In 2011, the Washington Nationals put together the 2nd best record in its team's history at 80-81, but it sure doesn't seem like DC viewers cared too much. According to Sports Business Daily, the Nationals average audience size in 2011 was 29,000 households. To put it in perspective, that's more than 12,000 fewer households than there are seats at Nationals Park.
In the RSN ratings, there were two teams with lower average ratings than the Nationals, and they were the two LA teams, the Angels and Dodgers. The Dodgers dropped off by more than 30% in average ratings from the 2010 season, which can easily be attributed to the ownership issues with Frank McCourt and Major League Basball. The Nationals dropped 4.7% from last season and were the only East Coast team to be in the bottom 5 in average rating. The Nationals' MASN partner, the Baltimore Orioles, did join them in the bottom 3 as far as average audience size, but the O's eclipsed the Nats by 2,000 households.
To compare the Nationals numbers to other NL East teams, the Philadelphia Phillies made it into an average of 276,000 households this season, which is good for a 16% increase from 2010. The New York Mets made it into 163,000 households on average, and that was after having most of their organization on the DL at some point during the season. You have to love that New York market. The Mets number this season was almost 20% lower than the previous season. The Florida Marlins join the Nats in the bottom 5 for average household viewership at 32,000.
These numbers are just a solemn reminder that, despite the Nationals steady improvement this season, they still have a long, long way to go to make inroads in the saturated DC sports market. With the Washington Redskins and the Washington Capitals to compete with, even though they play during different seasons, there might be a long way to go before we see the Nats come out of the bottom 10 in baseball. One thing that would help though? A 2012 playoff run.