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World Series TV Viewership: Will There Be A Rebound In 2021?

The Chicago Cubs celebrating their 2016 World Series victory which had strong TV viewership.

Following a grueling 162-game season (or 163 in the event of a play-in game), wild-card games and two rounds of playoffs, the Commissioner’s Trophy is up for grabs in the World Series, the final round of the MLB postseason.

It is an extremely exciting time, the cool nip in the air as the series concludes in late October or even early November. There is a buzz in the air with Thanksgiving on the horizon as well as Christmas. Football, both NFL and college, is in full swing, as is the NHL and NBA, but for seven or fewer games, baseball is in the spotlight – or at least one would think.

MLB World Series Average TV Viewership

For me, I’m a baseball fan and while my favorite squad, the Toronto Blue Jays, haven’t appeared in the World Series since I was a young boy, that hasn’t deterred me from watching the Fall Classic.

In the above graphic from statista, you can see that the average TV viewership for the MLB World Series has remained relatively stable outside of spikes in 2001, 2004 and 2016.

What Caused Three Blips In Viewership?

Perhaps you’re not a huge baseball fan or you don’t recall what happened in those three World Series, in which there was viewership of nearly 25 million on average. Or maybe you’re a diehard fan of America’s favorite pastime and are screaming the answers at your screen before I reveal them.

2001: Arizona Diamondbacks

In 2001, the New York Yankees were vying for a fourth straight World Series title against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were appearing in their first-ever Fall Classic. It was a story of the home team winning each matchup, there were pitchers’ duels, extra-inning affairs and late-game comebacks – arguably the best World Series of all time.

Just for fun, here are a few of the pitchers that were involved in this series: Curt Schilling (WS co-MVP), Randy Johnson (WS co-MVP), Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina – not bad.

2004: Boston Red Sox

For me, 2004 is the Series, or postseason as a whole, that is burned in my memory. I mentioned I was a Blue Jays fan, but I also liked Boston – weird, I know. The Red Sox were the baby brother to the Bronx Bombers; the rivalry was there but the competitiveness was not.

I will contest that the Red Sox won the World Series in the ALCS when they mounted their memorable comeback down three games in the series against said Yankees. They roared back to win the series, then swept the Cardinals to end the 86-year drought – the Curse of the Bambino.

2016: Chicago Cubs

Lastly, 2016, a full seven-game series, a rain delay, extra innings and the end of a 108-year stretch of misery for the Chicago Cubs. Some wondered if the Cubbies would ever win another World Series, faced with the curse of the billy goat in 1945 and who can forget the infamous Steve Bartman “foul” ball catch.

Ultimately, Mike Montgomery earned his first career save with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (two pivotal names in that championship) combining for the final put-out to win the 2016 World Series in the 10th inning of Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians.

What Happened In 2020?

What is concerning to me, though, is the 2020 World Series, which had a 20-year low in viewership of 9.78 million on average. It was a David vs Goliath matchup, with four players on the Dodgers making more money than the entire payroll for the Rays.

That shouldn’t discount the Dodgers’ first World Series title since 1988, despite their stacked lineup. Did people not tune in because there were no fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Was it because people were checked out of sports as a whole due to the coronavirus or maybe people didn’t like the World Series being played on a neutral field (Globe Life Field)?

We know that baseball has been struggling of late and there have been several changes to try to create more excitement, including recently checking pitchers to make sure they aren’t putting sticky substances on their hands, in hopes we will see an advantage for hitters and offense. Was 2020 a blip or a sign of things to come?