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Pirates' local TV ratings drop 27 percent in 2017

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, 8:27 p.m.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen walks from the field during a rain delay in the second inning against the Cardinals Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen walks from the field during a rain delay in the second inning against the Cardinals Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, at PNC Park.

The Pirates' local TV ratings plummeted by 27 percent this year, the fifth-largest drop in the majors.

According to Nielsen Media data, which was reported Tuesday by Forbes.com, the Pirates this season drew a 5.02 rating on AT&T SportsNet (formerly Root Sports). In 2016, the Pirates had a 6.91 rating.

In Nielsen's system, a single ratings point equals 1 percent of the total number of televisions in a designated market.

“Pirates' fans connection to and engagement with the club remained very strong in 2017, despite our disappointing performance on the field,” president Frank Coonelly said via email.

“While our ratings were not as high as they were in 2016, the Pirates remained one of the highest-rated teams in all of Major League Baseball, finishing sixth in the league this year. This was the seventh straight year in which the Pirates' ratings were among the top 10 in baseball. The Pirates are extremely fortunate and grateful to have the best fans in baseball.”

In addition to tuning out the Pirates on TV, fans made fewer trips to PNC Park. Home attendance was down 15 percent compared to last year.

This year, the Pirates went 75-87 and were fourth in the NL Central. In 2016, they went 78-83 and finished third.

In 2015, when the Pirates earned their third consecutive National League wild-card berth, the club had record-setting attendance and TV ratings. Over the two years since, ratings are down a staggering 45 percent and attendance is off by 23 percent.

The downturn in ratings, attendance and on-field success figures to lessen the amount of leverage the Pirates will have as they negotiate their next TV contract.

There are two years remaining on the Pirates' 10-year local TV contract. The total and annual values of the deal never have been divulged.

The team's rights fee increases annually. In 2012, industry sources told the Tribune-Review the annual fee was around $18 million. One year ago, Fangraphs put it at $25 million .

Coonelly has repeatedly said those numbers are too low but has refused to reveal the actual figure.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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