Is it surprising that baseball is beating the NHL and NBA playoffs?

A blog post on Forbes.com on Monday by Maury Brown claimed that despite four exciting sports events being nationally televised last Wednesday, “it was not hockey or basketball or even that Mets-Cubs that people were watching, but Major League Baseball on their local regional sports networks.”

The post goes on to show the 14 cities (of MLB’s 24 TV markets) where the local MLB game was the highest-rated sports broadcast on Wednesday with these charts:

Forbes graphics (http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2015/05/18/baseball-is-beating-the-nba-and-nhl-playoffs-in-local-tv-ratings)
Forbes graphics (http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2015/05/18/baseball-is-beating-the-nba-and-nhl-playoffs-in-local-tv-ratings)

I don’t think those charts are particularly informative, so I made my own. I would prefer to include the other 10 markets as well, but I didn’t have immediate access to the ratings for them. One thing I added to the data was whether the TV market in question has a team relevant to that night’s game. I also used the higher-rated of the two NBA games.

ratings-01

A couple comments I have to add to Brown’s:

• Brown says “Even in Cleveland, where baseball has not been kind to fans early in the season, ratings on the local RSN won the day.”

But the Indians game barely beat out the Wizards-Hawks game, and if the Cavs had been playing, I’m sure it would have been a different story.

• Brown: “Leading the way was FOX Sports Kansas City who drew a blistering 13.0 rating for the Kansas City Royals game against the Texas Rangers. That FOX Sports KC rating compared to a 1.6 rating for the two NBA playoff games in the market, a 0.5 rating for the Mets-Cubs game, and a 0.1 rating in KC for the dramatic Game 7 in the NHL on NBC Sports Network.”

It’s true, the Royals’ TV ratings have been spectacular and absolutely crushed the competition on Wednesday. But Kansas City had no rooting interest in any other game — it doesn’t even have a team in the NBA or NHL. That pattern is true for each of these 14 TV markets. Each game in which the city had a rooting interest outperformed those in which it didn’t.

The closest city to breaking that trend was Baltimore, but Baltimore TV viewers can probably be expected to tune in for Washington sports teams — and the Wizards and Capitals both played Wednesday night.

So yes, MLB ratings have been outperforming other sports in a good chunk of the MLB’s TV markets. But we can make more sense of the data than just a simple ranking.

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