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The Boys of Summer Are Back

MLB Averages 1.14M Viewers for Nationally-Televised Games During Opening Month

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May 12, 2022
June 21, 2022
 min read

The annual dawn of spring evokes uncomplicated excitement for fans of our national pastime who have anxiously awaited the return of sights and sounds that can only be found at a ballpark. For those who recognize just two seasons – winter and baseball – the crack of the bat, a base runner stretching a single into a double, and a catcher squeezing a third strike to end a game are each celebrated with childlike whimsy as the Major League Baseball season begins anew each April. The passion exhibited when clubs begin their campaigns with World Series ambitions is palpable both in the stadiums and on television broadcasts of the games, attracting fans from across the country to watch their favorites on the diamond. We used MVP’s broadcast platform to examine MLB’s reach for nationally-televised games during the first month of the 2022 season. It revealed across 14 games shown on the ESPN family of networks, FS1, and TBS, an average of 1.14 million households tuned in to watch, with the season’s opening weekend providing a strong start.

Leadoff Home Run for TV Ratings

Avid baseball fans everywhere consider Opening Day to be a holiday, and though it was delayed a week this year by a lockout, the short wait did little more than amplify many enthusiasts’ excitement. And when the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves began their title defense at home against the Cincinnati Reds on April 7, 1.76 million households were watching. It was the most-viewed Braves game on national television during the first month of the 2022 season, with their four contests averaging 1.12 million fans. But it was the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox who set the viewership bar for the young season just three days later. After drawing 1.64 million viewers for their FS1 matinee on April 9, the bitter rivals drew 1.78 million for ESPN’s opening Sunday Night Baseball game. As the month progressed, two of the Braves’ National League East foes – the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies – also graced national broadcasts four times. Of the three teams who played on national television four times through May 1, the Phillies’ average audience of 1.18 million households was the highest. The Mets ranked third among the trio at 983,991, with their average dipping due to a paltry 535,247 viewers for their April 26th game on TBS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Big Apple Draws Big Audiences

The Yankees and Mets proved to be a good double-play combination for broadcasters to begin the 2022 MLB season, as the New York City market was the only DMA to average more than 100,000 viewers, ultimately averaging 128,933 during the period we evaluated. The six games in that span featuring a hometown team from the Big Apple averaged 230,101 in the market, 4.3x more than games not including the Mets or Yankees. A deeper look reveals the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry – which averaged 1.71 million viewers nationally for its two games in early April – resulted in 330,459 viewers per game from New York City. By contrast, households tuning in to watch from Beantown numbered 141,737 per game. Other DMAs that demonstrated an affection for MLB games included Philadelphia and Los Angeles, which averaged 97,680 and 65,185, respectively. Atlanta and Chicago, the only other two DMAs to average more than 30,000 viewers per game so far this season, rounded out the top five.

Worldwide Leader is Baseball’s TV Ace

For more than three decades, ESPN has been home to Sunday Night Baseball, which features a marquee matchup weekly. The consistency has seemingly helped strengthen fans’ affinity for the network and its baseball coverage. Through the first four Sundays of the season, the network’s SNB broadcasts along with its opening night telecast of Reds-Braves averaged 1.47 million viewers, with every game exceeding 1 million. Despite showing one fewer game than FS1, ESPN’s total viewership exceeded that of its rival by 1.06 million. Additionally, the Worldwide Leader in Sports averaged 40.2% more viewers than FS1 did for its six games in April. TBS, which failed to draw more than 962,686 fans for any of its three games, averaged a mere 754,157 fans.

Prepping for the Middle Innings

Through a full month of play, the New York teams are playing well on the field and remaining a significant draw for broadcasters. Likewise, the Los Angeles clubs are holding steady atop their divisions and keeping their market among the top three in terms of viewership. But a baseball season is a marathon, with the dog days of July and August serving as a proving ground for nines throughout both leagues. As players continue to get their uniforms dirty and play a kid’s game for a living, stay connected with MVP for further insights into how fans are consuming the action on television and online all summer long.

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