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The Mass Media

Sports Spiel: Baseball Needs to Cut Back on the Night Games


Courtesy of bawoodvine on Flickr




The one thing that I’d most like to change about baseball today is have the MLB revert back to playing the majority of their games during the day. The game loses a large amount of its charm at night, in my opinion. The late starts to games (especially World Series games) are driving away younger fans from baseball and causing a drop in ratings. A recent study done on the top sports among fans aged 10-14 showed that the MLB is running 5th behind the NFL, college football, the NBA, and NCAA basketball. If you’ll look at all of those sports, the one thing that they all share is more accessible time slots for younger fans. While Sundays are filled with day games, they usually are only seen in full by those in attendance. It can be difficult to get a captive audience for a 1:30 start time in the summer.

What I would do is change the standard day-game time slot from the 1:00 hour to the 4:00 hour. There are a few hours every weekend, particularly on Sundays, where the family day trip is over, but dinner isn’t done yet — and THAT is the perfect time to put on some games. The MLB doesn’t have a TV contract like the NFL, where all of the games are televised nationally, so it is up to each club to determine their time slots. For example, the Yankees always start their day games at 1:05 local time, while the Red Sox always play at 1:35.

If those times were moved back three hours, you would have a lot more interest surrounding the games. Also, starting games at 4:00 on weekdays would open up new viewership because kids would be home from school or camp, and most adults would be home from their commitments by the 4th or 5th inning. Starting games at 7:05 or 7:10 puts them in direct conflict with more popular prime time shows, or NBA and NHL playoff games. The monotony of a baseball season can cause people to lose interest if there’s attractive counter programming available.

Where the game is really getting it wrong with time slots is in the postseason. It is beyond me why weekend World Series games start at 8:30. The World Series was the biggest sporting event in America when its games (at least some of them) were during the day. Weekday games start at 9:00, and that completely alienates a large portion of MLB’s target audience: children. Looking at old films of daytime World Series games, you can see the magic of old-time baseball, which is something that the MLB seems intent to capture with the new crop of ballparks being built and team logos being designed. The league has taken a small step in the right direction by making one game during the series a standard 7:10 start, but that’s not enough.

I believe that the MLB should make any weekend game World Series game a 4:05 start. If they did that, they’d see a ratings explosion. FOX might be reluctant because of the advertising opportunities that come with the 8:30 slot, but look at the recent boom in ratings for the Super Bowl, NCAA Tournament, and other daytime playoff events. It’s about time that the MLB catches on and reverts back to their old ways.

For a league that is so hellbent on nostalgia and recreating its glorious past, the MLB is surprisingly stubborn when it comes to day games. In Terry Francona’s book, The Red Sox Years, he claimed that Red Sox ownership was reluctant to schedule weekday day games before road trips because they feared it could lead to low ratings for the club-owned network, NESN. Everyone in the MLB needs to get on the same page and start realizing that if they don’t make the game more accessible, it risks falling far behind other American sports. The game needs a shot in the arm — an influx of new fans drawn to the game by easier viewing would be a great way to begin.