Detroit Tigers: How Will You Watch Baseball in 2017?

In 2016, the Detroit Tigers had one of the largest local viewerships in all of the MLB.

The Detroit Tigers finished in third place in local television viewer ratings with only the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals bringing in more viewers.

According to an article by the Detroit Free Press, after 152 games broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit, the Tigers saw a jump of 11% after the 2015 season. The magic number for the Tigers in 2016 was 7.02 – which means that 7% of the TV market watched the games. Considering everything else that’s on TV, this is not too bad. For comparison purposes, the Chicago Cubs had a season rating around 5.

Not too bad, Tigers. Not too bad at all.

It is clear that Tigers fans like their baseball and they like it on TV.

In an article from Forbes, the news for the Tigers on TV was even better. According to Nielsen data from games played on prime time television between April 3 and September 25, “nine clubs had the No. 1 ranking across all TV networks in prime time (Royals, Tigers, Orioles, Pirates, Indians, Red Sox, Mariners, and Giants).”

Tigers are TV Gold

Sep 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) catches a ground ball against the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If these numbers tell a story, it is clear that the Tigers are good for television. But, according to an article by the Washington Post from Rick Maese on December 14, sports viewership is moving from the TV screen to the computer/smartphone/tablet screen. The first time that the MLB streamed a game to computers, they have 30,000 viewers. This was in 2002. Since that first live-streamed game, over 40,000 MLB games have made their way onto screens other than those on television.

The big problem with watching baseball on the computer is that it is nearly impossible to watch local baseball on it. The way that MLB.TV is set up, local baseball teams are blacked out. So, even in my home of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I cannot watch the Tigers on my phone or computer. But, it is easy to flip on FSD and take in the entire game.

Cable Subscriptions Driving Away Young Viewers

Baseball has another issue – people who do not want to pay the high price of cable or satellite TV. Baseball know-it-alls constantly talk about how baseball is a game that old men enjoy. So, the big worry is about how to keep the old guys happy while drawing the young guys and children. Despite this rumor about the old guys’ game, baseball does actually have young people watching it.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal by Sarah Jacoby, she shares some information about the ages of baseball fans. In the article, Jacoby credits Rob Manfred as reporting that baseball is the preferred sport of children under 12. He also notes that the MLB “At Bat” app has an average user age of 30. She also shares a few other interesting numbers. One is that Hispanic viewership has increased since 2014. She also shared information about the old guys: “In 2015, according to Nielsen’s annual year-in-sports report, some 59% of viewers for national baseball television broadcasts were over 50…”

So, this is where the issue with watching baseball on TV or a computer comes into play. Young people, especially Millennials, are more likely to watch streaming video rather than a traditional cable or satellite show. But, if you cannot watch a local baseball game on your tablet or smartphone, then what’s the point? It’s such a big money grab that puts the fans at a disadvantage. When people watch baseball on their TV screens, the whole family can enjoy the game. But, this is not the case on a computer or smartphone screen.

When people cut the cord and stop paying for cable or satellite TV service, eventually, there will be big changes about channel features. Sports are expensive to showcase. There could be a chance that fans will be asked to pay even more than they already are to watch live sports – even the local games – if subscriptions drop too low.

So, how will you watch your Tigers in 2017? Cable or computer? I much prefer to watch the games on the TV (I qualify as a Gen-Xer), but my favorite way to watch the Tigers is from the seats in Comerica Park. As long as the Tigers continue to have entertaining players like Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Jose Iglesias on the roster, they shouldn’t have too many issues continuing their viewership success.

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