Fresh off a thrilling World Series in which TV ratings were up from last year, not everything is look good for Major League Baseball.
One key demographic -- children ages 6 to 17 -- is conspicuously losing interest in the sport. According to the Wall Street Journal, kids accounted for 4.3 percent of the average audience for the ALCS and NLCS this year, down from 7.4 percent one decade ago. Kids made up about 4.6 percent of the World Series audience. That figure is lower than the number of kids in the 6-17 range who watch the NFL, NBA, NHL and the English Premier League.
Making the situation more troublesome for MLB is that fewer kids are playing Little League. Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal notes that 2.1 million children played Little League baseball last year, down from 2.6 million in 1997.
The problem with the national pastime isn't just that it's past bedtime. More likely it is that baseball is slower and less action-packed than most other sports.
There is at least one positive sign for baseball. Bob Bowman, chief executive of MLB Advanced Media, told the Wall Street Journal that fans downloaded 10 million copies of MLB.com's mobile app this season. That's an increase of 3.3 million from last season. Many of those downloads are likely coming from kids.
"We know that with kids today, that is the best way to reach them," Bowman said. "And in some cases that's the only way to reach them."
Still, this downward trend feels ominous for many baseball enthusiasts. If fewer kids are following the sport now, what will viewership be like in 10, 20, 30 and 40 years?
There are several suggested solutions for baseball's kid quandary. Perhaps starting games earlier would help, although there's much more to it than that. MLB executives would be wise to enforce rules encouraging players to pick up the pace of games, making the sport faster and more easily digestible for its youngest fans.