The MLB postseason faces a Swiftian ratings challenge — going head to head vs. new NFL icon Taylor Swift – Boston Herald
October always has been synonymous with baseball.
The former national pastime televises its postseason games for four weeks on various networks, culminating in the World Series that now creeps into November. It’s the dessert fans have been waiting for all season, and by adding a third wild-card team to each league in 2022 and making that round best of three instead of single elimination, MLB hopes for more drama and many more eyeballs.
But baseball soon could face a challenge unlike any other in modern TV sports history.
Going head to head against NFL games almost always has been a losing proposition for the postseason schedule makers who decide which games go into afternoon or prime-time slots.
The Taylor Swift phenomenon only adds to baseball’s ratings anxiety.
Swift’s performance on Sept. 24, jumping up and down in a super suite while cheering on her new beau, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, helped Fox’s ratings zoom for the Chiefs blowout of the hapless Chicago Bears. The game drew 24 million viewers, according to Variety, a prime source of the latest Swift news, and had the highest female demographics for ages 12-17 and 18-49.
In comparison, last year’s World Series between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies averaged 11.78 million viewers for Fox, including a high of 13 million for the decisive Game 6. It was the second-lowest-rated World Series, beating only the 2020 matchup in Arlington, Texas, between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, which averaged 9.94 million.
Swift’s return to the NFL for the Chiefs-New York Jets game on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” figures to top her debut when ratings are revealed. When it comes to attracting attention, Swift obviously has the Midas touch. Her name was invoked several times by the network’s announcers, and the NFL quickly jumped on the hype train by making photos of Swift at Sunday’s game the background of its account on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
Barring a breakup, her attendance at future Chiefs games makes them must-see TV for a generation of fans who love to follow Swift’s every move. MLB, on the other hand, has hitched its wagon to the Rolling Stones, appealing to a generation perpetually in search of its car keys.
Baseball announced last week in a press release it has “joined forces” with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and the guy who replaced Charlie Watts to release a limited vinyl edition of the Stones’ new album, “Hackney Diamonds,” that features a pocket jacket of custom art displaying their “iconic tongue and lips logo” in each team’s colors. In addition, the release stated, “the logo’s tongue has been designed to look like a baseball.”
Taylor Swift versus the Stones as cultural icons is not a debate worth arguing. My teenage nieces who know every Swift lyric advised me, “Don’t go there.” Suffice to say Swift is still peaking, while the Stones are 51 years removed from “Exile on Main St.” Game over.
So how might Swift affect playoff ratings?
Four Chiefs games are on tap from Sunday through Oct. 29, which means four potential matchups between the MLB postseason and the Swifties:
- Oct. 8: The Chiefs play the Vikings in Minnesota at 3:25 p.m. on CBS. The American League Division Series has two Game 2s scheduled on a network to be announced: the Minnesota Twins or Toronto Blue Jays at the Baltimore Orioles, and the Texas Rangers or Tampa Bay Rays at the Houston Astros. The defending champion Astros remain America’s Most Hated Team because of the 2017 sign-stealing scandal. An Astros-Swift matchup could be a blowout. Advantage: Taylor.
- Oct. 12: The Chiefs host the Denver Broncos at 7:15 p.m. on “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video. The National League Division Series has two Game 4s scheduled on TBS: the Atlanta Braves at either the Philadelphia Phillies or Miami Marlins, and the Los Angeles Dodgers at either the Milwaukee Brewers or Arizona Diamondbacks. Without the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox in the playoff field, the Dodgers are MLB’s prime-time team. Prime Video games draw fewer viewers than “SNF,” but the addition of Swift could make subscriptions skyrocket. Advantage: Taylor.
- Oct. 22: The Chiefs host the Los Angeles Chargers at 3:25 p.m. on CBS. Game 6 of the AL Championship Series, if necessary, will be on Fox or FS1. Because the potential ALCS game would be in prime time, it would overlap only with the end of the Chiefs-Chargers games. MLB will pray there’s no overtime. Advantage: Taylor.
- Oct. 29: The Chiefs play the Broncos in Denver at 3:25 p.m. on CBS in a rematch of their Oct. 12 game. Game 3 of the World Series will be in prime time on Fox. The Chiefs could play the Broncos every game and it wouldn’t matter as long as Swift is watching from a super suite. And while she likely would outdraw any World Series matchup, Fox probably is rooting for a Dodgers-Astros rematch, which would settle the score from the Astros’ World Series win over the Dodgers in the scandalous 2017 season. Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly’s iconic tongue meme would be a perfect complement to MLB’s Rolling Stones promotion. Advantage: Taylor.
The Chiefs don’t play again until Nov. 5, when they host the Miami Dolphins at 8:30 a.m. in Frankfurt, Germany. A potential Game 7 of the World Series is scheduled for Nov. 4, so MLB and Fox are safe from another embarrassing blowout.
As a baseball fan, it’s a shame to think America’s pastime might be upstaged by America’s sweetheart on its biggest stage.
But you can’t always get what you want.
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