It should come as no surprise that, as the Chicago Cubs become less competitive, interest in them wanes. I see that experientially here, and we all notice it in conversations with more casual fans.
But the drop-off this year has been dramatic, and it has been markedly awful in the TV space.
Ratings on Comcast SportsNet for the season through June 30 were down almost 40% from last year — the biggest slide among all 30 Major League Baseball teams, according to a compilation of ratings data published in SportsBusiness Journal.
An average of 94,877 households tuned in to each of Comcast’s 33 Cubs games in the first three months of the season. Although that’s the ninth-highest rating in the league, it’s still 39% lower than the same period last season, according to the publication, which relied on data from Nielsen Media Research.
“When a team isn’t doing well in the standings, their ratings usually suffer,” New York-based sports television consultant Lee Berke said. “But the Cubs still have a great brand and loyal following to get fans to tune in.” Crain’s Chicago Business.
That’s a pretty shocking drop-off – 40% in one year? Yes, the Cubs were more competitive through June of last year, but they were pretty un-fun to watch. What we could be seeing is not only the typical decline associated with a team that is scuffling, but the combined effect of back-to-back highly disappointing seasons.
The Cubs better be careful, or the loss of these casual fans – probably a temporary, seasonal problem – could turn into the permanent loss. That is to say, they won’t come back in April.