Football may be king on the weekends, but Major League Baseball carries primetime in a dozen of the 29 markets that are home to ballclubs in the U.S.
According to Nielsen data, the games of 12 MLB teams ranked as the top programming in primetime across all of television, including broadcast, in those markets from the start of the 2014 season on March 31 through July 24, a week after the All-Star break ended. The period spans the last seven weeks of the 2013-14 TV season, plus the first two months of the summer season, when broadcast reduces its output, while cable ramps up its original production slate.
Additionally, games of seven other MLB squads, placed either second or third in their DMAs over the aforementioned span.
The games that reside atop primetime during the period in their respective DMAs: Detroit Tigers (FS Detroit); St. Louis Cardinals (FS Midwest); Pittsburgh Pirates (Root Sports Pittsburgh); Cincinnati Reds (FS Ohio); Cleveland Indians (SportsTime Ohio); Baltimore Orioles (MASN); Seattle Mariners (Root Sports); Boston Red Sox (NESN); San Francisco Giants (CSN Bay Area) Arizona Diamondbacks (FS Arizona); Kansas City Royals (FS Kansas City); and Milwaukee Brewers (FS Wisconsin). (see list below)
Meanwhile, contests involving the rallying Tampa Rays (FS Florida) ranked second in the Tampa DMA. Games showcasing the Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia); Minnesota, Twins (FS North); Atlanta Braves (FS South); San Diego Padres (FS Padres); Colorado Rockies (Root Sports Rocky Mountain); and the New York Yankees (YES) all finished third in their respective markets.
The Yankees telecasts on YES, which scored a 19% gain in primetime ratings to a 3.37 mark and averaged 251,000 households, connected with the largest primetime audience for MLB telecasts on the RSNs, but trailed WABC and WCBS in the Big Apple.
Other teams that rank in the top nine in primetime in their home DMAs: Chicago Cubs (7th, CSN Chicago); Chicago White Sox (9th, CSN Chicago); Rangers (6th, FS Southwest); Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (8th, FS West); Marlins (8th, FS Florida); New York Mets (7th, SNY); Oakland A’s (6th, CSN California); and Washington Nationals, (5th, MASN).
The top baseball ratings gainers for all games this season through July 24 were the Milwaukee Brewers. The team's telecasts jumped 35% to a 5.90 rating in the Milwaukee DMA on FS Wisconsin from a 4.37 mark at the same stage of last year, behind the resurgent club. The Marlins, which are exceeding on-field expectations by playing .500 ball,were second, as their game telecast average through July 24 rose 34% to a 1.58 in the Miami DMA on FS Florida, up from a 1.18 average.
Conversely, Texas Rangers games on FS Southwest through July 24 sustained 47% ratings erosion in the Dallas DMA to a 2.53 average from a 4.73, as injuries have pushed the team to the worst record in MLB.
The Dodgers, now on SportsNet LA, have endured the largest drop through July 24. Dodgers games have plummeted 70% to a 0.74 rating from a 2.33 during the corresponding stage of the 2013 season, when they aired on Prime Ticket. SportsNet LA only has carriage deals with Time Warner Cable in the Los Angeles DMA, as all other distributors have balked at a monthly carriage that exceeds $4 per subscriber. The FCC is now stepping onto the field in trying to help resolve the impasses.
The Houston Astros have also suffered continued low ratings in the wake of limited carriage for CSN Houston.
MLB Games Top Primetime On RSNs
Market Team Ratings/Households Rank
Detroit Tigers 8.38/156,000 1
St. Louis Cardinals 7.56/95,000 1
Pittsburgh Pirates 7.56/89,000 1
Cincinnati Reds 7.01/64,000 1
Cleveland Indians 6.73/100,000 1
Milwaukee Brewers 6.16/56,000 1
Baltimore Orioles 6.03/66,000 1
Kansas City Royals 5.93/56,000 1
Seattle Mariners 5.72/106,000 1
Boston Red Sox 5.64/137,000 1
S.Francisco Giants 4.86/122,000 1
Phoenix D’backs 3.92/73,000 1
Tampa Rays 4.32/79,000 2
Minneapolis Twins 4.09/71,000 3
Philadelphia Phillies 3.43/102,000 3
New York Yankees 3.37/251,000 3
Atlanta Braves 3.36/80,000 3
San Diego Padres 3.19/34,000 3
Denver Rockies 2.95/46,000 3
Source: Nielsen data from March 31 through July 24, 2014.