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Nats TV Audience: Up 56 Percent


But the TV ratings are shooting upward! (By Alex Brandon - AP)


The TV ratings news from NatsTown was mixed this morning. On the one hand, both the team's local ratings and its television audience were up at least 50 percent, the second-biggest jump in the Majors, behind only the first-place Texas Rangers.

For a sub-.300 team with MLB's worst record, a franchise that's been assaulted by nothing but bad publicity since Spring Training began, this seems nothing short of miraculous. A 56 percent ratings jump? Pop the dang bubbly.

On the other hand, the numbers themselves are still ghastly, stunningly horrific, easily the worst in the country, according to Sports Business Journal. The average rating (for games on MASN/MASN2 in the D.C. market) is a 0.53, still the lowest among baseball's U.S. franchises, and significantly below the local numbers on Comcast SportsNet and Comcast SportsNet plus for the Caps and the Wizards.

The Nats' audience size works out to an average of approximately 12,000 households. That's 7,000 fewer households than the next smallest TV audience in MLB, that of the Oakland A's. And if you go beyond Oakland (which has seen the biggest decline), the Nats' have about a third the television audience of every other U.S. franchise.

That's a hard number, not even accounting for the fact that we live in a large media market. The next lowest is the Baltimore Orioles, who draw an average of 34,000 households. Combined with the sinking attendance (fourth-lowest in MLB) and the awful record (worst in MLB), it would be hard to have the Nats too far near the top in any rankings of total franchise health.

(And sure, this is comparing apples to small pebbles, but the Yankees have an average audience of 320,000, or about 27 times that of the Nats.)

This data is all from Sports Business Journal (story here, ratings here), which notes that, overall, MLB's regional TV ratings are down two percent, although "more than half of the league's teams have posted ratings increases."

It was this same report, issued about 11 months ago, that first created the legend of the 9,000, that being the stunningly small size of the Nats' TV audience last summer. By later in the fall, the number had winnowed to 8,000. I can think of three ways to spin the jump to 12,000.

* MASN now has a more compelling product. Seriously. Rob Dibble--first-person plural aside--is fantastic, and hard to ignore, especially because he seems to be the lone voice of reason in the organization. The young pitchers might be losing, but at least they're interesting. The offense is no longer anemic, and it's hard to turn away from Adam Dunn at-bats. Even the bullpen implosions were compelling in a stick-yourself-with-needles kind of way. I watch far more games this year than I did a year ago, and other fans are apparently joining me.

* In-game attendance has plummeted, down 35 percent through the first 13 games, for example, which covers most of this TV survey. That's thousands more (theoretical) fans who are at home, on couches, able to surf over to MASN. So if you're robbing from your gate to fuel your TV audience, that's not a very profitable trade.

Plus, the weather was so rotten there, season-ticket holders (who are counted in attendance regardless) may have been more likely to stay home and watch on TV.

* This survey was taken before the latest rut entered its current abyss, with six straight losses and 15 in the past 17 games. Also, the early season was propped up by the Zim hitting streak, which made for some more must-see TV, or at least maybe-if-I'm-home-I'll-watch TV. Will be interesting to see what happens to the number as D.C. empties out in June and July.

Either way, the news this morning wasn't all bad, which in NatsTown, means it was pretty dang good.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 1, 2009; 8:53 AM ET
Categories:  MLB , Media , Nats  
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Comments

The teams TV ratings will be a joke until they can get freed from the MASN problem. As long as the O's control the broadcast. It will not result in any progress for the team. Until they are on their own station regularly, where you don't need to flip through 3 stations to figure out where they are its not going to work. Oh and the "HD" broadcast is like watching a cheaply made you-tube video where it goes pixelated out 1/2 the time.

Posted by: alex35332 | June 1, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the above comments. When masn puts the game on the non-HD masn2, I'm not as interested in staying with the broadcast. I do like the change away from Don Sutton

Posted by: Max231 | June 1, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

"It would be hard to have the Nats too far near the top in any rankings of total franchise health."

Thanks to a low payroll, Forbes has the Nats ranked a close 2nd in operating profit last year; $42 million is a pretty healthy number.

Any truth to the message board rumor that the Nats FO instructed Ray Knight to tone down his criticism of the team?

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 1, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

and lemme say, I do like Johnny & Ray's pre & post game shows...

Posted by: Max231 | June 1, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Better than expected news, but still terrible news. The team is bad, the organization is marginal, and this thing's not gonna turn around until the system can be beefed up from MLB's control in the pre-Lerner era.

Posted by: law3 | June 1, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

That lady's umbrella matches her poncho.

Posted by: fushezzi | June 1, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Alex's comments are correct.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | June 1, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Alex's comments are correct.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | June 1, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I just had a Homer Simpson moment.

The meteor breaks up in the atmosphere
Lisa: "So that mean's Dad was right"
Homer: "I know kids I'm scared too."

Posted by: alex35332 | June 1, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Hard as it may be for some to admit, the Capitals are the number two sports franchise in this town right now.

Posted by: dcsportsdude | June 1, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

"The teams TV ratings will be a joke until they can get freed from the MASN problem."

I would have agreed with this a couple years ago, but it's just not true. If people are interested (I am), they'll find the game on MASN, Ch. 50 or MASN2. Quite frankly, the franchise is perceived by many in the region as a joke - very few people want to watch. Period.

Lots of teams have peculiar TV set-ups. Heck, Cubs fans have to scan about 5 different channels to find their team (WGN, CSN, CSN+, Fox, ESPN) - but they watch in the millions.

There are many reasons for the Nationals failure - MASN is only a very small one.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 1, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse


"Hard as it may be for some to admit, the Capitals are the number two sports franchise in this town right now. "
Posted by: dcsportsdude


Shhh, don't let Fisher hear you say that

Posted by: popopo | June 1, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Kev29
You would be right if the MASN issue was just about the game. But its not. Its about the PR for the network and the team. Its about the fact that when the team is not playing it seams 75% of the stuff on masn is O's stuff. Its about the fact that I live 5 blocks from the stadium in a apartment on the 8th floor and cannot get the games on the radio. Its about not controlling ones own destiny in the media and how that impacts the owners attitude about the team. Its not just about the broadcasts of the games.

Posted by: alex35332 | June 1, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

so, is Montreal ready to take these guys back now? maybe we can airlift the stadium there as well.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | June 1, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Fortunately he is no longer with The Post, popopo. Unfortunately, he is still writing.

Posted by: sitruc | June 1, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

how does 12,0000 figure compare with TV viewers for DC United on comcast? Is baseball beating soccer?

Posted by: causmos | June 1, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Are the Orioles 30K households only in the Baltimore market? What do the Orioles get in the DC market?

Posted by: jk1492 | June 1, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

how does 12,0000 figure compare with TV viewers for DC United on comcast? Is baseball beating soccer?

Posted by: causmos | June 1, 2009 10:59 AM

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2008/07/dc_united_vs_nats_tv_ratings.html

If you look at Dan's post from last summer, looks like United and Nats TV numbers are pretty similar.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 1, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"Hard as it may be for some to admit, the Capitals are the number two sports franchise in this town right now."

What difference does it make. If you root for one washington team, you should root for them all. This pitting teams against each other is childish.

Posted by: JDB1 | June 1, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

The only reasonable explanation is that due to how amazingly awful the team is, more people are tuning in briefly to see for themselves just how horrific this miserable excuse of a baseball team is.

Posted by: jollyroger2 | June 1, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the Nats have sold out tickets for June and July, I just got an e-mail from the ticket office and the featured series they are promoting is the Marlins in the first week of August.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 1, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Following up on that, did anyone notice that MASN got the visiting team wrong when promoting the games for this week? They had a graphic telling fans to tune in for the series against the Reds starting on Tuesday.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 1, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

My suggestion for MASN, designate one channel for each team - MASN for O's, MASN 2 for Nats and have both available in HD!! That's right, have all games for both teams shown in Hi-Def! I get tired of having to watch the Nats on the regular channel because MASN is showng the O's playing the Yankees or the Red Sox in MASN HD.

Posted by: teamohall | June 1, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Look out. The Nats are about to turn the corner.

Posted by: richs91 | June 1, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

You pit teams against each other, because not everybody from the DC area cares about the gNats.

Anyone born between 1970 and 2000 has likely been raised as an Oriole fan (if any), and the complete debacle that is Nationals Park has made it next to impossible for United (the only DC-Area team to win a title in the last 18 years) to get their own stadium built (for less than 1/3rd what the Nationals STOLE from the city). Not that I'm bitter or anything...

Posted by: alecw81 | June 1, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Why wouldn't they be?.....this is Baseball history in the making right before our eyes............Who would have thought the 62 Mets 120 losses could/ would ever be surpassed........in our lifetime.............Where's Ken Burns' film crew?

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | June 1, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

My suggestion for MASN, designate one channel for each team - MASN for O's, MASN 2 for Nats and have both available in HD!!

Posted by: teamohall | June 1, 2009 1:30 PM

Good luck getting Comcast to agree on dedicating 4 channels to MASN. They barely agreed to one! And if the regions largest cable provider won't do it, then MASN won't do it, because the Nats would end up being marooned on a channel that few people get (and no one gets MASN2 HD). And there really isn't a full time MASN2, except on satellite and it's for games only.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 1, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

@ Kev29
"I would have agreed with this a couple years ago, but it's just not true. If people are interested (I am), they'll find the game on MASN, Ch. 50 or MASN2. Quite frankly, the franchise is perceived by many in the region as a joke - very few people want to watch. Period."

Finding the game is only a minor annoyance for me. What is a major annoyance is the picture and sound quality of the game whenever it is not on the main MASN channel. I am a huge Nats fan and a huge baseball fan in general but I literally can not stand to watch. I can hardly hear the announcers above the crowd mic. If I want to hear what Carpenter and Dibble are saying I have to turn the TV way up, making the crowd a deafening roar. And the sound is better than the picture which should tell you something. You are correct that that isn't the only problem but when a huge baseball fan like me, who has been waiting for baseball to return since the team moved to Texas, has a hard time "powering through" a game then you know a casual fan isn't going to make the effort.

Posted by: ouvan59 | June 1, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

You make a couple good points, Rob Dibble is a breath of fresh air and Zims hitting streak helping the ratings. When will the front office start acting like a MLB Front Office? It's tough to keep watching this!

Posted by: BeltwayBoy | June 1, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Let's face it. The Nats have wasted the first 5 seasons in D.C.; the most crucial period in any new franchise's existence. They have also wasted the first two seasons in their new ballpark; the second most important period in a franchise's existence.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no indication that, even with near-perfect operation (which is unlikely), the Nats are less than 3 years from matching their first season in Washington (81-81).

So now there is no novelty left to having a team. And the opportunity to build a large following, in a city whose residents mostly follow other teams, has been lost for many years to come.

It's going to take one or two good years just to start winning-back the trust of many baseball fans in the area. And this team's current front office hasn't shown anything except the ability to go backwards. (Win totals in D.C.: 81, 71, 73, 59, and on pace for 43 this year)

When does the fun part start?

Posted by: noslok | June 1, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

The Nats suck like nothing else. Only an idiot would actually go to the SE ghetto to sit through a gNats "game." I consider the Orioles (MY local team which I fully support and i live in MoCo) to be a "bad" team but they have TEN more wins than the gNats and 8 less losses! The gNats are DEAD LAST in the overall standings and the next closest team is Oakland with SIX MORE WINS.

The gNats need to go back to Montreal since they're an embarassment to the DC Area. Nothing annoys the hell out of me more than to see a moron wearing a W cap or jacket. The O's are the true Balt-Wash team, and even if they aren't all that good they are still waaaaay better than DC which is embarrasing to say the least.

Posted by: TheMarylander | June 1, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Maybe their numbers suck because they suck.

I wonder what will become of Mayor Williams' folly on the Anacostia when this team gets sent to a more hospitable market.

Where are all the crybabies that wanted Baseball in DC? Did they think the tickets were going to be free?

Or did they get voted out of office in the November elections and move back to Hometown, U.S.A?

I don't see the D.C. area supporting Baseball.

Posted by: LeftwithNochoice | June 1, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

btw Steinberg, percentages mean NOTHING. Gross numbers is waht it's all about. If, for example, the number of people watch the half-ass excuse of a team gNats increase from 2 to 3 that's a 50% increase yet is hardly admirable.

Posted by: TheMarylander | June 1, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"Where are all the crybabies that wanted Baseball in DC? Did they think the tickets were going to be free?

Or did they get voted out of office in the November elections and move back to Hometown, U.S.A?

I don't see the D.C. area supporting Baseball."


Show me baseball and I will support it. Right now all we have is a National joke!

I'm hardly a fair-weather fan. I've been to a couple of games this season. I even went to see them in Los Angeles (although I mostly went for the Dodger Dogs). But I'll be damned if I am going to waste my time (coming-in from Manassas), and money on an organization to which I am literally ashamed to reveal my allegiance.

Posted by: noslok | June 1, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Bog post comments increase 33% when accompanied by a picture featuring someone in a yellow parka.

Posted by: fushezzi | June 1, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

This just in from Wilbon's chat... "I don't watch the Nationals"

Guess he's not one of the 12,000

Posted by: Kev29 | June 1, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

fusheezi is really getting to the bottom of this

Posted by: jpfterps | June 1, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't see the D.C. area supporting Baseball.

Posted by: LeftwithNochoice | June 1, 2009 2:17 PM

In 2005, the only year the Nationals have finished .500, they averaged nearly 34,000 per game. That was good for 11th in the league - ahead of such clubs as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the eventual Series winning White Sox. And that was at cruddy RFK! The market is there, the Lerners have FAILED at retaining fans by giving us 318 losses since that season.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 1, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

remarkable considering that the on field product is a complete joke, the team followed a 102 loss waste of a season by starting this year with a losing streak, and Zim's streak peaked during a west coast trip when the games started at 10pm

compare to the other teams all you want, but none of them lose over 70% of the time, really surprised that ratings are even this high

Posted by: TGT11 | June 1, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

You guys didn't want the Redskins and I don't want the Orioles. Stay in Maryland(er).

Dibbs is great.

The team is close if Teddy-Megamall will spend the $42mil instead of lining his pockets.

Posted by: markjd1 | June 1, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Quit whining about the O's, Nats fans. Your team sucks and that is why no one watches. They could be on a continuous loop on ESPN and none of you would watch.

Every single game is broadcast on MASN, you get just as many HD games as the O's do, you have no excuses anymore.

Posted by: chirsch | June 1, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

An addition to the MASN buckitide: no lacrosse to speak of, either!

Posted by: bs2004 | June 1, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I think the Washington fans are great. No kidding

First we clearly have the worst baseball team in the Majors. Record bad. This is just a long line of bad baseball teams that have plagued this city. People my age clearly remember the Senators but they weren’t even this bad. Right now we’re averaging 27,037 in attendance and we’re 27th out of 30 teams. Nothing to brag about but considering how bad this team is that’s not bad. Washington has always been the given a bum rap that this is a bad sports town. It’s a great sport’s town we just have lousy sports teams. Look at the Caps. Look at the Wizards. Look at the Redskins. The last two being horrible organizations and they still draw well. The Caps (no finals) has done an unbelievable job in a bad economy due to great ownership. This city doesn’t need much to support its clubs, just competent leadership.

Posted by: Bean1 | June 1, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

This just in from Wilbon's chat... "I don't watch the Nationals"

Guess he's not one of the 12,000

---------------

Wilbon's comment on ESPN when Soriano signed with the Cubs "Good! Who cares about the Nats?" Any Washington sports writer that uttered that on national TV should have been fired. Wilbon slurps all the Chicago teams -- so why isn't he employed there?

Posted by: raymitten | June 1, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore's had a team for 55 years, it fields a far more competitive team than DC, yet it finished 28th of 30 in ratings?

Percent seats sold in Baltimore is nearly 4 points lower than in the DC, why doesn't the Post show an empty section of Camden Yards?

Posted by: TGT11 | June 1, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Who are these people who are polled? In all of my many years I have never been asked to particpate in any radio or tv polling.

I do agree that Dibble is very very good. On occasion he has embarrased Carpenter but they seem to get along most of the time and he is not afraid of criticizing players and management. I wonder how he gets along with the players?

Posted by: MKadyman | June 1, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Percent seats sold in Baltimore is nearly 4 points lower than in the DC, why doesn't the Post show an empty section of Camden Yards?
------------------------------

Because a bunch of readers threw a fit and insisted that the WP stopped covering the O's?

Posted by: TS1231 | June 1, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Because a bunch of readers threw a fit and insisted that the WP stopped covering the O's?

Posted by: TS1231 | June 1, 2009 6:00 PM

Really? You honestly think that reader complaints are the reason why the dying newspaper industry eliminates budget line items? Orioles in person coverage was just more thing the Post could remove from the bottom line.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 1, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

thing is, the Orioles get better attendance than the Nats in the DC MARKET. So, in what used to be their home market (DC + Baltimore), their household numbers are about 50,000/game. Still not great, but about what a struggling mid-market team gets.

Posted by: jk1492 | June 1, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry. Dibble is a great reason to listen to the games on the radio.

Posted by: TWTIB | June 2, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

how does 12,0000 figure compare with TV viewers for DC United on comcast? Is baseball beating soccer?

Posted by: causmos | June 1, 2009 10:59 AM

Not even close. Soccer is still the lowest on the totem pole by far, as support is basically non-existent.

From the Post:

"The four regular-season D.C. United games that have aired on CSN this season have drawn an average rating of 0.1 in the Washington market, or about 2,500 households."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/01/AR2009060103180.html

Posted by: capsnumber1 | June 2, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

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