MLB Ratings Hit Home Run As Baseball Season Returns

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The much-anticipated return of the 2020 baseball season did not disappoint in terms of MLB ratings. The Yankees-Nationals season opener was the most-watched game on any network since 2011.

The takeaways:
  • ESPN averaged 4 million viewers for the season opener according to Nielsen’s fast nationals ratings.
  • The figure was up from ESPN’s Opening Night telecast in 2019 by 232%
  • “Local ratings for MLB games on RSNs are up +25% over the same number of games last year” for 92 local telecasts, Fox Sports EVP Michael Mulvihill tweeted.

Rain, rain go away: According to ESPN and Nielsen data, the Yankees-Nationals game peaked at 8.30 pm EDT with 4.48m viewers. The Yankees went on to win the rain-shortened match 4-1, which could have generated higher numbers without the downpour.

Consistent performance: Viewership throughout the week, July 23-26, remained strong with an average of 1.23m viewers across all networks. The stat marks nearly 100% growth compared to a similar period in 2019.

  • ESPN’s late-night game, Giants-Dodgers generated an average audience of 2.76m, becoming ESPN’s most-watched late-night regular-season MLB game ever.
  • Fox Sports posted a 2.1 average primetime MLB rating, up 17% from its full-season average in 2019, for the July 25 primetime coverage of the Yankees-Nationals.

Advertisers flood back: The top 10 TV advertisers spent a combined $9.5m across 652 commercial airings between July 23-28. The top 3 advertisers were:

  • Geico – $1.5m (estimated) across 87 airings
  • Bud Light – $1.3m across 70 airings
  • T-Mobile – $1.1m across 85 airings.

Other notable advertisers in the top 10 include Toyota ($980k) and Mastercard ($630k).

Looking ahead: Despite audience numbers not reaching Fox Sports’ 40% project gain for MLB’s restart, the return of sports marks a crucial turning point for the advertising industry which has struggled without live sports.

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