MLB Rule Changes Spur Record Opening Day MLB.TV Viewership

  • MLB.TV drew record viewership on Opening Day.
  • Minutes watched rose 42% from last year.
MLB had a successful Opening Weekend.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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Major League Baseball’s rule changes — highlighted by the new pitch clock — are not only helping TV ratings but also luring fans to streaming platforms.

Opening Day generated record viewership for MLB.TV, according to SportsPro. The direct-to-consumer platform drew a record 172 million minutes watched across 15 MLB games on Thursday, up 42% from 121 million last year. 

MLB.TV has added a number of fan-engagement features, including live graphics featuring betting data and statistics, plus 3-D renderings of plays during selected games.

The league’s TV partners are also reporting strong numbers from opening weekend.

  • Fox Sports’ season-opening doubleheader averaged 2,212,000 viewers, a 10% increase over last year’s season for FOX Saturday baseball telecasts.
  • ESPN’s Opening Weekend averaged 1,597,000 viewers, up 11% vs. last year’s full season average.
  • ESPN’s Phillies-Rangers “Sunday Night Baseball” game averaged 1.5 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2 — up 4% from last season’s SNB average, per Nielsen.

ESPN2’s “KayRod Cast,” featuring the YES Network’s New York Yankees announcer Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez, added 245,000 viewers or 15.7% of the overall audience. That’s believed to be a higher percentage than Peyton and Eli Manning’s alternative telecast of “Monday Night Football.”

ESPN’s Sunday game broadcast averaged 1.3 million viewers — making it the most-watched sporting event on cable TV that night among the coveted 18-49 age demographic.  

Shorter Games

MLB’s rule changes have improved the pace of play.

The average game time was 2:45 compared to 3:11 during the first seven games of the 2022 season. The use of bigger bases and fewer pickoff attempts led to 21 stolen bases on Opening Day — the most since 1907, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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