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A Fan’s Perspective: Are the MLB playoffs what the fans want to see?

The 2014 MLB playoffs have certainly been a thrilling and entertaining sight to behold. So far, we have seen upsets, late heroics, stellar pitching and loyal fan bases. However, the question is: Who cares? While ratings for a few games so far this month have been noteworthy, Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers had a 13 percent drop in viewership from last year’s playoff ratings, while Game 1 between the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals also suffered a 16 percent drop.

Why exactly have the ratings dropped?

There are several reasons that explain this mysterious lack of interest. First and foremost, however, are the teams involved. If someone were to have said at the beginning of the season that the American League Championship Series would be played between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals, some responses might have been prolonged laughter, ignorance or cries of “Kansas City still has a team?” But here we are, six months later, and lo and behold, the Royals and Orioles just wrapped up the American League Championship Series, with Kansas City making a trip back to the Fall Classic.

In terms of the average number of households tuning into games, the Orioles and the Royals are situated at 14th and 15th, respectively, in the league. Not bad, but a far cry from the top of the MLB, as the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and New York Mets lead the league with 254,000, 159,000 and 130,000 households, respectively. With a combined 135,000 households accounting for the Orioles and Royals, the interest level is certainly low.

The National League, in this case, shouldn’t have to undergo such problems in terms of ratings, as the Giants and Cardinals are often on top of the MLB in terms of viewership and draw audiences from across the world regularly with a combined total of 225,000 households. However, ratings for the NLDS were not as promising as they should have been.

Another big reason why ratings are down this season is due to network changes. In 2013, TBS and Fox were the networks where the MLB Playoffs could be found. This year, while Fox still gets the World Series and a few games in the League Championship Series, Fox Sports 1 has taken a majority of the National League games.

FS1 is a premier cable channel, so customers without access to the premier channel lineup cannot watch these games. Despite historically boasting the better crowd in terms of viewership, NL playoff games were still broadcasted on the least popular and accessible channels.

The playoff games which have received the lowest ratings so far were Game 2 between the Cardinals and the Dodgers and Game 3 between the Giants and the Washington Nationals. Both games were broadcast on MLB Network and drew fewer than 2 million viewers. MLB Network is even less available than Fox Sports 1, and some cable providers don’t even offer the channel in their premium lineups.

Meanwhile, the AL games were on their usual network, TBS. Despite the teams not attracting as much interest, the channel was more available than Fox Sports 1, making these games viewable to a larger audience.

Nothing against FS1, it’s just that it has not been made completely available by some cable companies. Interestingly enough, the most watched game of the playoffs so far, according to Sportsmediawatch.com, was the National League Wild Card game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Giants. This game was broadcasted neither on Fox nor TBS, but rather ESPN.

Finally, game times have also been an issue, albeit minor. Games that start at 4:07 p.m. EST begin three hours earlier on the west coast. In the meantime, games that begin at 8:07 p.m. EST end far too late on the east coast.

The two games on MLB Network have examples of poorly timed games. The Cardinals versus Dodgers game began at 9:30 p.m. EST on a Saturday night. Moreover, the Giants versus Nationals game began at 5:00 p.m. EST on a Monday, creating a perfect time slot for…no one.

Unfortunately, this is not the first year where the game times have been questionable. The games are starting too late for some viewers and too early for others. Adding to that, the MLB has not been effective at assigning games either, as matchups that draw the larger audience are often broadcasted on the less popular channels. In order for the MLB to stop repeating its mistakes and draw the audiences of which it’s capable, they must rethink their scheduling process.

To best fit the correct audience, the MLB must decide on times that are convenient for audiences all across the country, as well as broadcast games on popular networks based on their importance and interest. Although the MLB playoffs are interesting and entertaining, the time and network assignments detract from fans’ abilities to enjoy the playoffs.

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