By Alan Pergament
The national ratings for postseason major league baseball are up 9 percent this year going into Wednesday's opener of the World Series, according to multiple national media reports.
It isn't happening in Western New York, which many people believe is very interested in major league baseball.
The declining ratings here from a year ago should come with an asterisk.
Last season, the New York Yankees made the playoffs and they are a very big TV draw in Western New York.
The only round of this year's playoffs that saw improvement from last year was the wild-card round on TBS, which this year included two teams -- Pittsburgh and Cleveland -- that major league baseball has long considered to be Western New York TV markets for some odd reason.
Two wild card games on cable's TBS averaged a 5.0 rating here this year compared to a 2.9 in 2012.
The four league division series on TBS averaged a 2.6 rating here, down from a 3.7 last year when the Yankees beat Baltimore in one series.
The two league championship series here on Fox and TBS averaged a 3.4 rating here, down from a 3.7 when the Yankees lost to Detroit in the American League Championship Series.
Rather than compare the American League and National League championship series results from a year ago, it is probably more relevant to compare the ratings on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate, and cable's TBS since they alternate which league they carry.
Boston's six-game ALCS series win over Detroit this month averaged a 4.2 rating on WUTV, which was up from the 2.5 average it had for the NLCS series last season between St. Louis and San Francisco.
However, the Cards' NLCS win over Los Angeles on TBS averaged a 2.8 this year, about half of the 5.4 that Detroit's series win over the Yankees had in 2012.
The World Series between St. Louis and Boston would seem to be poised to a decent local rating because it features two of the best and best-known franchises in baseball.
And it doesn't have to do that well to top the 7.2 average that San Francisco's four-game sweep of Detroit averaged on WUTV last season.
To put that in perspective, about 40 broadcast network prime time series have averaged higher than a 7.2 rating in WNY this season when you add DVR and On Demand viewing. (Baseball or any live sport doesn't get much DVR and On Demand viewing).
In the days long ago that the World Series was must-see TV, ratings could have been three or four times as high as they were in 2012 and the other broadcast networks didn't even try to compete and often ran rerun programming. Nowadays, the rival networks carry normal programming opposite baseball that often beats the games.
However, baseball is all about getting the male demographic audience for its advertisers and it still does well there.
Wednesday's opener will face some stiff local competition here.
The Buffalo Sabres are hosting the Boston Bruins Wednesday in a game being carried by cable's NBC Sports Network.
As badly as the Sabres have been playing and as much as the ratings have declined during their terrible start, a game with Boston is a different story.
The NBC Sports Network certainly is doing its best to promote the game. It sent a release to the media Monday with this headline: "Ryan Miller and Buffalo Sabres Host Milan Lucic and Boston Bruins on Wednesday Night Rivalry."
As any Buffalo fan knows, Lucic's open-ice collision with Miller two seasons ago and the team's failure to respond sparked conversations about the team's toughness that hasn't gone away.
The release also included quotes from NBC Sports Network analyst and former Bruin Mike Milbury, former Sabres Coach Lindy Ruff and former Sabres about the rivalry between the teams. (The quotes come from an episode of "NHL Rivals," which airs at 11 tonight on the cable network.)
Milbury: "It was like the O.K. Corral. It's the stuff that's embedded in your brain for the rest of your life."
Ruff: "It wasn't about the scores. It was about looking over there and seeing which guys you'd have to worry about beating the crap out of you."
May, who is becoming a Sabres analyst and is best known for scoring the "Mayday" goal that eliminated the Bruins in a playoff round: "I loved every second of it. There were uncomfortable moments and times when I was afraid, but I absolutely loved it. It was so easy to get up for those games. You couldn't sleep in the afternoon, or you'd sleep with the lights on."
In short, Wednesday night will be a test of the area's love of baseball and hockey.
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