MLB Ratings Are Worse Than NBA’s, But Nobody Seems To Care

MLB Ratings Are Worse Than NBA’s, But Nobody Seems To Care

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.

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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.

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?

Related: Horny ESPN Host Wants To Run For President

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.

Related: Jadeveon Clowney Signing With Chiefs, Seahawks Or Cowboys?

Carlos Garcia

A longtime sports reporter, Carlos Garcia has written about some of the biggest and most notable athletic events of the last 5 years. He has been credentialed to cover MLS, NBA and MLB games all over the United States. His work has been published on Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, AOL and the Washington Post.


  1. Adverts
    A game in person is a holiday in terms of the amount of advertising breaks, demanding attention and focus from the viewer
    Put it in tv, keep interrupting-ting with ads – and the games’ value falls dramatically.

    1. I am not sure I agree with the NBA being used as an example of “go woke, get broke”, and baseball is not. From all my family and friends they are making a conscious decision not to watch because of the politics.

      For my family, friends and I, sports is an escape, it is a form of entertainment. If I want political opinion and commentary about world issues, I will turn on one of the many news networks. It is the same as hiring a clown for my kids birthday and that clown starts off by kneeling and saying asinine things about politics and history.

      I don’t tune in to hear some rich Jock’s opinion on world matters or history of the U.S. They are well paid clowns to entertain the masses and if they stop fulfilling that function people like me stop watching.

      If you want to be more than an entertainer, go get a degree, become educated on the matter and join a news channel. Otherwise, shut up, get hit in the face with a pie and entertain us.

      Ditto for the announcers.

      1. I agree 100% , these guys are trying to use this as a platform for politics and very few have any idea or remotely understand politics. Supporting racist Marxist organizations such as BLM is the #1 cause for declining ratings. Not to mention all the new rules or non calls. NBA equals no bounce association!

        1. Their job is to play sports. This is the first truth in viewership I’ve been able to find. It’s crazy when you think of the tens of millions, if note 100+ million, locked up and they won’t turn it on. They did it to themselves.

          1. Baseball has the wrong audience to get woke. Way more liberals watch nba than conservatives and vice versa.

      2. Yep, when I tune in to watch MLB, I do so I can watch baseball, not baseball players masquerading as social justice warriors. If I want to watch social justice warriors, I will tune in to the riots in Portland. Their season is longer than MLB’s anyway.

        In addition the MLB product is awful. Poor or no fundamentals, 7 inning DHs, no pitches on an intentional walk, and the worst rule of all is the runner on second in extra innings. It’s Major League Baseball, not some video game or an amateur game in a youth tournament where there is a time limit. Manfred is awful.

      3. Exactly, how many of us can go to our jobs , kneel and rant about po,itics? My guess is none. I’m there to perform my job period! If I want to opine about social justice, politics, climate issues or anything else I do it after work. These overpaid, arrogant, jocks are there to do one thing and one thing only ….play a game! If you want to change the world do like the rest of us …. on our own time!

  2. The BLM messaging probably has a bigger effect on Baseball audiences which are more conservative. The NBA may have lost some viewers from the kneeling and BLM messages but likely not as many. The lack of audiences probably matters too because going to games increases fan bonds with the team. There are probably other reasons too. The NHL hasn’t been political and has done quite well though so BLM messaging likely has SOME impact.

  3. Nobody cares about MLB ratings because nobody under 60 watches baseball. People care about NBA ratings because it is a sport that is supposed to be ascending – and clearly has stalled. I tried to watch the fourth quarter of the play-in game today, and it was awful. There’s no atmosphere whatsoever, so there’s none of the tension that should come from a game with such high stakes. This is all made worse at the end of the game which is a non-stop parade of refs marching back and forth to the official’s table for replays. The product is really bad right now, so nobody is watching.

    1. Actually I (37) watch baseball with my son (11), and my parents. we also used to fly to spring training religiously. But with our teams all taking up politics have decided to not renew our season tickets with the Mariners and have not watched a game this season since the circus show they put on opening night.

  4. Over the years, big time sports have done a good job of bringing the viewer into the stadium or arena through the use of technology, on-field access, etc. In a sense, TV viewers began to feel as if they were part of the event. Without that experience, there is a lack of excitement despite the attempts to bring in crowd noise, field level shots, etc. This, in combination with the societal issues mentioned in the article make sports less of a release and more of a reminder of the problems in our world.

  5. The value of sports has diminished. Political pandering only diminishes it further. Regardless of whether in person or thru media, the product its players, owners and sponsors are doing nothing more than trying to tell everyone how to think. I can do without that. I gave up sports 10+ years ago. Don’t miss it and have utilized my financial resources for more enjoyable measures. I see professional sports now as nothing more than overpaid, entitled dema-gods that seek nothing more than to lecture myself and others on things they know very little about. I won’t pay for that.

    1. I agree TP. I am old and sports was once a spiritual get away from the harsh realties of life and work. but I have grown sour on all sports. my country comes before their antics and false propositions of some made up racial problem. a rising tide lifts all boats and that is what I believe is happening in America. the left just does not want to accept that. God speed these great sport leagues but they have determined their future. Politics vs. sports. Lord help us when it works its way down to college and high school sports. it s coming and I am sad that my county is going this direction.

  6. Are you kidding me? People are watching the NBA due to the racists players and the BLM scam socialists movement being shoved down our throats. Most are sick of this bs and may never watch the racist NBA ever again. I know we will not.

    1. Agree Booker. hate that our wonderful sport leagues have moved in this direction . but it is powerful BlM has the backing of 50% of voters via the Democrats and corporate America. this will not end peacefully I am worried. when billionaire owners of redskin team are forced by the mob to change its name (fed ex the mob) then the mob has won. just enjoy what God has given us to enjoy and forget professional markeiest sports they made their choice. we choose otherwise

  7. Are you kidding me? People are not watching the NBA due to the racists players and the BLM scam socialists movement being shoved down our throats. Most are sick of this bs and may never watch the racist NBA ever again. I know we will not.

  8. Are you kidding me? People are not watching the NBA due to the racists players and the BLM scam socialists movement being shoved down our throats. Lebron ignores the China suppression but hates our country. Lol. Move then. Most are sick of this bs and may never watch the racist NBA ever again. I know we will not.

  9. Are you kidding me? People are not watching the NBA due to the racists players and the BLM scam socialists movement being shoved down our throats. Lebron ignores the China suppression but hates our country. Lol. Move then. Most are sick of this bs and may never watch the racist NBA ever again. I know we will not. FUCK THESE NIGGERS

  10. I can’t speak for anyone else. But I’m my household 5 people sat down to watch opening day baseball. Saw the politics, shut the tv and will never watch again. Good luck

  11. It’s not fair to compare NBA and MLB. MLB is a regional game which wont garnish the same ratings as the NBA which according to any sports analyst on TV has more global power and influence. NBA has banked on star power to equal country wide viewership. The fact that it’s starting to level out with baseball is actually alarming for the NBA as MLB’s infrastructure is vastly superior and more global than the NBA with their Minor leagues, affiliation with Caribbean / Korean / Japanese and Chinese leagues. Also, to be completely fair, the Cubs St. Louis Cardinals game was almost sold out in London back in January before the epidemic hit and I almost bought tickets. The reason no one cares is because MLB is fundamentally fine. NBA is starting to show cracks.

    NBA’s problem is people may be just exhausted by not only the athletes themselves putting themselves in front of every camera and social media account known to man, but the sports brain trust pushes them too much that its not too far fetched to think people are just tired of political side of the NBA that they just don’t like the game.

    The other reason you think no one seems to care is, let me know what mainstream sports network actually talks about baseball? None do.

    MLB is just business as usual and will probably still be the top grossing revenue sport in America again.

    1. Twice in this article a Kansas City Royals game was cited to accentuate the writer’s point of view. That would be the same as alleging the nba’s t-wolves as part of their signature product. Problem is, the nba shoves the same 5-6 teams down our throats, locates star players in select cities, then uses them as marketing tools to pander overpriced shoes, jerseys, etc.. As a former Kings fan, i realized teams in most cities are set up to be like the globetrotter’s foes- the Washington generals, as part of their ‘act’ and have no real shot at a title under the current system. This became very evident during the 2002 western conf finals where the reffing made the WWE look credible. Also, how does a team who’s been mostly putrid since ’85 only end up with the 1st overall pick in the draft one time, which happened when the best player available was Pervis Ellison. I’ve tried to stay loyal, but after seeing long time announcer Napear fired after being trolled immaturely by whiney demarcus cousins, then seeing the names on jerseys which are both segregative in nature and suggest their moral superiority, it drove the final nail in the NBA’s coffin for this ex-fan.

  12. The news is all bad lately. Politics are awful. I would like to be able to watch a game and get away from the bad news and politics. Sadly, they have made them part of the games. So sorry, no game watching for me, as much as I love watching basketball and some baseball. Heck, I can’t even tell who the players are on the court. I am not surprised that there are no surveys about reasons people aren’t watching, because it seems they really don’t want the answers, and probably know why already.

  13. To the idiots running these sports leagues, we sit down to watch sports to GET AWAY from all the political bullsh!t and all we see is political bullsh!t.

    I watch movies now or play cards with the wife, screw them.

    1. yep atta kid Joe ……I am the same so much happier enjoying family. maybe someday the leagues get back in line with average America ; will see. till then enjoy family

  14. I and the majority of those who watch sports simply am exhausted with the pandering by millionaires, but in whole they have accomplished absolutely nothing.

    1. The last six months have shown millions of fans they can get by just fine without professional sports.
      These overpaid louts are skating on pretty thin ice here. If they keep up the political crapola, they could easily find themselves working for a living; many of them for the first time in their lives.

  15. I agree with all the above; I am not watching any more. Just a note: politics has 2 or even more side. If sports take just one of them, they will obviously lose the other(s). Very simple.

  16. I believe they are missing the point that cable TV is going away… all my friends and family watch baseball on some type of smart TVs. These numbers aren’t true. Especially when T-Mobile is giving away MLB Tv for free. I have no need for cable and I’m not alone.

  17. It is time to eliminate sports from being exempt from antitrust law? The Antitrust Laws
    Congress passed the first antitrust law, the Sherman Act, in 1890 as a “comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.” In 1914, Congress passed two additional antitrust laws: the Federal Trade Commission Act, which created the FTC, and the Clayton Act. With some revisions, these are the three core federal antitrust laws still in effect today.

  18. Are any of the above commenters Nielsen Families? If not, then it makes no difference what you choose to watch or not watch, because you have no effect on the numbers either way.

  19. Isn’t the NBA having its playoffs whereas it’s regular season baseball? Not exactly a fair comparison of the ratings. To get just a little over a million or so viewers for playoff basketball is abysmal. Plus, i would be curious to know when was the lowest-rated baseball game aired on ESPN. Willing to bet that it must have been during a weekday afternoon. However, agree that ratings are down all across the board. Perhaps, that should give an indication for these athletes to take up and fight for their social causes away from the playing field.

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