As Major League Baseball takes a few days to bask in the midsummer ritual that is the All-Star break, one of its most celebrated franchises is enjoying a much-deserved spell of rest. At the symbolic midway point of the 2022 season, the New York Yankees have compiled a 64-28 record, which marks the club’s fifth-strongest opening half in its 122-year history.
Predictably enough, the Yanks’ dominance over the rest of the American League has led to a ratings windfall for the league-leading YES Network, which is putting up its highest numbers in 10 years and can’t wait to get the ball rolling again come Thursday afternoon. For the fans who’ve been glued to their sets throughout the Yankees’ 0.696 run, however, the hiatus is long overdue.
Because contradictory impulses and irrational thought are the twin currencies of fandom, it stands to reason that many Bombers boosters could use a few days off from all the winning. (More often than not, the victories have been served up with a hearty ration of overkill; in its last two games, New York outscored its rivals from Boston by a 27-3 margin.) But the last two weeks have complicated what’s been a largely worry-free campaign, as a rash of injuries and Aaron Judge’s recent hitting slump have conspired to generate a rather unspectacular 8-7 record as of July 1.
Prior to this month’s spell of mediocrity, the Yankees had stitched together a 56-21 record, good for a 0.727 winning percentage. Despite the downturn, YES keeps drawing a crowd in the home market, as its live coverage is currently averaging 347,000 viewers per game. By way of comparison, the Yankees’ two national appearances on TBS averaged 341,500 viewers, while their June 8 game against the Twins scared up 282,000 viewers on FS1.
In addition to putting YES on the fast track to its best MLB season since 2012, the RSN’s in-game deliveries are up 22% versus the year-ago period. In the metro New York market, 13 of the Yankees’ 16 primetime telecasts have eclipsed the deliveries from the local broadcast affiliates, a hot streak that’s been facilitated by a feather-light summer TV schedule.
According to Nielsen, CBS’ Big Brother is the only summer show that has managed to deliver north of a 1.0 rating among adults 25-54, which as it happens is also the target demo for the RSNs. Through the weekend, the local purveyors of MLB games are up 5% in the sport’s dollar demo. When taken together, the RSNs are blowing their local affiliates out of the water, with some of the biggest TV turnouts coming by way of the Mets’ SNY, the Dodgers’ Spectrum SportsNet and the Astros’ AT&T SportsNet Southwest.
A whole bunch of advertising dollars have been chasing after those NYC eyeballs. “Last year was our best revenue year and we’re well on our way to beating that this year,” Howard Levinson, YES Network senior VP, ad sales said. “We’re beating out everything in New York, including the local sports teams. If you take the average numbers for the Knicks, Rangers and Islanders, we’re beating them—combined.”
Levinson said the new YES app has helped boost the Yankees’ streaming scores, as non-linear deliveries are up 34% versus the year-ago period. Out-of-home is also giving the Bombers’ RSN quite a lift, with viewership in bars, restaurants, gyms and other public venues lifting the team’s vanilla TV impressions by as much as 20%.
The ad dollars are pouring in despite what amounts to an unwelcome slowdown among members of the automotive category. While longtime YES backers such as Hyundai and Kia are still buying time during Yankees games, the ongoing microchip shortage has disrupted the flow of traffic coming off the lots. “It’s not that no one has been able to move cars—they’re selling whatever they can get their hands on,” Levinson said. “But the big sales, Memorial Day, Independence Day, etcetera, they’re not happening.”
While the lack of weeklong tent-sale spots from the dealers has impacted the overall ad sales picture, plenty of other categories have stepped in to fill the auto gap. Pharmaceutical and hospital spots have kept YES flush, while fast-food spend (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Geico may not be investing outside of national TV, but Liberty Mutual, Progressive and USAA have made sure to budget for the Bombers; non-endemic spenders include grocery store chains such as Whole Foods and Stop & Shop as well as the cult baked-goods brand Dave’s Killer Bread.
Gaming hasn’t set the RSN world on fire, largely because many of the companies that have been given the OK to operate in New York State have yet to carve out significant ad budgets. Not helping matters is the Empire State’s 51% tax rate, which has forced the approved casinos to adopt a much more cautious approach to marketing spend.
For diehards, the only thing that’s missing this season are the Avis commercials featuring the transplanted New Englander who has a hard time bonding with his new Bronx coworkers. (“I’m wicked psyched to be heah. You guys ready to rent some cahs?”) Levinson said he’s asked the Avis rep to put in a good word with corporate about bringing back the retired spots, which were among the most popular to run during YES’s 100-second ad breaks.
Through Sunday, the Yankees have won 21 series, a run that includes nine sweeps. The team has ended up with the short end of the stick just three times, while five series were draws. In spite of
For all that, Yankees fans aren’t going to breathe easy again until and unless the club secures its 28th title this fall. While New York still owns the best record in baseball and holds a considerable 13-game lead over Tampa in the East, the surging Houston Astros are drawing ever closer in the rear-view mirror. As of Sunday night, the Yankee’s lead over the Astros in the AL is down to just 4.5 games, and it seems increasingly likely that the road to the World Series will at least detour through NASA’s home turf.
The Yankees may earn themselves a little breathing room if they take the July 21 doubleheader from the Astros. The back end of the two-fer, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. EDT, is expected to do gangbusters numbers for YES, which saw its deliveries peak at nearly 700,000 viewers when the two teams met up on June 23.