MLB has a record high streaming viewership despite all-star game backlash

Fernando Tatis Jr. # 23 of the San Diego Padres runs past third base in the 18th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 18, 2021 at Petco Park in San Diego, California.

Matt Thomas | San Diego Padres | Getty Images

Sports fans streamed Major League Baseball more than ever for the first three weekends of the season as the sport continues to struggle through Covid-19 and political backlash.

MLB said that live games on its over-the-top service MLB.TV have accumulated more than 1.3 billion minutes of streams from the opening day April 1 through April 18. This is an increase of 12% compared to the first 18 days of the shortening 2020 season and 43% more than the same period for the 2019 season, the league said in a press release.

MLB’s streaming service allows consumers to view games that are not on the market. Fans streamed 121 million minutes of live games on the opening day, making it the most watched day in MLB.TV history.

However, the record in streaming viewership comes after some political setbacks.

MLB decided on April 2 to reschedule the All-Star game in 2021 after Georgia passed controversial electoral laws. The July 13 game was scheduled to take place at the Atlanta Braves Truist Park, but the competition has been moved to Colorado.

Republican lawmakers criticized the move, threatening to repeal antitrust laws that favor MLB. According to a recent report by research firm Morning Consult, the Republican MLB’s favoritism rating fell 35 points after the move.

MLB also has strong viewership in relation to ESPN’s Sunday Night package. Using Nielsen statistics, the Disney property said their MLB package was up 33% on Sunday compared to the 2020 overall average.

In the first two weeks of the program, an average of 1.58 million viewers listened to the game Sunday Night. That number was around 1.19 million throughout the 2020 season.

The two parties are nearing a deal on a new media rights deal as ESPN’s $ 5.6 billion eight-year rights package expires. Currently, the network pays MLB approximately $ 700 million a year for rights including Sunday Night baseball and the all-star competition including the home run derby.

However, there has been speculation that ESPN might part ways with the weekday package on Mondays and Wednesdays. Unlike the Sunday games, the weekday games are not exclusive as the local markets also broadcast the game, which means ESPN is losing viewership.

Some media experts believe the package is valued at between $ 150 million and $ 200 million a year. MLB has already set new rights fees at Fox Sports and AT & T’s own Turner Sports.

MLB returned to a 162-game schedule this season after a 60-game campaign in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Correction: This story has been updated to take into account that fans have seen more than 1.3 billion minutes of streams.

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