Game 7: A One-Night Boost for Baseball's Chronic Ratings Slump

Selig before Game 2 of the 2014 World Series
Photograph by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Major League Baseball got its wish on Tuesday night, when the Kansas City Royals defeated the San Francisco Giants 10-0, forcing the World Series to a deciding Game 7 on Wednesday evening. The game will be the last in outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig’s tenure. And thanks to a recent schedule adjustment, baseball will not have to compete with the National Football League for attention. The biggest prime time rival for sports viewers comes from the National Basketball Association on ESPN, with the New York Knicks season opener against the Chicago Bulls. That’s a battle baseball can win. (The stat-heads at FiveThirtyEight have already made up their minds.)

Tonight’s game will mark the fifth World Series Game 7 since baseball’s lost season in 1994. In the previous four, according to Nielsen data provided by Horizon Media, ratings have, on average, slightly more than doubled those of Game 1. The first game of this year’s World Series drew a lackluster 7.33 percent of TV households—an audience of 12.2 million viewers. If the recent trend holds, tonight’s game could lure close to 25 million viewers. The last Game 7, between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers in 2011, drew 25.4 million.

Major league executives should probably expect fewer. In 2011, the increase from Game 1 to Game 7 amounted to less than 70 percent. A similar bump tonight would make for close to 21 million viewers, still a very big number in today’s TV landscape.

In Kansas City, at least, frenzy is high. The Royals have not won a World Series—or even gone to the playoffs—since 1985. According to ticket search engine SeatGeek, the average resale price, so far, for Game 7 seats is $1,140, the most since last year’s Game 6 in Boston fetched $1,175. Despite a glut of roughly 8,000 listings on various broker sights, says SeatGeek spokesman Connor Gregoire, the cheapest offerings are hovering around $600.

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