Fans are banned from Major League Baseball stadiums for now, but over the first weekend of the delayed 2020 season they turned out in relatively strong numbers to watch the sport on television.
It is not clear how sustainable that trend will be – or whether the season itself is sustainable after a COVID-19 outbreak on the Marlins caused two games to be postponed on Monday.
But evidence exists of pent-up demand during the long spring and early summer, including in New York, where the Yankees and Mets entered the season with high hopes.
It began on Thursday, when the rain-shorted Yankees-Nationals game averaged 4 million viewers nationally on ESPN, the largest audience for an opening night game in ESPN history and largest for a regular-season game on any network since 2011.
The game averaged 7.8% of homes in the New York market, ESPN’s best such figure in the regular season since 2015.
On Saturday night, the Yankees faced the Nationals on Fox, and the game’s rating was 17% higher nationally than average for a Fox prime time game last season. It drew a healthy 4.6% of homes in the New York market.
On Sunday, YES averaged 408,000 viewers for the third game of the series, with a peak of 621,000. The game drew an average of 3.63% of homes, with a peak of 5.06%, solid numbers for an afternoon game in mid-summer.
As for the Mets, their opener against the Braves on SNY – which also was shown on ESPN – averaged 2.84% of area homes, up 16% from last year’s opener. (The rating in the key age 25-54 demographic was the highest for an opener on SNY since 2010.)
On Saturday, SNY averaged 3.42% of homes in the market, 51% higher than last year’s full-season average.
On Sunday night, ESPN averaged a modest 1.4 million viewers for Braves-Mets, and only 2.1% of homes in the New York market. Generally speaking, 14-1 blowout losses by the home team are not good for ratings.