Comment of the Day: How many people really watch MLB games?

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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.


MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.