Red Sox hire analytics company to optimize game start times in 2023

Petagine in a Bottle

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Are you taking into account that the average age of a baseball fan is 57?
Yep. Again, TV usage is much higher around 11p than it is 7p. People routinely say they want playoff games that start at 1 or 4 or whenever and those are always the least viewed games.
 

8slim

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There's a lot of 9-5 office worker bias in this thread, although that's understandable given the demographics of this place. There's more people available to watch TV after 11pm than before 7pm, that's for sure.
 

Cesar Crespo

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There's a lot of 9-5 office worker bias in this thread, although that's understandable given the demographics of this place. There's more people available to watch TV after 11pm than before 7pm, that's for sure.
Isn't that east coast bias? I doubt that's true for New England.
 

YTF

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There is zero percent change that weeknight games will be starting earlier than they already do.

average game is 3 hours, 10 minutes. If you want games to have the largest audience possible, you want as much of the game being in prime time as you can……between 730-745 seems the easy answer here.
You might be right, but I can tell you that I don't know anyone that would like to see evening games start 30-60 minutes later than they do. Speaking for myself, try as I might, it's rare that I see the completion of any game ending after 10PM. Push that back an hour and I'm not even making the effort because I know I'm not seeing the end of the game. At what point do people like me just stop caring?
 

Cesar Crespo

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Isn't New England on the east coast, or did I miss something important? ;)
Sure, but you said office hours. When I said I doubt it's true for New England, I meant the East Coast as well. I thought you were going off "global audience."
in every time zone, tv usage is higher at 11p than it is at 7. This is especially going to be true in the summer months, when much is baseball is played.
Yeah, I didn't know this. At what time after 11 do the total viewers drop below what they are at 7?
 

InsideTheParker

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Doesn't it also have to do with what they are selling? People with small children might be interested in vans, and they might be asleep at 11. Young men might go for sporty sedans, and they stay up late. These are only guesses/examples. But I know that I cannot stay up that late anymore, so they are losing my money. But I just bought a new car, so I'm not important to their bottom line.
p.s. If the games start any later, I am dropping Directv and watching all the games the next day on mlb.tv. But that might not lose NESN money. . . .
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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You might be right, but I can tell you that I don't know anyone that would like to see evening games start 30-60 minutes later than they do. Speaking for myself, try as I might, it's rare that I see the completion of any game ending after 10PM. Push that back an hour and I'm not even making the effort because I know I'm not seeing the end of the game. At what point do people like me just stop caring?
I hear what you are saying, but much like the “playoff games should start in the afternoon” crowd, what people say they want and what they do is often very different. If you plotted out ratings data for Sox games by hour, I’m sure you’d we they are much higher around 11 than 7. Now, maybe that’s because games are often more exciting towards the end? Perhaps…but people also tend to have a lot more obligations in the 6-7p hour than they do after 10p.
 

YTF

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I hear what you are saying, but much like the “playoff games should start in the afternoon” crowd, what people say they want and what they do is often very different. If you plotted out ratings data for Sox games by hour, I’m sure you’d we they are much higher around 11 than 7. Now, maybe that’s because games are often more exciting towards the end? Perhaps…but people also tend to have a lot more obligations in the 6-7p hour than they do after 10p.
Out of curiosity do you have the numbers of of baseball viewership at the 10:00 hour vs 11:00 in the New England market?
 

Cesar Crespo

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Skiponzo

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There is zero percent change that weeknight games will be starting earlier than they already do.

average game is 3 hours, 10 minutes. If you want games to have the largest audience possible, you want as much of the game being in prime time as you can……between 730-745 seems the easy answer here.
As another west coast fan this would be ideal for me. I miss the first few innings of every game right now.....but it's certainly not good for the east coast fan or in person attendee. I have Sunday afternoon season tix for the Padres because I don't wanna be at the stadium until 11pm on a Tuesday.
 

YTF

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not what you asked for at all but somewhat linked.

https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-red-sox/2021/10/09/red-sox-nesn-tv-ratings-2021-season-chad-finn-sports-media-column/

ratings were up 100%. Speaking of which, Chad Finn might have the numbers? I know he does the radio ratings thing, or
Thanks for taking the time to respond. IMO, comparing 2020 ratings to 2021 is literally comparing apples to oranges. While 2021 ratings may have doubled over a season in which few people could get excited about for a multitude of reasons they were still down roughly 20% from 2019, the last full season of Major League Baseball. And this was a year (2021)when the Sox exceeded most expectations and fell 2 wins short of going to the World Series.
 

Sad Sam Jones

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Cleveland and maybe another team or two moved the start of their weeknight games during the school year to 6:05pm a few years ago in order to increase attendance at those games. I assume they've crunched the numbers and concluded it works. They keep saying it does, and they keep doing it. However, I can't imagine it helps the television ratings. Since it's only during the school year – and only weeknights – and only their own home games – it's impossible to establish as a routine. They've been doing it for close to five years now and I still forget and turn the game on in the 3rd inning all the time… often even when they already had a 6pm start the night before. As someone who lives too far away to attend weeknight games anyway, I absolutely hate it.
 

snowmanny

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Yep. Again, TV usage is much higher around 11p than it is 7p. People routinely say they want playoff games that start at 1 or 4 or whenever and those are always the least viewed games.
I am not saying you are wrong, because I don’t know that you are, but I would have guessed that viewing habits of 25 year olds are different than those of 57 year olds. When I was 25-45 I routinely watched west coat games all the way through.

Also, the highest rated sporting event starts at 6:30.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I am not saying you are wrong, because I don’t know that you are, but I would have guessed that viewing habits of 25 year olds are different than those of 57 year olds. When I was 25-45 I routinely watched west coat games all the way through.

Also, the highest rated sporting event starts at 6:30.
On a Sunday. Not really comparable to a weekday/workday.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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I am not saying you are wrong, because I don’t know that you are, but I would have guessed that viewing habits of 25 year olds are different than those of 57 year olds. When I was 25-45 I routinely watched west coat games all the way through.

Also, the highest rated sporting event starts at 6:30.
25 year olds generally aren’t watching tv, they certainly aren’t watching baseball. I believe the average age of total tv and baseball viewers is pretty similar (around 60).
 

8slim

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Sure, but you said office hours. When I said I doubt it's true for New England, I meant the East Coast as well. I thought you were going off "global audience."
My point about office hours was that many, many people don't work 9-5 in an office. So a lot of the understandable complaints about being home for first pitch, due to commutes, are unique to a certain work dynamic that not everyone shares.
 

jon abbey

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Personally I watch all the games asynchronously. I let at least a half hour of buffer build and catch up over the course of the game. Earlier start times would be great for viewers like me. I wonder how many people watch like I do.
I watch pretty much all sports this way these days, baseball/basketball/football at least.
 

8slim

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Personally I watch all the games asynchronously. I let at least a half hour of buffer build and catch up over the course of the game. Earlier start times would be great for viewers like me. I wonder how many people watch like I do.
Data suggests very, very few people watch this way. Roughly 99% of time spent viewing sports events are done so live.
 

mauf

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It’s good to see the Sox doing something forward-looking like this — realizing that the world has changed and that their game start times might not be optimal, then going out and collecting a ton of data and analyzing it, rather than just changing the start time based on the gut instincts of ownership or the marketing team. I figure such a rigorous approach probably won’t be applied only to this issue, but will extend to other decisions I care about.

Iirc, they have limited discretion over weekend start times (you basically have to play Saturday evening and early Sunday afternoon unless you are the Fox/ESPN game), so I assume this is mainly about whether the regular weeknight 7:05pm start time should be earlier or later.
 

SumnerH

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Data suggests very, very few people watch this way. Roughly 99% of time spent viewing sports events are done so live.
Yeah. Part of the joy of sports—and why they're still doing reasonably well in TV ratings compared to other forms of broadcasts—is that it's a shared experience. Yeah, there's some latency in broadcasts, but you're basically watching things unfold as they happen, with the rest of the audience. It's purely psychological, but DVR'ing sports makes it much less gripping to me.
 

8slim

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Yeah. Part of the joy of sports—and why they're still doing reasonably well in TV ratings compared to other forms of broadcasts—is that it's a shared experience. Yeah, there's some latency in broadcasts, but you're basically watching things unfold as they happen, with the rest of the audience. It's purely psychological, but DVR'ing sports makes it much less gripping to me.
Yep, and latency is accounted for in the data I see. By “live” I mean viewing in as current a fashion as the provider allows. So that means not any kind of DVR-induced delay, be it a minute or, say, six hours.

Obviously there are some folks who time-shift their viewing, but that’s very much the minority.
 

Bosoxian

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As a former west coaster I liked the 7pm starts, gave the dvr an hour buffer. I know the Dbacks moved their start times to 6:30 years ago to make if easier for families. But you don’t have the traffic issues there that you have at Fenway either.
 

GlucoDoc

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I know the focus is on TV rather than live audience. However, I have worked in the Longwood Medical Area for about 40 years and we are all very wary about the traffic due to games. When the games let out close to 5 it is pretty bad (and many nursing shifts end a bit earlier) as it begins to get busy around 5 for the 7 PM starts. By 6 it is really bad but much of the earlier staff departures are out by then. If they push the games to earlier, there will be total gridlock. Besides us workers being clogged for a long time, ambulances will have a more difficult time getting in and out. I would hope that they would consider this if they try to start much earlier than 7 PM.
 

In my lifetime

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Not to hijack the thread, but it goes back to the same problem that hasn't been solved since the pre-internet era --- the games are too long. I'm hoping they push through an NFL-type communication for pitch calling, so we don't have to wait 2 minutes between pitches and shake-offs. It is really pitiful that everyone agrees it is a problem, yet several decades later we still don't have a solution to 3-hour games. Certainly, if society can develop vaccines in 12 months, we can figure out a way to shorten baseball games in less than 40 years.
 

crystalline

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I await the Sox first 4:20 start because of a partnership with cannabis company. Or "this 7:14 start is brought to you by Rorer."
just get enough people together to manipulate the analytics decision by coordinating your behavior and you can make all this happen
 

pk1627

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It feels now like every Sox game is 3 1/2 hours. I'm in the camp of start them earlier. Even 6:45 would be substantially better than 7:10.
Sox games average longer than MLB as a whole. I saw a stat that it was closer to 3 hr 23 min.

This is why I don’t watch Sunday night Sox games. Almost guaranteed to be pushing midnight.
 

section15

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Being retired (and also, an empty nester with a flex time work sked for 15 years before now) - I really liked the April/May 6 pm start times for Mon-Thursday games. They got over at 9 and I was at home by 10.
 

Earthbound64

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Yeah. Part of the joy of sports—and why they're still doing reasonably well in TV ratings compared to other forms of broadcasts—is that it's a shared experience. Yeah, there's some latency in broadcasts, but you're basically watching things unfold as they happen, with the rest of the audience. It's purely psychological, but DVR'ing sports makes it much less gripping to me.
RIP Shared Gamethread Experiences :(
 

canderson

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Optimal time for TV is directly disproportionate to optimal time for an in-person game imo. I doubt this really results in much except moving some weekday games up to 6, some weekend games back to 730 or even 8 perhaps.
 

TonyPenaNeverJuiced

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Not-for-nothing, this reminds me of the time I was putting on the ol' annual music festival back in college. We wanted the mid-to-late April event to start at 3 pm, but the administration insisted on 5 pm. The argument was: music would be disruptive to students "in and immediately after" class. We asked if the records office might identify the "ideal time" based on the administration's concerns, and we would abide by whatever was selected, which the admin readily accepted. That's how my college had no choice but to start a music festival at 4:20 pm. Best turnout in years.

Sometimes it's best to leave it in the hands of others. Not sure that's relevant here, but here's hoping.
 

mauf

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These are national numbers that pre-date the pandemic, but TV watching peaks between 7pm and 10pm. Viewership is higher in the 6-7 window than the 10-11 window and drops dramatically after 11.

https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-7/mobile/television-capturing-americas-attention.htm


Seems like a 7pm start time is close to optimal, but 6:30 probably makes more sense than 7:30 for weeknight games. Unless, of course, the pandemic has markedly changed people’s viewing habits.
 
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Petagine in a Bottle

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I was actually able to run data for April - October for all tv and then regional sports networks. I looked at M-F by hour for 6p-12a. TV ratings are the percentage of the population viewing in an average minute.

For all of TV, viewing is highest from 8-10. Big drop off in the 11-12 hour. 6-7 is highet

Total TV
6-7: 18.1 rtg
7-8: 20.5
8-9: 22.5
9-10: 23.0
10-11: 20.5
11-12: 15.6

for the average regional sports net, 9-10 was the peak with 8-9 and 10-12 right behind. 7-8 and 11-12 have the same average, quite a bit higher than 6-7. Of course, a lot of this is driven by programming, not many games start before 7 and prime time programming concludes at 11. So a little chicken and egg.

RSN
6-7: 0.13
7-8: 0.38
8-9: 0.61
9-10: 0.68
10-11: 0.61
11-12: 0.38

Ultimately, I think this shows you want games over by 11 if possible- 11 seems to be that time when a lot of people go to bed. I think that suggest a likely start time between 715-730, which is kind of where we already are, no?
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Yeah, 6PM start times it is.
The RSN number is absolutely driven by what is on then.

Also makes it obvious why Manfred is trying to shove a square peg into a round hole with rushing to get games over,
A game starting at 6 is generally going to be over around 9. 9-10 and 10-11 are both higher than 6-7, so I don’t think 6 makes sense. Honestly, this probably just ends up reinforcing a 7p start.

I should probably look at this in a normal year, too…last year represented a time when more people were WFH. Although who really knows what normal is…
 

Earthbound64

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Bosoxian

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A game starting at 6 is generally going to be over around 9. 9-10 and 10-11 are both higher than 6-7, so I don’t think 6 makes sense. Honestly, this probably just ends up reinforcing a 7p start.

I should probably look at this in a normal year, too…last year represented a time when more people were WFH. Although who really knows what normal is…
Is there really enough (any) data that shows what viewership would be for a 6pm start game?
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Is there really enough (any) data that shows what viewership would be for a 6pm start game?
I think total TV usage at that hour is the best proxy to understanding the potential- based on how many people are at home at that time. Now one could argue that there isn’t much TV usage at that time because there is nothing good on TV that airs at that time. To which one could argue that there isn’t much on TV at that time because a lot of people aren’t home then. And round and round we go.

Top hours for TV viewing based on last April-Oct

9-10
8-9
10-11, 7-8
6-7
11-12

So I think you’d want games to fall into that 7-11 period, and really not want them to go much last 12 at all. Which is kind of where we are at.

Breaking out 6-7 and 11-12 by 15/30 min chunks would probably help (is there a big drop off right at 11 or is it later?) and also running an analysis to see the distribution of how long games are.

(NESN would have the ability to break out every one of their telecasts by minute and chart it out that way to see where the spikes and dips are. Will vary by game situation but with a big sample you should see some patterns. Didn’t they also start games earlier a few years ago, at least early in the year? Could take that into account as well).
 

snowmanny

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As far as I can tell, here are the usual weeknight start times for Eastern teams this year:

Mets 7:10
Phillies 6:45
Braves 7:20
Nationals 7:05
Pirates 6:35
Reds 6:40
Yankees 7:05
Marlins 6:40
Rays TBA (2021-7:10)
Guardians TBA (2021-7:10)
Orioles 7:05

So several teams now start before 7:00. The Braves start a little later. I am going to bet that this is to explore if they should games around 6:40.
 
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Bosoxian

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I would think that a Sox game at 6:30 would drive more people to a TV then a Seinfeld rerun, but given that the 7-8 time slot isn’t a big draw, it’s probably not worth it