The 2020 MLB Postseason got underway on Tuesday, and the start probably wasn’t what MLB imagined.
Three of the four games started at 5 PM ET or earlier, and despite many people working from home, it doesn’t appear that there was much interest in those day games.
The second game of the day was the 3 PM White Sox-A’s matchup on ESPN, which averaged 953,000 viewers. Turner’s one game of the day was the 5 PM Blue Jays-Rays duel, which averaged 803,000 viewers. The early game was Astros-Twins at 2 PM on ABC, and viewership data for that game wasn’t immediately available.
In primetime, ESPN’s broadcast of Yankees-Indians (starting at 7 PM) averaged 2.593 million viewers, which doesn’t seem all that bad considering it was up against the debate and was a nine-run blowout. In fact, it was the only non-debate/debate adjacent programming in the top 15 cable programs for the day.
For context, the floor for the single game Wild Card matchups that we’ve seen in each year since 2012 has been roughly four million viewers. Combined, the three games on cable topped four million (4.349, to be exact), but that’s hardly a consolation.
Wild Card action on Thursday will have fewer games than Wednesday’s slate of eight matchups, with the Astros eliminating the Twins and the Rays (as of 5 PM ET) well on their way to dumping the Blue Jays out of the Postseason. I’m curious to see what the viewership patterns over each of these series look like, too. Will there be spikes for the second game in the series? In those series that go three, will viewership edge up each game, or will it remain relatively flat throughout?
For as much as the networks’ desire for more Postseason inventory is mentioned when discussion the expanded format continuing into 2021, it remains to be seen if networks will still be willing to shell out the exorbitant amount of money MLB will want for the extra Wild Card games if under a million people are watching the majority of the games.