World Series beats NFL in head-to-head showdown, as expected

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On Thursday night, Philadelphia hosted Houston in baseball, and Houston hosted Philadelphia in football. More people locally and nationally watched baseball, for three important reasons.

One, it was Game Five of the World Series. Two, the football game was a run-of-the-mill regular-season contest that was expected to be a mismatch (but, for a while, wasn’t). Three, and perhaps most importantly, the baseball game was televised nationally, and the football game was not.

The NFL’s long-term pivot to streaming will have short-term costs. Via Joe Lucia of, the latest example came from Fox getting 12.768 million viewers for the pivotal World Series contest, and Amazon getting only 7.855 million viewers for Eagles-Texans.

In Houston, the World Series drew a local rating of 25.5, according to Austin Karp of Sports Business Journal. The NFL game generated a 1.5 on local TV. (People in Houston could also stream the game on Amazon, so others presumably watched it that way. It’s unclear how many, but presumably not as many as watched it on local TV.)

Again, it’s not a surprise. The NFL has made the switch to streaming both to adjust to changing viewing habits from TV to streaming, and to accelerate that ongoing shift. (It also helps to get paid roughly $1 billion per year to do it.)

The real question is whether streaming ever will generate the viewership that the various three-letter networks realized over the past decade on Thursdays. Even as Amazon tries to will the current high-water mark toward 12 million per year on a regular basis (that’s clearly not happening), the long-term trend regarding post-TV NFL ratings is TBD.

While pro football continues to be the one product that can gather a live audience like nothing else, the size of that audience may continue to shrink as the overall audience continues to fracture — and as more effort (and money) is needed to find and watch the NFL’s product.

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