Television ratings for Detroit Tigers games on Fox Sports Detroit fell by 14.6 percent in 2019 from the previous season, according to the Nielsen ratings published by Forbes this week. Ratings for Tigers games have declined by 76.5 percent over a six year period. The team posted a rating of 2.28, which is the percentage of households with television that tuned in to see their games during prime time viewing hours.
The Tigers led Major League Baseball for the 2012 and 2013 seasons with a peak rating of 9.69 in 2013. This year, Detroit ranked 23rd among major league teams. According to Nielsen data published by Forbes, Detroit is the 14th-largest market in the United States and 18th among all MLB clubs (some markets have two teams).
Here is how the Tigers have ranked among all MLB teams in television ratings in recent years (Data from Crain’s Detroit).
2019: 2.28 (23rd)
2018: 2.64 (18th)
2017: 4.48 (6th)
2016: 7.01 (3rd)
2015: 6.21 (4th)
2014: 7.72 (2nd)
2013: 9.59 (1st)
2012: 9.21 (1st)
One ratings point in the Detroit area is equal to about 18,000 homes out of approximately 1.8 million households with television. That means that just over 41,000 homes were tuned into games during the ratings period this year.
Fox Sports Detroit was one of several regional sports networks that were sold to Sinclair broadcasting over the summer, as part of the requirement for Disney to purchase Century 21 studios. Sinclair now owns the largest collection of RSNs in the marketplace, which includes exclusive local rights to 42 professional sports teams — consisting of 14 MLB teams, 16 NBA teams, and 12 NHL clubs.
The decline in TV ratings is in sync with declining attendance at the turnstiles at Comerica Park, where 356,000 fewer fans attended home games during the 2019 season compared to the previous year. Attendance declined by 19.2 percent from 2018, and has dropped by over 50 percent since 2013. Over three million fans paid to see the Tigers play in 2012 and 2013. That number was down to 1.5 million in 2019, as the team posted a home field record of 25-55.
The Cleveland Indians led the major leagues with a 7.18 rating. The Minnesota Twins were second with a 7.00 rating. The Tigers still posted a stronger rating than the Los Angeles Dodgers, mostly due to the unavailability of Dodgers’ games for most homes in their local broadcast area. Only 1.96 percent of homes with television tuned in for Dodgers games in the Southern California broadcast area.
The Tigers’ contract with Fox Sports Detroit pays the club $50 million per season, and that deal will expire after the 2021 season. Estimates on a new contract have been as high as double the annual fee rights. There remains the possibility that the Ilitch family will take an ownership stake in Fox Sports Detroit as part of a new contract, or create their own regional sports network. Half of all major league teams now have an ownership interest between 10 and 100 percent of a regional sports network.