Bulls of the Week
The heritage brand that is the Los Angeles Dodgers added another layer of rich storytelling to its 137-year history on Tuesday by winning a neutral site World Series in the most bizarre of Major League Baseball seasons.
It helped make it a bullish week for Dodger blue, the Guggenheim Baseball Management consortium that bought the team out of bankruptcy in 2012 and the City of Los Angeles, which completed a rare double in North American sports, with the Dodgers joining the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers as 2020 league champions.
Ironically, the last time the Dodgers won a World Series was in 1988, another year in which the Lakers also won.
The win over the Tampa Bay Rays was the seventh title in franchise history and sixth since the team moved from Brooklyn to Hollywood in 1958. More remarkably in terms of the track record of the deep-pocketed Guggenheim ownership group, 2020 marked the eighth consecutive NL West divisional title won by the Dodgers. They’ve finished first in their division every time since 2013, the year after they assumed control.
The average American audience for the deciding game this year was just 12.6 million.
The silver lining comes in two layers. First, the final game peaked at 14.4 million viewers and recorded a total audience delivery of 13.22 million when Spanish and digital audiences were added and those numbers still easily won the night on U.S. television.
Most important, when you consider how close MLB and its players’ association came to cancelling the entire season and going dark, the historically-low ratings can be viewed in a slightly more optimistic light, especially given how most leagues have seriously underperformed TV-wise in this discombobulated year of COVID-19.
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The Dodgers have also appeared in six of the past eight National League Championship Series and three of the last four World Series. Yet none of that would have mattered much had the Dodgers not finally come through after eight seasons in which they carried either the first, second or third most expensive payroll in MLB.
When Guggenheim purchased the Dodgers just over eight years ago for US$2 billion, it was the biggest transaction in MLB history. Back in the winner’s circle, the Dodgers are now worth US$3.4 billion, a 70 per cent appreciation in less than a decade.
Only the COVID-19 pandemic arrested L.A.’s streak of seven straight seasons of MLB-leading attendance at Dodger Stadium. Ticket sales alone have hovered around the US$185 million mark per season, with the vast majority of the remaining US$371 million in annual revenues coming from regional television rights.
Bears of the Week
Despite the presence of the second-largest media market in North America and the national, multi-generational following behind the Dodgers, the pandemic World Series was a dud in terms of national TV ratings, especially considering the competition for fans that typically comes from the NBA and NHL was not there this fall.
The Series average was 9.8 million, the all-time lowest mark for a World Series. The ratings were down 30 per cent from the Washington Nationals’ seven-game win over the Houston Astros last year, and the overall World Series numbers were down 32 per cent from the previous low registered by the 2012 October Classic between the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers.