2012 World Series Lowest Rated, Least-Viewed Ever


The 2012 World Series was easily the lowest rated and least-viewed ever.

The four-game Giants/Tigers World Series averaged a 7.6 rating and 12.7 million viewers on FOX, down 24% in ratings and viewership from last year’s seven-game Cardinals/Rangers series (10.0, 16.6M), and down 10% and 11%, respectively, from the five-game Giants/Rangers series in 2010 (8.4, 14.3M).

Compared to previous four-game averages for the World Series, Giants/Tigers declined by 7% in ratings and 6% in viewership from Cardinals/Rangers last year (8.3, 13.5M), and by 7% and 10%, respectively, from Giants/Rangers in 2010 (8.3, 14.1M).

The Giants’ sweep ranks as the lowest rated and least-viewed World Series of all time (see table). The previous lows were an 8.4 rating (2010 and 2008) and 13.6 million viewers (2008).

The World Series has now set or tied a record-low rating eight times since the 1994-95 players’ strike (1998, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012). In addition, this is the seventh time in the past eight election years (midterm or presidential) that the World Series has set a record-low.

The 2012 World Series was the third in five years to average a previously unheard-of single-digit rating. Over the past five seasons, 20 of 27 World Series telecasts have drawn a single-digit rating — compared to four such games previously.

Giants/Tigers averaged a 3.7 rating among adults 18-49, down 25% from last year’s seven-game average (4.9) and down 8% from the five-game average in 2010 (4.0). Among adults 18-34, the average was a 3.2 — down 24% from last year (4.2), but down only a tick from 2010 (3.3).

Compared to other sports, the World Series trailed the five-game Bowl Championship Series on ESPN (8.4, 14.1M), the three-game NCAA Tournament Final Four (10.1, 17.1M*) and the five-game Heat/Thunder NBA Finals on ABC (10.1, 16.9M).

This marks the fourth time in five years that the NBA Finals has averaged a higher rating and more viewers than the World Series, and the fifth time in seven years the NBA has averaged better numbers among adults 18-49. Prior to 2008, the NBA Finals had only topped the World Series three times, all in years when Michael Jordan‘s Bulls won the championship (1993, 1996 and 1998).

As is now typical, the World Series faced head-to-head competition with football games on other networks — the NFL in Games 2 and 4 and college football in Game 3. The football competition — which has increased steadily in recent years — has likely contributed to the recent downturn in World Series ratings.

Average Ratings/Viewership For the World Series
Past decade

Year Winner Loser # of Gms Net Rating Viewers A18-49
2012 Giants Tigers
2011 Cardinals Rangers
2010 Giants Rangers
2009 Yankees Phillies
2008 Phillies Rays
2007 Red Sox Rockies
2006 Cardinals Tigers
2005 White Sox Astros
2004 Red Sox Cardinals
2003 Marlins Yankees
2002 Angels Giants

* CBS Final Four averages approximate, not official.

(Series average from Fox Sports Media Group press release via Fang’s Bites)

  • ZabriskiePt

    I think everything has to be put in the right context.

    In a “USA Today” article, Michael Hiestand said he didn’t understand the
    reasons behind the record low numbers Baseball produced this
    Postseason, maybe alluding to a supposed irreversible downtrend in Baseball’s popularity. I think the reasons are CLEAR and OBVIOUS instead, and there are

    FIRST, this World Series rated poorly because there was little-to-no
    competition on the field. It doesn’t matter that Games 2 & 3 were
    2-run contests. The lead was NEVER in doubt. Simply, San Francisco was
    way up superior. Only in Game 4 there has been some lead-changes. And,
    in fact, numbers for Game 4 were decent. Before Sunday’s Game, the
    Giants had NEVER ceased the lead for about 55 innings. This Fall Classic has been BORING, and who says this is a person who
    watches every WS game, every Postseason game, no matter what. Game 4 was
    the first interesting game since the LDS round, with the exception of the ALCS Game 1.
    And this WS’ sweep can’t be compared to any other recent sweep because when
    there is a team from NY, Boston or Chicago you can be sure that you’ll
    have, at least, robust TV ratings.
    Finally, do you really
    believe there are so many people willing to watch lopsided games, just
    for sake of watching how SF players are much better than Detroit ones? I
    don’t think so.

    SECOND, despite all of the above, this year’s World Series still managed
    to beat Football two times, the first on Thursday, the NFL on NFL
    Network (yes, of course Fox is in about 55-60% more homes than NFL Net,
    but Game 2 of the WS drew about 135% more viewers than Thursday Night
    Football), the second on Saturday, two different College Football
    matches. And on Sunday, Game 4 has outdueled the TV behemoth that is
    Sunday Night Football, losing by a small gap.

    My question for everyone here is: how many TV programs in today’s TV
    landscape are capable to compete with the NFL and Football in general? I
    guess the answer is: there’s NONE BUT MLB.

    THIRD, the competition is harder and harder each and every year. And
    every year there seems to be more and more Football on TV, causing
    thousand, maybe millions of sports fans to choose between alternative
    options and fragmenting more and more the viewership datas. Don’t forget:
    Baseball Postseason has competition from the NFL and College Football;
    the NBA from NHL. It’s not the same…

    FOURTH, despite all of the above, and despite a lopsided four-game
    Series, the Fall Classic still managed to be a top-ten primetime show
    (9th this year) and a top-five in the younger demos. Just like in the past, when, according
    to some detractors, Baseball had much bigger TV numbers and was a much
    more successful product than today. “Baseball is dying” is a common
    refrain. I don’t think comparing 2012 World Series TV ratings with what
    they were in the 70s or in the 80s is a correct approach. I think it’s
    correct to verify where Baseball TV ratings stand today compared to
    today’s TV programming. And the answer is: IN THE TOP-TEN, JUST LIKE 40

    FIFTH, are we sure TV ratings are a complete way to measure popularity
    in the world-wide-web era? For example, MLB.tv is considered a very good
    tool for watching live games. How many people do that? I think the
    answer could very well be surprising.
    I’d like to know how many people actually watched the games on TV (total
    viewers, not average), summed with radio listeners (everyone knows
    Baseball is very very strong on radio) and live web streamers, and
    compare those datas to the same ones from other sporting events. Unfortunately I suppose it’s
    not that simple to put together all of those numbers.

    Compliments for the good job of covering this MLB Postseason!

  • Jeffrey

    One other factor, I believe, in the declining ratings for the Series: the expanded playoffs. While more teams in contention may stoke interest for a while, baseball’s postseason has shifted from something very special leading to a must-see World Series into a drawn-out affair and a “maybe I’ll watch, but maybe I won’t” World Series. It seems to me that the World Series now feels like the MLB Finals: a championship event for sure, but less special. Not sure if you have that same perception Paulsen…

  • Jeffrey

    I know what would revitalize the Fall Classic: The Chicago Cubs, a seven-game series, with Bob Costas, Al Michaels, or Dan Shulman at the mike (sorry Joe Buck…nothing personal–strictly professional). Audience of 30-40 million for that Game 7. Never happen though…

  • BaseballFan

    I would love to see how a Yankees -Dodgers World Series would do.

  • Bud

    Baseball’s popularity isn’t necessarily declining, but it’s viewership is. Why? because there is a common perception that the individual games don’t make much of a difference. There are way way way too many games in a season. In football EVERY game matters much more.