Major League Baseball, making its public-facing re-entry from the Covid-19 pandemic with its First-Year Player Draft this week, continued the sports industry’s run of strong ratings increases among a competition-starved fan base as the league more than doubled initial ratings for the start of the event.
The league posted an average viewership of 615,000 viewers for the June 10 start of the Draft across the MLB Network, ESPN, and ESPN Deportes, up 102 per cent from the comparable figure last year when the event was shown just on the MLB Network.
The total extends a robust show of demand among US fans for any sort of original or live sports content as the industry is just now re-emerging from a three-month hiatus because of the pandemic. Documentary programming such as The Last Dance, other drafts for the National Football League and Women’s National Basketball Association, and other sports competitions including the sequel for “The Match” have also posted either meteoric increases or record-levels of viewership.
This year’s MLB Draft was significantly reformatted because of the pandemic, with the league and its media partners shifting to a remote-based production and the number of rounds cut from the prior 40 to just five.
The audience for the MLB Draft peaked at 723,000 viewers, while engagement for Draft-related content across league and individual club social media platforms grew 21 per cent from last year. The Draft finished June 11 with rounds 2-5.
Prior to the start of the Draft broadcast, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN there was a “100 per cent” chance of the league playing this year despite the fractious ongoing dispute between the league and MLB Players Association over terms of a resumed 2020 season.