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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Major League Baseball’s Wild Card Audience Jumps 64%

  • ESPN’s exclusive coverage averages 2.8 million viewers
  • Nine Wild Card games reached more than 35 million fans.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball exceeded expectations with a strong TV performance for the 2022 MLB Wild Card Series.

ESPN’s exclusive coverage of nine game telecasts from Oct. 7-9 averaged 2.8 million viewers. While not quite an apples to apples comparison, that’s up 64% from the previous MLB Wild Card Series in 2020, which included 18 games.

Heading into the Wild Card round, there were concerns how the games would draw on TV. 

The delayed start to MLB’s 2022 season pushed the revamped Wild Card round up against college football and NFL games. But the rush of nine playoff games bleeding into each other over three days of baseball action gave this year’s Wild Card a “March Madness”-type feel. Baseball fans responded. 

Despite going up against NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” ESPN’s Sunday night telecast of Game 3 of the New York Mets vs. San Diego Padres series drew a strong 4 million viewers.

“We’re exceedingly happy with the performance of this event. Our nine games reached more than 35 million fans and viewership overall was up 64 percent from the 2020 rendition of this first round series,” said Rick Mace, ESPN’s senior manager, programming and acquisitions. “We consider this a fantastic start to our exclusive, annual Wild Card Series package and a strong indicator that these will only increase in future years with the possibility of more game 3s.”

More on ESPN’s Wild Card coverage:

  • Four of the nine games averaged over 3 million viewers. Game 3 of Mets-Padres was the most-watched (4M). Game 1 of Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cleveland Guardians was the least-watched at (1.8M). 
  • ESPN’s telecast of Game 3 of Mets-Padres peaked at 4.73 million viewers from 8-8:15 p.m. ET Sunday night. The three-game series averaged 3.7 million viewers.
  • ABC’s coverage of Game 1 of the Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals series averaged 3.1 million viewers, peaking at 4.58 million viewers.

All the Wild Card games aired across Disney-owned networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC). That made it easier for fans to find the games and for ESPN to whip them around.

During Saturday night’s coverage of Game 2 of both Mets-Padres and Phillies-Cardinals, for example, an average of 6.44 million viewers were watching the two games across ESPN and ESPN2 at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The momentum has carried into the first two day of the MLB Division Series, with games averaging 3.3 million viewers, the highest first two-day average since 2010.

Said MLB’s chief revenue officer Noah Garden:  “Fans have responded very positively to the new Postseason format. There is an interesting mix of clubs competing in games that have been tense and exciting.  And we’re seeing outstanding performances from an incredible group of players.  We’re happy to see the fans responding to the great competition on the field.”

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