Major League Baseball’s wild card matchup between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees earned over 7 million viewers on Tuesday, ESPN said, cutting off the league’s rankings in 2019 and 2020 – as sports vision gradually recovers from a Covid-induced decline.
About 7.7 million people tuned in to ESPN and ESPN2 Tuesday night to watch the Red Sox defeat Yankees 6-2 at home and earns a spot in MLB’s American League postseason, according to Nielsen rating data quoted by ESPN.
That’s a jump of 67% from 2019, when 4.6 million people watched the wild card game in the American League between the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics.
Last year, MLB responded to Covid-19 by reorganizing the season and offering more best-of-three wild card series instead of just two single-elimination games, and the 16 wild card matches aired on ESPN and ABC averaged 1.8 million viewers, with the most sets earning 2.6 million, Associated Press reported at the time.
ESPN so The Red Sox-Yankees game was the network’s most watched MLB broadcast since 1998. In recent years, ESPN has broadcast relatively few MLB post-season games, which usually send a wild card game and dozens of games in the regular season.
The Red Sox and Yankees’ decades-old rivalry has likely helped increase this year’s rise in MLB wild card rankings. But it is also the latest sports broadcast that registered a small increase in viewership after 2020, when the coronavirus forced leagues such as MLB to cancel matches, reorganize the seasons and take away personal fans. MLB’s Home Run Derby – which did not run in 2020 – averaged 7.1 million viewers this year, the highest rating since 2017, according to ESPN. Last month’s NFL regular match start drew 26 million viewers, a 20% jump from 2020, and NBA Finals rankings spike 32% from 2020 to 2021.
In July, MLB All-Star Game only 8.2 million viewers, an increase of less than 1% from record lows in 2019.
What to look for
This year’s World Series rankings. MLB had its world ranking with lowest ranking on record last year, averaging just under 9.8 million viewers in six matches. Disruptions to Covid-19 and a presidential election likely threatened fans’ interest last year, but it has baseball met another headwind in recent years, with only 37% of American adults identifying themselves as baseball fans in October 2020 Marist College poll – down from 51% in March 2017.
Despite baseball’s legendary status as America’s pastime, MLB consistently draws fewer viewers than the NFL. For example, last week Sunday night football a New England Patriots-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game – averaging approximately 28.5 million viewers on NBC and streaming services, the most watched Sunday game in nine years, NBC sa.