By Preston Kiley
In an season unlike any other, MLB’s TV viewership increased while ratings were down because of a lower number of households being tracked, according to Forbes magazine.
This is how, in an upside-down season, comparing sports viewership numbers from last year with 2020 is not apples-to-apples. It’s more like apples to apple cider with orange zest.
This year, Nielsen NLSN moved to track viewers not just at home but also digitally. This provides a window into true viewership, something that’s been missing for some time as mobile via over-the-top (OTT) has become a large part of the equation. The problem is, not all of MLB’s regional sports networks are part of the paid service now provided by Nielsen.
Based upon the 25 metered MLB RSNs for 2020 in the U.S., viewership was up 4.2% for the 60-game regular season based on P2+ (people ages 2 and up) from the start of the season on July 23 through September 27. That’s promising news for a league that had to compete with the NBA and the NHL, which pushed their seasons in the wake of the pandemic.
Unsurprisingly given their market size, the Yankees and the Dodgers led the way in average viewers per game, followed by the Phillies, and Cubs. All told, 14 of the 25 measured markets saw increases averaging 36%; 11 were in decline, with the drops averaging 22% in average viewership.
Below are the average P2+ numbers for the 25 metered MLB RSNs for 2020. That includes 21 LPM Market Average, MLB on RSN data as of September 27, courtesy of Home Team Sports.