2022 World Series tops all primetime TV for 7th straight year

December 14th, 2022

The World Series continues to be a standout in primetime television.

The 2022 Fall Classic between the Astros and Phillies would rank as the No. 1 primetime entertainment program on TV -- comparing the average television audience for the World Series vs. the audience for a full season of any primetime entertainment program. (The World Series delivers approximately the same amount of TV time as a full season of a one-hour primetime television show.)

This year's World Series averaged 11.78 million viewers on FOX alone. By comparison, "The Equalizer" on CBS -- the top-rated primetime entertainment TV show -- was averaging 7.07 million viewers per episode for the 2022 fall season at the time the World Series ended. "60 Minutes," the top-rated news program, was averaging 8.92 million viewers. 

"The line that I use a lot, and have used for a number of years, is: The World Series is television's longest-running hit primetime show," said FOX Sports' head of strategy and analytics, Mike Mulvihill. "Since we started playing primetime World Series games in 1971, it's always been on par with the biggest entertainment shows in prime, going back to comparisons to 'All in the Family,' 'M*A*S*H' and [so on]. As the business has changed and entertainment ratings have fragmented and become lower and lower, the World Series has actually become more powerful."

The 2022 Fall Classic also averaged 12.02 million total viewers across FOX, FOX Deportes and FOX Sports streaming platforms, as the Astros won their second championship in six years and Dusty Baker won his long-awaited first World Series as a manager. It was the most-streamed World Series in FOX Sports' history.

It's the seventh straight year the World Series takes the top spot in viewership when ranked against the top primetime TV shows.

The trend started in 2016, with the instant-classic seven-game World Series between the Cubs and Guardians, when the Cubs won their first championship in 108 years.

"We sometimes make the mistake of just comparing absolute ratings to what they were 20 or 30 years ago when the business was really different," Mulvihill said. "But some of those high-rated World Series of the past didn't beat everything that was on in entertainment programming. And now the World Series consistently does.

"So when we get to the Series every year, I always feel like, if the World Series can beat every non-NFL title on television, and if we can get 20-30 hours of content out of it, depending on the length of the series, that's really powerful. That's sort of all that we need for it to be, and it delivers on that every year."

The 2022 World Series checked both of those boxes. It beat every non-NFL show on TV (with a 32% margin over "60 Minutes," as Mulvihill noted in a thread on Twitter). And it delivered 22 hours of primetime TV for the six-game series.

Here's how the World Series has stacked up to other primetime entertainment TV programming every year since 2000, when FOX began airing the Fall Classic every year.

2000 -- No. 8
2001 -- No. 1 (D-backs vs. Yankees)
2002 -- No. 9
2003 -- No. 8
2004 -- No. 4
2005 -- No. 11
2006 -- No. 12
2007 -- No. 8
2008 -- No. 12
2009 -- No. 3
2010 -- No. 8
2011 -- No. 4
2012 -- No. 9
2013 -- No. 3
2014 -- No. 4
2015 -- No. 3
2016 -- No. 1 (Cubs vs. Guardians)
2017 -- No. 1 (Astros vs. Dodgers)
2018 -- No. 1 (Red Sox vs. Dodgers)
2019 -- No. 1 (Nationals vs. Astros)
2020 -- No. 1 (Dodgers vs. Rays)
2021 -- No. 1 (Braves vs. Astros)
2022 -- No. 1 (Astros vs. Phillies)

Before the current seven-year run, the last time the World Series was the No. 1 primetime entertainment program was in 2001, when the D-backs defeated the Yankees in one of the most memorable World Series of all time. The World Series still generated top-10 viewership numbers for most of the 2000s, but since 2016 especially it's dominated primetime TV.

"I think the reason it matters is, in the end, this is an advertiser-supported business," Mulvihill said. "I sometimes get frustrated when we make those comparisons to 20 or 30 years ago, because the advertisers can't buy the 1990 World Series. They can't buy the 1980 World Series. They can only buy the here and now. The reason the comparison is so relevant is that it's a comparison of what marketers can actually buy right now. They're making a choice between entertainment content, news content and the World Series."

FOX's World Series TV viewership in 2022 was comparable to last year's Fall Classic (11.94 million) and cemented the gains made from the 2020 season (9.95 million). There was also a big gain in the key 18-to-34-year-old demographic, with viewers up 9% in that category.

Mulvihill said this year's World Series audience "totally met" FOX's expectations, with a similar matchup to last year's (Astros-Phillies in 2022, Astros-Braves in 2021) and a similarly competitive series (both six games). He credited the 2022 schedule change to starting the World Series on a Friday night as helping drive a younger audience to the Series, especially because of strong out-of-home viewership -- people watching at bars, restaurants, hotels, workplaces, etc., which the Nielsen ratings now measure.

"We felt like by starting on a Friday night, we had a potential to take advantage of that audience that is out enjoying their Friday night and maybe watching some sports at the same time," Mulvihill said. "And we actually saw a pretty good pop, especially for Game 1, among 18-34s. In the end, the viewership trend for 18-34 was better than it was across the entire population."

But most important is that the World Series once again outperformed all the entertainment programming in primetime and surpassed every non-NFL program on television this season.

"The business has obviously changed a lot over the decades; baseball consumption has changed with it. But the Series is still one of the most powerful events on the calendar," Mulvihill said. "It's been a hit show in primetime for 50 years, and it probably will be for 50 more years."

Here were some of the highlights for the 2022 World Series:

• Games 1 and 2 in Houston were the most-watched telecasts on any network on the days they aired that weekend, with Game 1 drawing 11.48 million viewers on FOX on Friday, Oct. 28 and Game 2 drawing 10.79 million viewers on FOX on Saturday, Oct. 29.

• The TV audience for the Fall Classic opener -- a dramatic comeback win for the Phillies in extra innings -- represented a 5% gain compared to Game 1 of the 2021 World Series and a 23% gain compared to Game 1 of the 2020 World Series.

• This year's World Series also debuted with big gains on social media.

On the @MLB social channels, the engagement for the opening games of the 2022 World Series included a 196% increase in Instagram video views, a 240% increase in TikTok views, a 77% increase in YouTube views, a 10% increase in total Twitter engagements and an 84% increase in Facebook engagements.

• Game 3 in Philadelphia, when Bryce Harper's home run sparked the Phillies to a win in their first home game of the series, was also the most-watched telecast of the day on any network (11.16 million viewers) -- and was the best-rated MLB game in Philadelphia since the 2010 Phillies-Giants NLCS.

• The Astros' historic combined no-hitter in Game 4 -- just the second no-hitter in World Series history -- drew 11.81 million viewers on the FOX broadcast alone, a huge gain over Game 4 in 2021 (+9%) and 2020 (+23%). Along with being the most-watched telecast of the day on any network and FOX's best performance for a Wednesday night since 2019, Game 4 was also the most-streamed Game 4 in FOX Sports' history.

"The percentage of our World Series viewership that's coming from streaming is small, but it's growing, and we want to make sure that the content is available to people in any setting," Mulvihill said. "In a seven-game series, you want people to get increasingly invested as the series goes on. If you are not in front of a big TV screen for Game 1, but you can watch it on your mobile device, that potentially makes you more likely to watch Game 2."

• The pivotal World Series Game 5 had 13.01 million viewers across all platforms and 12.77 million just on the FOX TV broadcast. The game topped the Eagles-Texans Thursday Night Football game streaming on Amazon Prime Video that same night -- a matchup between the same cities playing in the World Series -- which had 7.86 million viewers.

• 12.87 million viewers tuned in across FOX's platforms to watch the Astros' World Series-clinching victory in Game 6. The final MLB game of 2022 reached a peak audience of 14.73 million viewers during the game.

"Look, there just aren't that many -- as is demonstrated by the fact that [the World Series] beats every entertainment show -- there just aren't that many opportunities to reach 12 or 13 million people," Mulvihill said. "Just the sheer scale of the audience is a big positive for baseball."