MLB postseason thrives despite absence of major markets
For the first time since 2014, Major League Baseball’s Championship Series are unfolding without representation from the nation’s three largest markets: New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
Texas Rangers are facing Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and Philadelphia Phillies are taking on Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), with the winners of the best-of-seven rubbers to progress to the World Series.
Despite this absence, the postseason continues to deliver viewership numbers that align with past seasons.
According to Nielsen data, while the Wild Card and Division Series experienced slight viewership declines – with Chicago’s and New York’s franchises all missing the MLB Playoffs – the American League and National League Championship Series maintained an average of 5.2 million viewers, consistent with historical figures.
A standout moment in this year’s postseason was the opening game of the ALCS between Rangers and Astros. This game garnered an average of 7.27 million viewers across Fox, Fox Deportes and streaming platforms, marking the highest-rated League Championship Series game since 2010 when a showdown between the Rangers and New York Yankees averaged 8.11 million viewers.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed his perspective on the situation.
“I do believe variety is a good thing for our sports. You look at other sports, they have the same mix,” Manfred said.
“We have 30 markets. Everyone has to have a chance to compete.”
One contributing factor to the robust postseason ratings may be the recent implementation of new pace-of-play rules in baseball. Introduced during this year’s All-Star game, Manfred explained that the new rules – including the pitch clock – were designed to enhance the sport’s appeal to television and streaming audiences.
“Our national ratings are up and also importantly, our local ratings despite the fact that the local cable audience — the universe of available homes — are down,” he said.
“We continue to dominate summer programming in our local markets which is really important.”
This success represents an exciting development for baseball. Even in the absence of prominent large-market teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs, and star players like Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts or Aaron Judge, fans remain engaged with the postseason.
The League Championship Series offers its own captivating narratives. The Rangers and Astros meet in their first-ever postseason edition of the Lone Star Series. The Phillies caused an upset in the Division Series against Atlanta Braves and have electrified Citizens Bank Park. The Diamondbacks, propelled by their young core, have embarked on an unexpected postseason journey, aiming to play the role of the spoiler.