Rays-Dodgers Opener on Fox Is the Least-Watched World Series Game of All Time

9.195 million total viewers is not just the smallest-ever audience for an opener, it’s the worst for any World Series game

World Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game One
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Updated 1:01 p.m. PT: With 9.195 million total viewers, Game 1 of the 2020 World Series is officially the least-watched World Series game of all time. The Rays vs. Dodgers’ Tuesday opener on Fox drew a 2.4 rating among adults 18-49, according to final Nielsen numbers.

The 2.4 rating in the key demo is not a new all-time low for a World Series game. Game 4 of 2019 had a 2.3 rating, for a recent (lower-rated) example. It is, however, tied for an all-time ratings low among opening games. The last 2.4 rating from a World Series Game 1 came in 1999.

When adding streaming and Fox Deportes, the overall viewership was 9.48 million viewers, which still puts it behind the 9.8 million that watched Game 3 between the Rays and Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, the previous low.

Previously, 8:35 a.m. PT:
Swing and a miss. The Los Angeles Dodgers may have won last night, but we’re not so sure broadcast network Fox did.

According to earliest-available Nielsen numbers, the 2020 World Series Game 1 on Fox averaged a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49 and 7.2 million total viewers. While those easily topped Tuesday’s primetime, they are down huge from last year’s initial figures.

However, due to the nature of live sports, the data in this story should be considered subject to significant adjustment. Final numbers, which will be adjusted for all the west-coast Dodger viewing, will be in later today.

In terms of those final Nielsen numbers, the smallest audience ever for a World Series Game 1 came in 2014, with 12.19 million total viewers. In the same data set we’re looking at for this story, what are called “fast-affiliate ratings,” that series had a 2.9 rating and 10.7 million viewers.

So yeah, we’re not even close here. But as New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra famously said: It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. (She’ll be singing in a few hours when final figures come in.)

The smallest (final) audience for a World Series game ever came from 2008’s Game 3, which averaged 9.836 million total viewers. Last night’s loser, the Tampa Bay Rays, was also in that series. And because we know you’re wondering, that game’s fast-affiliate numbers were a 2.9 rating and 10.1 million viewers. It aired on a Saturday night and was delayed by rain for more than 90 minutes and didn’t start until almost 10 p.m. ET.

As we’ve written about many times, sports across the board are suffering from massive TV viewing erosion, whether it be the jam-packed sports lineup (both the NHL and NBA playoffs were pushed to the fall because of the virus) or the unrelenting news cycle about the pandemic or the election.

The least-viewed World Series came in 2012 when the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers, which was viewed by an average of 12.64 million viewers. That already feels out of reach for Fox.


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