The 2013 Nats started off slowly, underachieved for most of the season, never really contended for a playoff berth and fell far short of 2012’s happiness and joy.
The 2014 Nats have been flirting with first place for weeks and enter the all-star break tied for first in the division, within a game of the NL’s best mark and with the best run differential in the National League.
And yet the team’s local television ratings are down, substantially. According to SportsBusiness Journal’s annual July assessment of local TV ratings for baseball’s 29 U.S. franchises, Nationals ratings in the D.C. television market on MASN/MASN2 and
WDCW WUSA are averaging a 1.90 rating, which is down 34 percent from the same point last season. That’s the third-biggest drop in baseball, behind just the Dodgers — who are struggling with distribution on their new regional network — and the last-place Rangers.
The Nats are averaging 46,000 homes through the first week of July; last year at this time, they were averaging 67,000 homes, and I was writing about how much ratings were up.
In the Baltimore market, meanwhile, the Orioles are averaging a 5.58 rating and 62,000 homes for broadcasts on MASN, MASN2 and WJZ, according to SportsBusiness Journal. That’s down 7 percent from the same time last season.
The Nats have the 21st biggest average rating of the American teams, and the 24th biggest average audience. The Orioles have the eighth biggest average rating, and the 17th biggest average audience.
By point of comparison, the Wizards averaged a 1.04 rating this season on Comcast SportsNet. The Caps have been in the mid 1.0s in recent seasons.
A possible explanation? Well, Washington was the country’s top-rated English-language World Cup market over the past six weeks. Were D.C.-area sports fans transforming their casual Nats fandom into casual World Cup fandom? Or do 23,000 households just miss Davey Johnson so much that they’re no longer tuning in?
(In case you’re wondering about game times, a quick review suggests that the Nats played 13 West Coast games in the first half last season, and 13 West Coast games in the first half this season.)