The Texas Rangers secured their first championship with a resounding 5-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night. While this thrilling victory drew the largest audience of this year’s World Series, it wasn’t enough to prevent this five-game series from becoming the least-watched Fall Classic in recorded TV history.
According to Nielsen and Fox, the World Series had an average of 9.11 million viewers, which is a notable decline from previous years. In comparison, the 2020 series, where the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in six games, had an average of 9.79 million viewers, marking a 23% drop. The 2021 series fell significantly short of the 11.78 million average viewers for the 2020 series when the Houston Astros emerged victorious against the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
However, there were some positive highlights for this year’s World Series. The Wednesday night game had a substantial audience of 11.48 million on Fox, marking a notable increase of 3 million viewers compared to Tuesday night’s audience. The total audience, including Fox, Fox Deportes, and Fox streaming platforms, reached 11.64 million, the first time the series crossed the 10 million viewer mark.
One standout moment was the peak audience of 14.27 million viewers for the final three outs of the series, showing that the excitement of the championship-clinching game was not lost on the audience.
There were several factors contributing to the lower viewership this year. The choice of teams that lacked broad national appeal and the expanded playoffs that led to a series between teams with the seventh- and 11th-best records played a role. Nevertheless, baseball and network executives viewed the presence of new champions and different teams in the World Series as a positive development for the sport, even if it impacted short-term ratings.
Scheduling was also a factor in the lower audience numbers, with the series beginning on a Friday night, typically a low-viewership night. Blowout games where viewers tuned out early also contributed to the lower average viewership.
Despite these challenges, the World Series remains a dominant force in television, consistently outperforming entertainment programs. It was the most-watched event for four out of five nights, with “Monday Night Football” being the only program to surpass it on one night.
Fox executives emphasized the significance of the World Series in prime time and its ability to outperform entertainment programs, stating that as long as the series continues to do so, it will remain a powerful television event.
Furthermore, efforts to enhance the viewing experience with the addition of a pitch clock and shorter games contributed to an increase in ratings on regional sports networks during the regular season, with 16 out of 29 U.S.-based teams showing improvement. This indicates that baseball remains a popular and enduring sport despite short-term fluctuations in viewership.