MLB Ratings Are Worse Than NBA’s, But Nobody Seems To Care
Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of justifiable finger wagging regarding the NBA’s objectively weak TV ratings. As far as the numbers go, the criticism is mostly fair.
What seems to be flying under the radar, however, is that basketball is not alone in its viewership woes. Baseball is doing very poorly as well. In some cases, worse than the NBA.
For whatever reason, people seem much less concerned about the MLB’s ratings problems.
MLB Ratings Plummeted Quickly
When the baseball season officially restarted in late July, there was a lot of optimism regarding viewership. Audiences had been starved of most live sports for the better part of three months, so it stood to reason that they would eat up anything placed in front of them.
The Opening Day game between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals did an average of 4 million viewers. That marked a record for the most viewers during an opening night telecast on ESPN. It was also the highest-viewed regular season baseball game on any network in nine years.
Unfortunately for the MLB, from there the ratings nosedived.
In fact, when you compare how baseball performed on its second day versus how the NBA performed on its second day, the NBA came out on top.
Games between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, as well as the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, did 1.3 million viewers and 1.7 million viewers, respectively.
Meanwhile, games featuring the New York Mets vs Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers vs Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels vs Oakland A’s struggled to even reach one million viewers.
The first Sunday game of the year on ESPN, a showdown between the Braves and Mets, did 18 percent worse in the ratings than the first Sunday night game of 2019.
Things have not improved for baseball since then.
This past week, a regional primetime FOX outing between the Cubs and Kansas City Royals did 1.49 million viewers. It marked the network’s worst-performing MLB game in two years. When compared to other MLB primetime showings, it was the worst in four years.
Over on ESPN, a game between the Mets and Nationals did 298,000 viewers, while one between the Angels and Seattle Mariners did 249,000 viewers.
For context, the worst-performing ESPN-hosted game of the year last season was one between the Angels and A’s that did 368,000 viewers.
That is how bad the numbers are. The worst-performing outings from 2019 are far exceeding the norm in 2020.
Now compare that to the NBA, where games featuring the Los Angeles Lakers, Celtics, Rockets and Brooklyn Nets still draw more than one million viewers regularly.
None of which is to say the NBA’s ratings right now are good. They are not. Both the PGA and NASCAR beat it in viewership last week.
The PGA Championship did 5.15 million viewers, NASCAR: MIS did 2.37 million viewers, and a game between the Lakers and Rockets did 1.62 million viewers.
However, do you know what did worse than that NBA game? The highest-ranked MLB game. That showdown between the Cubs and Royals did 1.49 million viewers.
MLB Ratings vs NBA Ratings: A Tale Of 2 Sets Of Athletes
It would be naïve to assume that all the attention paid to the NBA’s ratings woes versus the relative quiet surrounding the MLB’s has nothing to do with the athletes involved.
Although both baseball players and basketball players have been noticeably more outspoken as it pertains to social justice matters this year, the latter group’s voices are significantly louder.
Lakers’ LeBron James on President Trump saying kneeling NBA players are a “disgrace”: “I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership. … November is right around the corner and it’s a big moment for us as Americans.” pic.twitter.com/m8G3KQAWsd
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 6, 2020
And because those voices tend to amplify issues that align more with liberal than conservative causes, it stands to reason that a vocal non-liberal portion of the population is eager to highlight the NBA’s ratings problems and ignore the MLB’s.
What makes even this a bit odd, though, is the fact that a case could easily be made that the MLB’s ratings are down due to their players kneeling and becoming increasingly involved in social justice as well.
So why is the NBA constantly used as a politics-in-sports cautionary tale, when the MLB could be cited just as easily for someone who wants to make that case?
MLB Ratings Could Be Down For Many Reasons
The reality is, politics could be dragging down both the NBA’s ratings and the MLB’s ratings.
Or it could be the crowd-less games that many find off-putting.
Perhaps the problem is the fact that TV viewership as a whole is down, and has been trending that way for many years.
Maybe it is a combination of all those things and other factors.
But pretending like only the NBA is having a rough time ratings-wise is misleading at best, and completely disingenuous at worst.