Baseball Ratings Surging on FSN Regional Networks

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While arguments have long been made about whether the sport can still be called America’s true national pastime, midseason ratings for FSN’s regional networks carrying Major League Baseball games are adding fuel to that debate’s fire.

Ratings for FSN’s live MLB game coverage rose 9% in the first half of the season to a 3.58 household average within the home teams’ respective DMAs, from a 3.29 mark through the same stage of the 2006 season, according to an FSN spokesman.

The uptick came in large part from teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners making surprising runs at the playoffs this season.

Through the first half of the season, 58 Brewers games on FSN Wisconsin averaged a 6.4 household rating in the Milwaukee DMA, posting an FSN-regional-high 94% increase over their 3.3 rating through the same stage of last season, according to Nielsen Media Research data supplied by FSN.

The increase in households can largely be attributed to the fact that the Brewers are in first place and are 10 games over .500. The last time the “Brew Crew” finished first was 1982, when they went on to lose in the World Series.

The Brewers are doing so well that the club’s games have finished first in the 7 p.m.-10 p.m. or primetime slot in the Milwaukee area 35% of the time thus far this season, according to a spokesman at the RSN. FSN Wisconsin scored its biggest rating June 4 for the Brewers’ contest against the Chicago Cubs when it earned an 11.7 household rating -- a team best for cable television.

The Mariners on FSN Northwest hold the highest household rating season-to-date for any FSN regional with an 8.3 average in the Seattle DMA for 57 games, ahead of FSN Midwest, which has connected on a 7.6 mark with St. Louis Cardinals games. Ichiro Suzuki’s club has generated high ratings over the past few seasons, yet the Mariners have managed a 32% increase in ratings for FSN Northwest from last season’s 6.3 household average.

“We have definitely seen an increase during this year as the team has had an outstanding first half of the season,” explained FSN Northwest senior vice president and general manager Mark Shuken. “But we have continued to be in the top five in the MLB-team ratings over the past several years and look forward to be the place where Mariners fans get the access they want on their favorite team.”

Ratings increases are also coming from unexpected places such as FSN Florida and Sun Sports, which carry Florida Marlins games. Indeed, Marlins action has hooked the second-highest household-ratings increase for FSN regionals, up 47% combined to a 3.3 mark. The Marlins, with a 42-47 record heading into the second half of the season, are not doing particularly much better than they were doing at this point last season. Why the increase?

“The team is really connecting with the fans this season,” said FSN Florida and Sun Sports senior VP and GM Cathy Weeden. “It is important for the players and fans to connect with the players changing teams so often. The team has been giving us access to do various things to help us.”

The Marlins, who won the World Series in 2003, have been retooling their roster ever since, making it a challenge to keep fans interested. According to Weeden, the regionals are also doing their part to get the ratings back to where they were in their last championship season.

“Last season, we had a tremendous second half, and that gained attention and helped build the fan base,” she said. “[The ratings increase] says how strong the South Florida market is.”

Elsewhere, FSN Prime Ticket has seen a 40% jump to a 2.1 average with its Los Angeles Dodgers coverage, while FSN Detroit grew 32% to a 6.7 average in the Motor City with the defending American League champion Tigers. In Houston, a 39-50 mark on the field has not diminished viewer enthusiasm on FSN Southwest, where Astros games have increased 32% to a 4.6 average.

According to FSN officials, FSN North’s coverage of Minnesota Twins games generated its highest game average in April with an 8.05 mark, while FSN Northwest and the Mariners led the way in both May (7.9) and June (9.24).

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