After the Rays last homestand, we saw that attendance is down 5.2% from last year at the same point. But don’t think for a moment that nobody cares about the Rays. TV ratings for the Rays are at an all-time high and are showing the Rays to be one of the most popular teams in MLB.

Notes on the Rays TV Ratings…

  • The Rays Regional Sports Network (RSN) should also include Sun Sports.
  • The Rays local TV ratings rank 7th in MLB and are up 70.9% from last year. Only the Washington Nationals have had a higher jump from 2009 (139.3%)
  • The average number of households watching Rays games ranks 8th in MLB and is up 69.4% from last year. Again, this trails only the Nationals (140.7%).
  • The Red Sox, who had the highest ratings the last 6 years, are down to 5th this year.

Much of this has to do with fact that the Rays are now available in more households than ever before. Still, to see that only 7 teams have more households turning in to watch their games is truly mindboggling. And it just adds more support to the argument that Rays attendance is all about the stadium.

 
 

22 Comments

  1. AskUs says:

    Clarification, this chart lists FS Florida as Rays’ RSN (regional sports network) – should be Sun Sports.

  2. Carey says:

    I’m going to have to admit – and hammer me all you want – that I enjoy the game more on TV and especially at my local “drinking establishment.” I feel like I can see more of the game on TV (especially the Pitcher vs. Batter and balls and strikes) and I get just as much atmosphere on a stool with my friends at the local pub (Good Pub, BTW, with good beer and a very Rays friendly crowd. Hoogarten pitchers for $12).

    Yes, the Trop is an acceptable venue, much better than is was before. And, I’m not sure if this is a bit of a chicken and egg equation. But the venue just doesn’t do it for me. There is no electricity (maybe there would be more if more people went). Yes the tickets are cheap. But it’s the concessions that aren’t. And, frankly, there is just something about the place that sucks the life out of me.

    Which brings me to another question: Are the Rays truely maximizing their TV revenues? And, should TV revenues be considered a larger part of the business model as a whole moving forward?

    I’ve often thought that a number of factors play in the Rays favor when it comes to maximizing TV revenue. The first is obvious: Success. However, I’ve often wondered if the Rays should be marketing themselves as Florida’s team. A better analagy would be: Everybody outside of Palm Beach, Broward and Dade county’s team. Thinking the Marlins’ switch from Florida to Miami might help in that pursuit.

    • John S says:

      Carey,
      There is nothing wrong with you and your choice going out to favorite establishment for the game.

  3. Gus says:

    While the stadium/stadium location is a factor, bigger factors on attendance are the season ticket base specifically and the economy more generally.

    But it is really encouraging that MLB has finally taken hold in Florida (more than the Marlins ever have). Tampa Bay is the best market in Florida for MLB because it is a very good sports market for its size, because it is not as transient, seasonal and international as South Florida. The locals and midwestern transplants that predominate in the are loyal folks, if you just give them something to love. If the Rays ownership would allow if to blossom, they’ll have a fine asset on their hands. These broadcast numbers are a good leading indicator of that.

  4. Amanda says:

    I’m with Gus … it’s not soley the stadium. People in the Bay area have been out of work for years now. The economy has a lot to do with it.

    • Beth says:

      And the economy is better in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Milwaukee (three of the teams that drew at least 10,000 more than the Rays last night?)

      It’s not the economy. As Brian H notes below, it’s at least in part the pathetically weak corporate sector, which fails to buy up the boxes and season tickets. This is the financial base that keeps other teams going.

      • Gus says:

        Actually yes, the unemployment rate in Florida (11.4) is far worse than Wisconsin (8.4), Pennsylvania (9.2) and Ohio (10.2). Not to mention that Tampa Bay was the worst real estate market in terms of loss of value in the 2nd quarter of 2010.

        Plus, Central Florida was starting off from far fewer corporate entities. But part of the reason corporate support stinks today is that the D-Rays were the worst franchise on earth for 10 years, the Trop was run poorly and people gave up their overpriced suites and season tickets. They ran people who had signed up off with aggressive pricing and horrible product. They got good in 2008, the worst economic year since 1929. Some bad luck, as no company was adding tickets that year, and many were shedding tickets (mine cut our tickets by one-third).

        They’ll end up with their best season atttendance this year in the Ray era as they’ll surpass last September’s bad numbers when they are in a pennant race. But at least people are watching. This is a very good thing.

        • Beth says:

          Gus, I am very much aware of the bad unemployment figures in our area, and if the pre-crash Rays were a good draw I might see unemployment as an adequate explanation. But the difference between Pennsylvania’s 9.5 unemployment rate and ours doesn’t explain 17,000 vs. 40,000 attendance on a Monday night. I think the problem with the corporate base isn’t that the Rays played badly or mismanaged ticket sales — is that our corporate base is weak, period. Our economy is based on real estate, tourism, and adult entertainment, none of which generate the big corporate players who buy up boxes and dispense tickets to employees (although didn’t I see Joe Redner up in the Mons Venus suite last home stand?). That’s just who we are.

          • Gus says:

            Weak corporate base, correct, especially on the Pinellas side. I don’t disagree. But in 1998 all of those suites were sold, and generally they were sold to corporate entities (or groups of companies splitting a suite), as were many of the better tickets. Almost all of those company tickets voted with their feet and left. It takes a long time to recover from that. Once you are in the company budget, you tend to stay there. Once you are out, it is hard to get back in there. The D-Rays blew their first honeymoon, and the economy took a lot of the charge out of their second honeymoon (2008). But they still draw well for the size and wealth of the market.

      • John S says:

        Beth is exactly correct, any good selling team will tell having corporations buy into your product is the foundation of any fiscal success.

        I know it is the other extreme but look at the Yankees or even the Mets they have sucked a lot of money out of that new stadium to allow for a huge increase in cash flow to sign players.

        Unfortunately, the economy in Tampa BAY is very very weak. Regionally the market relies on housing which is a very dangerous game to play. Nationally housing is a little more than 3% of the GDP, while here it is closer to 10%. Housing is not going to get better for at least a couple more years, banks are sitting on properties like its their job and have not even released those to the public.

        Corporations in general are sitting on tons of cash, we have never seen cash ratios like it today but they are not hiring people. Even sadder for St Pete is the fact that Tampa has more corporations that can finance the boxes and the luxury seats. Even weirder is that St Pete’s (even though it is not really St Pete) Raymond James has its corporate money invested in the Tampa Bay Bucs (Tampa) for a long time. I bet they are kicking themselves for that with the recent change in popularity.

        The move to Tampa will take about 5 years, this offseason will be the beginning of the end.

        Also I am not happy about this. I have mentioned this before for the region to be successful it needs St Pete to be successful. This is will cripple St Pete’s already overexpanded budget as hundreds of millions of dollars of city revenue will lost and the Rays can get out of it with a little severance package (maybe 4-5 years of city revenue lost upfront). These contracts are broken all the time and it is not fair with the Rays. The Rays only have to show one example of how their business is being affected negatively by the location. The Rays will break it and will take it to court and win.

        But we do not have a justice system, we have a legal system.

  5. Amanda says:

    The “Rays Regional Network” may be because the Rays have both FS Florida and Sun Sports. Most markets don’t have two networks that carry their team’s games.

  6. Brian H says:

    the major factor is getting businesses involved in season tickets.

  7. Beth says:

    Unlike attendance figures, TV ratings control for market size. That is, TV rating represent a percentage of households watching a show. So we can see that a high percentage of people in the Tampa Bay market watch the Rays. Attendance, on the other hand, is not normalized for market size, so a small market team like our will always seem to draw poorly. Perhaps if attendance were expressed in relation to market size we’d look better!

  8. Jeff says:

    I wish everyone would just understand THE FACTS, not speculation:

    1. The Tampa Bay area is the 14th largest metropolitan area in the country, we are not a “small” market, like Cincinnati, Milwaukee, New Orleans, etc. Mid-market, yes, but there is no reason the area cannot support 3 major sports teams like it’s peers, Phoenix (4 teams), Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, etc.

    2. Bucs and Lightning have been sponsored well by corporations for years. Just because there are not corporate HQ here does not mean the corporate base is weak. Regional offices of major corps are perfectly capable of buying season tickets.

    3. Bucs and Lightning have been at the top of their leagues in attendance for years when the team is good. TB is an above average sports market, by the real numbers, and these TV ratings show that yet again.

    4. The Trop itself and especially the location of the Trop are BY FAR the number 1 and 2 reasons for lack of attendance. The economy is bad everywhere, folks, and baseball is just not that expensive. People will pay for entertainment in any economy. Both corporations and individuals find the Trop to be relatively inaccessible and uninspiring. Period. New stadium in better location= huge success.

    • Beth says:

      Jeff, I largely agree with you but with a few reservations.
      1. The 2009 population estimates I’ve seen show Tampa Bay to be the 19th largest MSA in the US, not the 14th. But your point remains true: there are many smaller MSA’s that support major league baseball.
      2. But…it’s not just the population size, it’s the buying power. And we are poor. The median incomes in our MSA make us 156th in the nation. Households in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and San Antonio all earn more than we do. And it’s not just the recession, Florida incomes are below the national average and have been for decades. So, it’s not just the number of people, it’s the buying power of people, which determines the desirability of the market to advertisers.
      3. A region’s ability to fill the seats for football and hockey doesn’t ensure that it can fill the seats for 82 baseball games. Any sports economist can tell you that the threshold population and spending power to support a baseball team is much larger than for any other professional sport.

      So…maybe a better stadium location can compensate for some of these disadvantages, but they remain disadvantages.

      • Jeff says:

        Can’t argue with the numbers (although 14th MSA includes Sarasota/Bradenton, which we know the Rays count as a market. Numbers and stats can be deceiving, though, kind of like batting average :) Ask the naysayers who said the International Mall could never survive here or those who don’t realize the St. Pete Times Forum is the #3 producing arena in North America for concert (i.e. entertainment) revenue. Why? There’s plenty of disposable income and those venues are modern, centrally located and wonderfully accessible to the entire population.

  9. Joe says:

    A fact that no one talks about, no one held a gun to Rays’ management signing over an EIGHT YEAR television contract that probably only gives them 15% of what they should be getting commensurate with other local television packages in baseball. This is an egregious error by Sternberg, Silverman and Mark Fernandez that paints an incorrect picture of what the Rays should have in their pocket.

    • Gus says:

      You are correct. It is all the Trop’s fault.

      When the new owners came in, they took the easy money from Sun and focused their energies on the stadium stuff without realizing that the +/- of stadium location in this market is maybe 5K a game — you might add 10K of people who prefer the Tampa location and an outdoor setting, but will lose 5K who prefer The Trop’s a/c and location. That’s $8M a year (assuming $20 a ticket). That doesn’t even cover the debt service on the purported ownership contribution ($150M).

      The TV contract is far more important, because that has no costs assocated with it. And Sun has them in a Longo-type position where they sold low for security and now regret it.

    • Carey says:

      When’s the deal up?

      And can anyone comment as to their options. Could the Rays team up with an ESPN – like the Red Sox – and create their own network? Say you give them all 162 games for a percentage of ownership/profits. Then, expand the network, take on Sun/Fox for, say, a UF or FSU contract and make even more money.

  10. Joe says:

    It’s not the Trop’s fault, rather than Sternberg’s. Yet no one is peculiarly bringing this up. They have a non-negotiable rights fee with FSN that gives them no leverage. It expires in 2015, and the Rays are considered “smart”? This was a bush move by the organization, one of the few of them besides the road uniforms, but this nevertheless stinks to the high end.

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