The YES Network knew that lots of people were going to watch Wednesday’s game between the New York Yankees and their American League rivals the Boston Red Sox.
But when Nielsen finally tabulated the numbers, YES emerged with a record-shattering 597,480 households from 7 to 10:30 p.m., almost 120,000 homes more than the previous highest-rated cablecast in YES history (the Yankees-Red Sox game of April 25).
During the weekend before, interleague games on Friday and Sunday between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox averaged 518,000 homes on the WGN superstation, eclipsing the previous WGN record (two Cubs-White Sox games during a weekend in June 1999) by 16%.
New York and Chicago are only the most visible TV-audience powerhouses in a baseball season that has re-energized the national pastime, making the games one of the summer’s hottest TV attractions.
Major League Baseball games carried by the 25 regional networks that are part of the Fox Sports Net Group have increased their viewership by 17% season to date.
Nationwide ratings homer
All over the country, individual regionals are coming up with increases rarely seen before. Ratings of Cubs games on Fox Sports Net Chicago are up 81% compared to the same period last year. Florida Marlins ratings have ballooned 61%, the Anaheim Angels 59%, the Baltimore Orioles 56%, the Milwaukee Brewers 55%, the Houston Astros 35%, the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox each 29% and the Yankees 27%.
One reason for baseball’s ascendancy this season is that more than half of the teams are within five games of first place, a tribute to the revenue-sharing system that has funneled much-needed cash to teams in smaller markets like Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Oakland and Tampa Bay.
The heroics of individual players have pumped up interest in the game, even among casual fans. From Barry Bonds’ awesome power and Ken Griffey Jr.’s breaking of the 500 home run barrier last month to the boost Alex Rodriguez has given to the Yankees and Roger Clemens has given the Astros — a marquee full of star players has driven up attendance at the ballparks as a complement to the swollen TV ratings.