Two months into the 2023 MLB season, results are mixed for the league’s national media partners.
ESPN is averaging 1.45 million viewers for its Sunday Night Baseball package, down from each of the last two seasons. Fox is averaging 1.74 million viewers for its Saturday regional package, which the Sports Business Journal calls “below the handful of games” Fox typically airs in May. FS1’s average for non-exclusive broadcasts has dropped to 267,000, a 23% decline from last season.
On the other hand, there’s TBS, which is up 45% through eight games on Tuesdays this season.
So much of the declines can be linked to MLB’s early season schedule. The Yankees haven’t played the Red Sox yet this year, and that’s always a strong draw for the national networks. The two teams will play six times over the next two weeks, with two matchups featured on Fox and two on ESPN. Last year, the two teams played on opening weekend, with games featured on both FS1 and ESPN.
The significant increase for TBS might seem puzzling, but I’d imagine much of it comes down to start times. This year, there has just been one west coast late start game on TBS, compared to three a year ago through a comparable period.
We’ll have a better line on how MLB’s national packages are faring in about a month or so at the All-Star Break. By then, the networks (aside from poor TBS) will have gotten their fix of Yanks-Sawx, and more game selections for the second half of the season will start getting announced as we learn which teams are contenders.
I’m sure no one is concerned at ESPN, Fox, or MLB quite yet. There’s still a lot of season left to play.