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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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MLB Momentum Takes Hit From Playoff Ratings Dip, Format Debate

  • Wild Card round posts 18% decline in ratings.
  • Current playoff format generates further debate as top teams struggle.
Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

Major League Baseball’s hopes to ride its resurgent regular season into the postseason have hit an initial speed bump.

The league recorded an 18% decline in average viewership for the wild card round, as the four two-game sweeps on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 collectively averaged 2.25 million viewers, down from last year’s average of 2.73 million. 

Besides this initial lack of drama, viewership also suffered from the heavy slate of midweek day games, as the quadruple-headers held last Tuesday and Wednesday featured two 3:08 p.m. ET starts and two at 4:38 p.m. The daytime starts also further amplified the Tampa Bay Rays’ existing attendance struggles

Last year’s wild card round was primarily played on a Friday and Saturday — and included a winner-take-all Sunday night primetime game.

October Angst

MLB has staged its postseason as some form of a tournament since initially moving to divisional play in 1969. But the current 12-team, four-round playoff format introduced last year is receiving a fresh round of criticism and debate as the four top teams with byes into the Division Series immediately ran into on-field challenges.

The Baltimore Orioles, the American League’s top seed, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, No. 2 in the National League, are both already down 2-0 in their respective best-of-five series and now face elimination on the road. The Atlanta Braves, the NL’s top seed, and Houston Astros, No. 2 in the AL, each lost home-field advantage in their respective series.

Those four teams each had five off days between the end of the regular season and the start of the Division Series — a notable departure from baseball’s normal, everyday routine.

“It’s more tournament-style now, more March Madness in October,” said TBS announcer Ron Darling during the network’s coverage of the Dodgers-Arizona Diamondbacks series.

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