The Japanese team celebrating a quarterfinal win over Italy, which set a ratings record in Japan. The Japanese team celebrating a quarterfinal win over Italy, which set a ratings record in Japan. (MLB on YouTube.)

While the World Baseball Classic has been called a “meaningless exhibition” by certain pundits like Keith Olbermann, it’s certainly not viewed that way everywhere. One country where the interest has been particularly strong is Japan. The Japanese team’s 9-3 quarterfinal win over Italy in Tokyo (which they’re seen celebrating above) was reportedly watched by 48 percent of all Japanese households, which is a higher household number than Super Bowl LVII drew in the U.S. for Fox this year (a 40 household rating, which is based on TV households, not overall households; the overall household percentage would be about 38 percent), and which is a Japanese record:

That article spells out that the 48 percent is indeed an average household number, not a peak (which was 54.5 percent). It also notes that the previous record of 44.4 percent was set in the Japan-Korea WBC pool play game on March 10.

Of course, the raw viewer numbers here would still favor the Super Bowl in the U.S., as the overall U.S. household numbers are much higher. There were an estimated 131 million total U.S. households as of January 2022, and there are an estimated 123.8 million TV households currently. So the 40 HH rating translates into averages of about 50 million households and about 113 million viewers. (A separate NFL-commissioned Nielsen survey with a different methodology estimated an average of 136 million viewers, but that isn’t easily comparable to more traditional ratings approaches.)

Meanwhile, Japan had 55.6 million households in 2021, so 48 percent of households is in the realm of 26 to 27 million households. That would be around 60 million viewers if using a U.S. household to viewer conversion estimate; different conditions in Japan might make that not exactly applicable. But it’s certainly impressive to see the percentage of the country tuning in for not just this particular game, but for all of the Japanese games to date. And it should be noted that it’s not just Japan that cares about this; Puerto Rico also posted remarkable share numbers.

And the WBC in-person attendance across its far-flung venues has also set records, including at the U.S. stadiums:

So while Olbermann is entitled to his views of the WBC as a “meaningless exhibition series” that decides to “split up teammates based on where their grandmothers got laid,” it’s clear that much of the world doesn’t agree with him.

[Yakyu Cosmopolitan on Twitter; image from MLB on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.