teams. They should ... but they should be fans of the sport as well.
There is a bit of room for optimism in all of this, though. While Monday Night Football outdrew the World Series, that was the only night where the World Series wasn’t the most watched thing on television. In other words, the World Series got more viewers than all of the other networks’ regular programming. Maybe it’s not baseball. Maybe it’s just a fractured media landscape where nothing does as well as it used to.
We should hold out hope that next year will be different. There was a bump in ratings after 2020’s low point. We could easily see the same thing next year, especially if at least one of the teams has a national profile. Wouldn’t that be nice?