Tuesday, October 01, 2013

YES Network viewership continued to decline in 2013, spiked for Rivera, Jeter, Pettitte moment-Richard Sandomir, NY Times

"His (Rivera's) goodbye game attracted 258,000 viewers, a little above the season’s average. But from 9:45 to 10:15 p.m. — from Rivera’s entrance into the game to his removal after a mound visit by Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte and the cathartic aftermath — viewership soared to a peak for the game of 585,000." 

10/1/13, "YES Viewers Say Their Goodbyes," NY Times, Richard Sandomir

"The Yankees’ 85-77 record prevented them from making the American League playoffs. A disappointment, yes, but grounds to shun them? No.

Yet a staggering 111,000 viewers disappeared from the Yankees’ telecasts for each game on the YES Network, leaving an average of 244,000 devoted souls to watch. That 31.2 percent plunge suggests deep dissatisfaction with a team that played most of the season without many of its stars and fielded lineups filled with the likes of Zoilo Almonte, Luis Cruz, David Huff and Brennan Boesch. 

That brief moment aside, this is unhappy, unknown territory for YES, which started in 2002, a little late for the dynasty years but in time for plenty of highly rated Red Sox games and one World Series championship. YES has never televised a losing season by the Yankees, but the surprisingly large abandonment by viewers made this year feel like one. 

As a corporate progeny of the team, YES needs spectacular, star-driven winning as its business rationale. Fans have come to expect the same. 

This season might have stripped YES’s Yankees viewership to its core viewers, without casual and fair-weather fans....

In 2008, when the Yankees last failed to make the playoffs, they had an 89-73 record. They finished third in the A.L. East, but their star lineup was largely intact, featuring Alex Rodriguez with 35 home runs and Jason Giambi with 32. The season was disappointing enough to produce a nearly 11 percent drop in average viewership on YES, to 405,000. But when the Yankees rebounded in ’09 to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, nearly all the lost viewership was recovered. 

A look at Yankees viewership since 2007 shows a troubling trend that did not start with this year’s disappointing finish. There were 454,000 viewers six years ago, but 210,000 — nearly half — have since departed. 

Part of that drop might be attributable to fans being bored with winning and the empire slowly fraying. Some fans might have switched to watching on laptops and mobile devices; that use is not measured by Nielsen. There could be a quirk in the way Nielsen measures television viewing. Or fans might be watching less of each game, which reduces viewership. 

Mike Axisa, the editor in chief of the Yankees blog River Avenue Blues, said: “My generation of fans, when I was 11 or 12, when the Yankees started getting really good, were easy to hook on to and a lot of fans jumped on the bandwagon. Now, the interest just isn’t there.” 

Things could be worse. The Mets’ viewership on SNY also took a big dip. But there was good reason: they finished with their fifth consecutive losing record. And their viewership fell 29 percent from last season, to 139,000. Since 2007, a winning season for the Mets that finished in a collapse, viewership has fallen by 55.7 percent.

Then there are the Houston Astros, who this season lost an Amazin’ 111 games. 

On Sept. 22, a Sunday afternoon Astros-Indians game on Comcast SportsNet Houston attracted no viewers, at least according to the way Nielsen measures such things. It is entirely possible that a few dozen Astros players’ wives and children were watching. But then things managed to get worse: CSN Houston, a partnership of Comcast, the Astros and the N.B.A. Rockets, is in crisis. 

Last week, Comcast filed an involuntary Chapter 11 petition, saying that the network, which has not received wide distribution in the Houston market, was insolvent. Jim Crane, the Astros’ owner, has vowed to fight Comcast, but he conceded Monday to The Houston Chronicle that the team returned half its rights fees in May and June to keep the network afloat and had received no payments since. 

YES has no solvency problems, and even the loss of almost one-third of Yankees viewers will not affect its finances much. Its monthly subscriber fees are locked in and will rise annually despite the vagaries of viewership. 

At worst, the lost viewership could eat into advertising sales, but those sales represent barely 20 percent of YES’s revenue. 

Still, many viewers have suddenly joined a pinstriped diaspora. And YES might not lure them back until the Yankees retool with more compelling and charismatic stars."...


Fox owns controlling interest in the YES Network at 49% with option to increase to 80% in 2015. Yankee Global Enterprises,  Goldman Sachs, and other investors own the remainder:

"Under the terms of the deal, which were announced last week, News Corp. will pay about $1.5 billion for a 49% stake in YES, which broadcasts live Yankees baseball and Brooklyn Nets basketball games. (That amounts to little more than chump change for News Corp., which has a market value of $58 billion, and is currently sitting on $12 billion in cash.) After three years, News Corp. has the right to increase its stake to 80%, according to a statement released by the company and Yankee Global Enterprises, which owns the Yankees and also a stake in YES, along with Goldman Sachs and other investors. The deal, which will keep Yankees baseball on YES through 2042, allows Goldman Sachs, which was an early investor in YES and owns 30% of the network, to cash out some of its stake."

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