MLB rules in primetime, even with regional sports network viewership flat from year-over-year

Viewership for regional sports networks remains flat during the All-Star break. But given the decline in linear TV subscriptions and the league’s high number of games, most of which are won in prime time, Major League Baseball continues to be hot property.

The year-over-year (YOY) numbers show that household impressions (HH) (IMP) are very close to where they were during the All-Star break last year. Overall, the league is down -0.38% or flat when rounded. Thirteen of the 29 show gains in 2021, while 15 are down. In a remarkable sign of consistency, the Pittsburgh Pirates are seeing exactly the same viewership numbers on AT&T
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Pittsburgh, like last year. The numbers for the Toronto Blue Jays are not tracked by Nielsen because they are located in Canada.

Baseball continues to be in high demand by advertisers, given its large array of games and the near-daily cadence that allows for product coverage in advertisements.

“Our ad revenue has continued to grow over the past five years at a double-digit CAGR (compound annual growth rate),” said Craig Sloan, chief operating officer of Playfly Sports, the company that sees Home Team Sports, a company that covers a portfolio of advertisers in many of the RSNs, as a subsidiary. “That’s a double-digit increase year over year.”

As Sloan notes, baseball has seen extremely consistent numbers based on fan loyalty. The household impression numbers bear this out as many viewing gains lag behind in the rankings. At the top with the biggest profit are the Texas Rangers. The Rangers saw a +42% year-over-year increase. They are followed by the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners (+33%), the St. Louis Cardinals (+30%) and the Philadelphia Phillies (+25%).

Perhaps the biggest factor in MLB’s popularity with advertisers is how it dominates primetime versus broadcast and cable competition. Eleven of the 29 are ranked #1 in their designated market area (Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Astros, Cardinals, Giants, Mariners, Guardians, Padres, Brewers, Royals) and five are ranked #2 (Braves, Tigers, Twins , Rays, Reds and three rank #3 (Mets, Red Sox, Orioles).

With a scorching record in the standings, the New York Yankees on the YES Network are witnessing record-breaking action. Up 13% in HH impressions from this point last year, they have 22,597,400 by the All-Star break. In terms of total viewership, which counts people instead of households, through July 12, 19 of YES’ 70 regular-season games in 2022 averaged more than 400,000 total viewers in the New York Designated Market Area (DMA). For all of last season, YES had 9 such Yankees regular season games (in a total of 128 games). Yankees games on YES Network averaged 347,000 viewers in the New York DMA, up 22% from last year’s MLB All-Star Break. YES are projected to be on pace for their second best season-to-date delivery in a decade, since 2012.

And it’s not just the Yankees seeing big numbers. With the New York DMA being the largest in the country and the team also winning, the New York Mets saw 15,837,500 total household impressions year-over-year, a +12% increase over last year during the All-Star break.

Not all clubs perform well; some so understandably. With the Oakland A’s jettisoning key talent and stalling in the rankings, they posted the biggest year-over-year decline (-46%). And it’s not just the A’s in the Bay Area that have declined significantly. The San Francisco Giants are down -35%. They are followed by a -30% drop from the Cleveland Guardians and a -29% drop from the Cincinnati Reds.

Other Notable Persons…

  • The 2021 World Series champion Atlanta Braves just missed the top 5 in annualized household impressions, posting a +23% gain (7,200,300 HH IMP compared to 5,848,500 in 2021 at the 2021 All-Star break).
  • One of the most exciting teams in baseball over the past few years may be experiencing some apathy. The San Diego Padres saw a 21% drop in household impressions compared to this time last year (5,044,800 compared to 6,346,100 in 2021).
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers are down -15%, but are still crushed by the sheer size of the LA DMA (HH IMP of 11,817,600).
  • The Chicago Cubs moved to their own regional sports network just as the pandemic hit in 2020. Introducing the ballpark in 2022 didn’t help them gain traction. Marquee Sports is down -25% in home impressions year over year (6,368,900 compared to 8,475,000 this time last year).
  • The only team that could give the New York Yankees trouble before the World Series is the Houston Astros, and they continue to be strong on AT&T SportNet Southwest. The Astros saw a +8% increase over last year during the All-Star break in household impressions (10,551,600 compared to 9,783,500 year-over-year).
  • The Boston Red Sox are currently in last place in the AL East and the issues have affected the presentation of their games on NESN. While not down as much as the Cubs, the Red Sox are -12% from HH IMP year-over-year.
  • There is hope in A charming city. After years of poor showing in the standings, the Baltimore Orioles look promising, with a chance to earn a Wild Card berth. That translates into the number of homes watching MASN games. The Orioles are up 6% from this point last year (2,422,000 home impressions compared to 2,291,100 at the All-Star break last year).
  • If you compare HH Impressions from the end of the 2021 season to HH IMP from the first half of the 2022 season, the league is up almost 2% with 16 of 29 up on the positive side.

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