Cleveland Indians News: TV and Radio ratings surge, but attendance hasn't followed suit

If you broadcast it, they will tune in. - USA TODAY Sports

Attendance still remains low, but there are some very encouraging signs elsewhere.

Popularity is a funny thing. The Indians' attendance still ranks among the lowest in the majors, and their attendance/game is actually down this year vs last year:

2012 attendance/game 2013 attendance/game
20,976 19,767

But the TV and radio ratings are a much different matter:

- Their rating on flaships WTAM 1100AM and WMMS 100.7FM combined are up nearly 40% from last season.

- The team's TV rating on SportsTime Ohio is up nearly 30% from last season at the same number of games. July saw an increase of 33% and so far in August, there has been an increase of 168% compared to last year.

(Pretty shrewd move by the Indians to release this data now, just in time for a weekend home series.)

How do you explain the disconnect between TV/radio ratings and attendance? I think part of it has to do with the way popularity builds. There tends to be a timing gap between when a team (or any performing group for that matter) gets good and when it becomes popular. There's less of a time investment to turn on your TV and radio than to buy tickets and spend 4+ hours going to a game or a concert. Apparently the Indians haven't quite reached that tipping point where going to an Indians game is the "in thing" to do, though if they remain in contention after their road trip to Atlanta and Detroit, I think people will buy in and head to the park.

Also, the way the Indians price their tickets does discourage the walkup. Tickets to Progressive Field are more expensive if they are purchased at the box office on the day of the game, which is pretty much standard procedure for the entertainment industry (see this fantastic article at WFNY for much more), but the downside is that you aren't as welcoming to those who want to jump on the bandwagon.

Getting people to really buy back into the Indians isn't going to happen overnight, as that involves changing long-held attitudes about ownership and the team in general. The only real solution to making Progressive Field a destination again is several consecutive years of contention, something that hasn't happened since the turn of the century. The Indians should know by now that they can't just field a team and expect people to show up.

It's certainly not a given that the Indians will make the playoffs, but as the ratings show, this season can be a big step towards a fanbase rejuvenation regardless of how the season ends. A lot of the groundwork has already been done, which is amazing given where the organization was a year ago. Make a couple more additions this winter and retain or extend a couple of key players from this year's club, and you'll see 25,000 a night next season.

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