In an earlier post I wondered about how many people actually watch MLB games overall, not just on the national broadcasts. Reader tjwilliams did some calculations:
Okay, so I just did some quick back-of-the-napkin math and came up with 1.65 billion viewers for NFL (live and TV) and 1.01 billion viewers for MLB (live and TV). Here’s how I got there.
The NFL numbers were fairly simple. An average of 17.9 million people watched each NFL game last year (not including playoffs) and there are roughly 91 games broadcast each year (18 MNF, 17 CBS, 17 Fox, 9 Doubleheader, 17 NBC, 8 NFL Network, plus a smattering of Saturday and Thanksgiving games). That totals about 1.63 billion viewers. Add in the roughly 17.2 million people who annually attend in person and you get a total of roughly 1.65 billion people.
MLB is a little tougher. The regional broadcasts in 2010 varied between 210,000 average viewers (Phillies) and 14,000 average viewers (Nationals). I estimated a mean of 100,000 viewers for each team which, when figured for 30 teams and 150 games equals 450 million viewers. 2011 attendance figures project that annual MLB attendance will be 74.2 million. Finally, the national broadcasts seem to attract anywhere between 2 and 5 million viewers depending on day, time, and teams. I figured an average of 3.5 million viewers per game with approximately 140 nationally televised games each year totaled 490 million. All totaled, roughly 1.01 billion people viewed MLB games.
Obviously, the NFL gets more eyeballs. But it’s not leaps and bounds above MLB.
Reader sportsdrenched then added the following:
That kind of jives with the estimations that the NFL had 9.2 Billion in revenue in 2010, and MLB had 7.2 Billion. We can all agree that NFL is King in America. But clearly MLB is holding it’s own and is no where near the death bed a lot of people think it is.
As with any back-of-the-napkin calculations, there are probably some things being left out here, but I think this is, at the very least, a good start. Yes, the NFL is more popular and more widely-watched. But it’s not by orders of magnitude.