MLB in good shape TV-wise with this year’s playoff matchups

Opinion: Baseball playoffs capturing attention with TV ratings but still can’t touch the NFL in terms of popularity.

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Bulls of the week

It’s always easier to piggyback on one or more of the big three media markets in the U.S. (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago), but Major League Baseball is still in good shape TV-wise even without the New York Yankees and the Mets, the L.A. Dodgers and the Angels, and the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox.

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The League Championship Series involve three of the top seven American TV markets and four of the top 11 (fourth, Philadelphia, fifth Dallas-Fort Worth, seventh Houston and 11th Phoenix.)

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The Battle of Texas between the Rangers and the defending World Series-champion Houston Astros will be particularly interesting on the media and fan engagement fronts over the next week or so.

Meanwhile, it’s also been another terrific week for the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL’s two undefeated teams going into Week 7. The 49ers used an impressive Sunday Night Football win over their traditional rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, to keep pace with the Eagles, the NFC East team that’s off to its second consecutive strong start to the regular season. Both teams are 5-0.

The 49ers-Cowboys’ prime time affair on NBC was the most-watched Sunday Night Football game since 2006, which means it’s the biggest NBC Sunday Night Football audience ever. It harnessed a total of 26.3 million viewers, including 24.3 million on linear TV and another two million by streaming.

Honourable mention to Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks.

ESPN scored a record 1.43 million Americans in terms of average national audience for its season-opener and Bedard’s formal NHL debut, one that saw him register an assist in a 4-2 win on the road over Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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His first pro regular-season goal came the next night in a losing cause to the Boston Bruins, who were celebrating their 100th anniversary season.

The media and fan reaction to Bedard — on both sides of the border — only reinforces his place as the NHL’s biggest rookie star since Connor McDavid in 2015.

Bears of the week

Despite the fact that there’s plenty to work from in big U.S. media markets such as Philly, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, there’s no question that it’s been a bearish week for the teams that led the MLB regular season and dominated the box scores for much of the period between April and October.

Houston is the only divisional winner to advance to the LCS, what with five regular-season leaders being swept to the wayside, including the teams with the top three records going into the post-season; the 100-win-plus Atlanta Braves, Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles.

There will be plenty of hand-wringing on length of layoff to accommodate the wild-card round, but make no mistake, those upsets are a good business problem to have when it comes to keeping as many markets in play as possible.

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It also continues to be a real tough situation for Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos, who are now limping along at 1-5 in their second consecutive abysmal NFL campaign after a loss to Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes Jr. and the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.

The Taylor Swift factor was particularly warmly welcomed by TNF rights-holder Amazon.

Tom Mayenknecht is the host of The Sport Market on Sportsnet 650, Saturdays 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The Vancouver-based sport business commentator and principal in Emblematica Brand Builders provides a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans. Follow Mayenknecht at:

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