By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
October 6, 2011
Bud Selig’s decision to move the MLB regular season’s final day from a Sunday to mid-week was a solid success, at least judging by Nielsen ratings. According to SportsBusiness Daily, combined total viewership for ESPN, ESPN2 and MLB Network last Wednesday night pulled a strong 2.8 overnight, including a 4.4 for the final hour of the games. ESPN drew its biggest Wednesday night overnight rating ever with its Red Sox-Orioles broadcast and coverage of the Yankees-Rays final innings, which drew a 2.9 overnight from midnight-12:15 a.m. ET. Regional sports networks covering the games also fared well.
At the ballpark, baseball teams saw a slight increase in attendance during the regular season, averaging 30,366 fans per game. The Philadelphia Phillies led all of MLB with an average attendance of 45,441, followed by the Yankees, whose 45,107 average was down 3% from last season. The Los Angeles Dodgers, burdened with weighty legal and ownership issues, suffered MLB’s biggest attendance decline, down 17.7% -- for the first time ever, the franchise was bested by the cross-town Angels.
In Phoenix, the NL West champion Diamondbacks averaged 25,795 fans per game in 2011, placing them 18th out of the 30 MLB teams.
And in St. Petersburg, FL, the Rays, despite their last minute run to win the AL Wild Card, endured a 17% drop in attendance at Tropicana Field. "Short of the economy, I’m out of excuses,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster to local media. The Rays drew an average of 4,064 fewer fans to games than in 2010, placing them 29th in MLB.