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If you have missed the Red Sox recently, it seems that you aren’t alone. For the last six years, Boston fans have propelled the local nine to the top spot as the baseball franchise with the highest rated local telecasts in the country. This year, as the Red Sox have been uber-plagued with injury, they find themselves ranked sixth, looking up for the first time in a while.
As the Sox have grown accustomed to third place in the American League East and the number of players on the disabled list rivals that of the active roster, more viewers and listeners seem to be seeking familiarity and comfort elsewhere this summer. Following the Manny Ramirez trade from 2008, the Sox have been lacking a larger-than-life personality to define the team. As much as some may blame their lack of consistent success for the drop, their recent success may be as much to blame. With two World Series championships in the last six years, many fans may simply be waiting for the fall, when the games truly start to matter.
Those champion teams also featured their share of characters. From Pedro Martinez to Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon, the Red Sox had long been known for their identifiable quirks and inherent likability. With the revolving door Red Sox of 2010, it’s harder than ever to keep track of the flotsam and jetsam.
Ratings for Red Sox games on NESN in the first half of the season fell almost 36 percent from the same period last year, according to an analysis of Nielsen Media Research data by the SportsBusiness Journal. It appears that those spending time at the beach are leaving their radios behind. Ratings for Red Sox games broadcast on WEEI were down 16.5 percent, to 107,500 listeners. Worse yet was listenership among the target demographic of 25- to 54-year-old males, a victim of a 28 percent slide.
The Red Sox also had an abysmal April as the Celtics and Bruins were just getting set for the playoffs. Like the Red Sox, the Bruins are also broadcast on NESN, and literally stole the spotlight from the Sox on several occasions during their postseason run. The Celtics themselves ventured all the way to the NBA Finals, ensuring play until mid-June and stealing fence-riding fans along the way.
Because the Red Sox own 80 percent of NESN, a ratings and revenue drop could directly impact the team. In a statement, Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry characterized the season as “challenging on several fronts’’ pointing to the oft-mentioned “unusual number of injuries.”
While ratings are down, nobody should be crying poor for the boys of summer. The Red Sox just celebrated their 600th straight sellout at Fenway Park, and Red Sox memorabilia is as popular as ever around the globe. The current ownership under Henry’s stewardship has been able squeeze revenue out of every nook and crevice inside of Fenway and far beyond. As long as they hold the reigns, there isn’t need to worry.