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Monday, May 20, 2024

MLB Home Run Derby Draws Lowest Viewership in Five Years

  • The 2023 Derby averaged 6.11 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2.
  • The declining viewership could be chalked up to issues in the format that finally took their toll on fans.
Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. before the 2023 MLB Home Run Derby.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday in Seattle, Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. became the first Blue Jay and part of the first father-son duo to win MLB’s Home Run Derby — after his father, Vlad Sr., won in 2007 — but that wasn’t enough to entice fans to tune in.

The 2023 Derby averaged 6.11 million viewers across ESPN’s main telecast (5.52M) and ESPN2’s StatCast (596,000), per Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp. That’s the lowest figure for the event since 2018, when 5.9 million watched, representing an 11% drop from 2022’s 6.88 million.

The declining viewership could be chalked up to issues in the format that finally took their toll on fans.

Awful Announcing notes that many fans were having trouble keeping up with the fast pace of the Derby in its timed format; before 2015, the Derby was contested with ten outs, where any swing that was not a homer counted as an out.

“I prefer the old format and think it leads to bigger dingers,” tweeted blogger Matt Clapp. “These guys are just trying to sneak in as many swings as they can under the clock, which is exhausting. And as a viewer, it’s so hard to keep up.

ESPN did its best to keep up with the frantic action — but it also made its own mistakes. Immediately following Guerrero Jr.’s victory, the network flashed a graphic stating that he was the second Cuban-born player to win the event; the 24-year-old was born in Canada and grew up in the Dominican Republic.

Karp also speculated before the event that 2023 could be the year that the Derby would outdraw MLB’s main event of the week, the All-Star Game — but given these numbers, it won’t be a difficult bar to clear.

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