In Depth

Turner’s Numbers Off for MLB Playoffs

The first round of baseball’s postseason didn’t go well for Turner Broadcasting, which has exclusive rights to the divisional series.

Viewership on TBS slid 25% from last year for the games that were played, and only two of the four series avoided being three-game sweeps, with each of those two series going just four games.

Long, competitive series tend to generate higher ratings and provide networks with more commercial time to sell. TBS will try to make up the shortfall with advertisers during the American League Championship Series, which pits the Boston Red Sox against the Tampa Bay Rays. Fox will broadcast the National League Championship Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers facing the Philadelphia Phillies.

Last year, Turner had a strong first round in the playoffs, but its second-round matchup between the small market Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks drew disappointing ratings.

The League Championship Series usually have higher ratings and generate more revenue for the networks than the first-round divisional series. With the Red Sox, a team with a strong national following, and the Rays, a young team with a Cinderella story, Turner is hoping viewers will tune in. If the series goes six or seven games, Turner will more than make up any financial shortfall from the first round.

In the divisional series, TBS was hurt by having to compete with the vice-presidential candidates debate on Thursday, which siphoned off 70 million viewers. It also suffered from having no team from New York in the postseason for the first time in 13 years.

On top of that, a matchup that promised great drama and high ratings pitting the Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs instead provided two early blowouts and a three-game sweep by Los Angeles.

While falling short of last year, baseball did provide strong viewership numbers for Turner.

By averaging a 2.8 U.S. household rating and garnering 4.28 million total viewers with baseball during the week of Sept. 29, TBS was the top-rated cable network four of the five nights in prime time. It also was tops in adult demos for both prime time and total day for the week.

During the week TBS averaged 4.74 million viewers, which made it the network’s most-watched week since the end of last year’s baseball playoffs.

Most days when it televised postseason baseball, TBS also out-delivered one or more of the broadcast networks in some of the male demos.