Losing costs Twins half their TV audience

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2013 - 6:27 AM
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As Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer and Chris Colabello posted a losing season, so did their TV ratings.

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

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The Minnesota Twins’ TV ratings paid the price last season for the team’s third straight noncompetitive season.

More than half of the viewers who watched Twins games on Fox Sports North (FSN) in 2010, the team’s last winning season, have now tuned out, according to ratings compiled by the A.C. Nielsen company, sources with access to the numbers say.

The TV viewership of games has been eroded by 291 losses over three years. Roughly 73,000 households in the Twin Cities tuned in to an average Twins game in 2013, or fewer than half of the 152,000 that Nielsen estimates watched an average game in 2010. (To be fair, the 2010 season was unusually strong, given the team’s sixth Central Division title in a decade and especially its first season at Target Field.)

Still, the alarming slippage of the past two years slowed considerably in 2013. And even at this low ebb, the team’s local ratings, on a per-capita basis, remain just outside the top one-third in Major League Baseball (MLB).

“We did not see the large declines this season that other teams reported, which is good,” said Kevin Smith, the Twins’ senior director of broadcasting. “And we’re still [ranked] 11[th] nationally in per-game rating. We were actually ahead of half the teams in the playoffs, which is amazing. It’s a strong market.”

After losing 30,000 to 40,000 households in each of the past two seasons, the 2013 decline was closer to 6,000, or about 6.4 percent of the remaining audience. That suggests to Twins officials that their core fan base is hanging in there and that they may be poised for a turnaround on TV, once they show signs of one on the field.

“When we were winning, we were at the top of baseball,” Smith said, referencing the Twins’ standing as the second-highest-rated team in MLB, behind the Phillies, in 2010.

“Those numbers have settled down now, but we’ve sort of held steady at the top of the middle,” he said. “People still have curiosity about what’s going to happen every night, and winning will take care of a lot of things.”

It could be worse, after all.

The New York Yankees, operating in baseball’s biggest market, lost 111,000 viewers per night this year, a 31.2 percent plunge that left the partly team-owned YES Network with just 244,000 fans a night — about half of what they had in 2007.

The New York Mets lost 29 percent of their viewership last year, too, according to the New York Times.

Remarkably, the Houston Astros’ broadcast of a game with Cleveland on Sept. 22 registered a rating of 0.0. As far as Nielsen could tell, nobody watched.

The Twins, on the other hand, “were down a little, but not too much, and we had so many early-season games that were postponed or delayed by the weather, our numbers took a little bit of a beating. That didn’t help,” Smith said. “We’re energized by where we expect to go next year. We think the team will be better. We’ve added a new coach, and Fox keeps improving its production” through additions such as a super-slo-mo camera that was used for a few late-season games.

Revenue won’t suffer

The best news for the Twins: Unlike through-the-turnstile attendance at Target Field, the decline in TV ratings has virtually no effect on their bottom line. In fact, their income from television is about to take a large jump in 2014.

The increased revenue comes from MLB’s new national media contracts with ESPN, Fox and TBS, which agreed to payments totaling $12.4 billion over the next eight years, more than doubling their expiring contracts. That means the Twins, like the other 29 teams, will collect more than $50 million a year from the networks, instead of the roughly $25 million they took in this year.

And the great majority of Twins games televised by FSN? Those are covered by a contract whose length and value neither the Twins nor FSN will reveal, other than to say the team just finished its second season under it. But the contract, negotiated shortly after the franchise’s smashingly successful debut season in Target Field, has been rumored to pay anywhere from $25 million to $40 million per season.

Fangraphs.com pegs the amount at $29 million per season, a price the network largely recoups in subscriber fees charged to cable and satellite customers every month.

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  • Chart: Sagging interest in Twins on TV

    Friday November 8, 2013

    Sagging interestMinnesota Twins Ratings on FSN• 7.48 in 2008128,000 households• 6.25 in 2009 (-16.4%)108,000 households• 8.70 in 2010 (+38.0%)152,000 households•...

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Top 5th123456789RHE
Cleveland0020     260
Minnesota0100     140
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
HR: CLE- None MIN- None

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Toronto 1 Bottom 7th Inning
NY Yankees 2
Washington 2 Bottom 8th Inning
Miami 0
NY Mets 6 Top 6th Inning
Atlanta 2
Boston 3 Bottom 6th Inning
Baltimore 0
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 7th Inning
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago WSox 6 Top 6th Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Cleveland 2 Bottom 4th Inning
Minnesota 1
Detroit 1 Top 4th Inning
Kansas City 2
Seattle 1 Top 5th Inning
Houston 1
Los Angeles 4 Top 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 1
Texas - N. Tepesch 2:35 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 3:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong 3:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Arizona - W. Miley 3:10 PM
Colorado - C. Bergman
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 20 4th Qtr 11:38
Buffalo 10
Dallas 20 4th Qtr 8:15
St. Louis 24
Washington 20 3rd Qtr 3:44
Philadelphia 27
Houston 10 4th Qtr 10:41
NY Giants 20
Minnesota 9 4th Qtr 12:19
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 0 4th Qtr 9:26
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 17 4th Qtr 10:47
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 4th Qtr 10:40
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 30 4th Qtr 14:50
Jacksonville 3
Oakland 9 4th Qtr 9:55
New England 13
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 3rd Prd 17:01
Carolina 2
Buffalo 4:00 PM
Washington
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Columbus
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Calgary
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 1st Half 35:00
Toronto FC 0
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 11:39
Montreal 25
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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