Sports | April 28, 2021 12:01 pm

MLB Ratings Off to Strong Start Despite Republican Boycott Calls

Ratings for "Sunday Night Baseball" on ESPN are up 38% over the average from last season

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A general view of the Major League Baseball logo atop a dugout.
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The latest television ratings appear to show calls by Republican leaders to boycott Major League Baseball for moving the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta due to Georgia’s new voting laws are largely being ignored.

Though MLB’s popularity has dipped substantially among Republicans according to polling, calls from GOP politicians like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and former President Donald Trump to boycott MLB have not hurt ratings for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball in the slightest.

In fact, per ESPN, the weekly show’s ratings are up 38% over the average during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and 7% compared to 2019. With SNB’s first four games averaging 1.71 million viewers, ESPN’s flagship baseball show is off to its best start since 2017, when the program started the season averaging 2.2 million viewers, per The Sports Business Journal.

“Additionally, ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball is up double-digits in every key demo, including up 21% in people 12-17, 63% in people 18-34, 56% in people 18-49, 52% in people 25-54, 34% in women 18+ and 52% in women 18-49,” according to ESPN.

SNB continues on May 2 when the Philadelphia Phillies host the New York Mets with play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian, analyst Alex Rodriguez and in-game reporter Buster Olney providing commentary.

In addition to watching baseball on ESPN, hardball heads are streaming games on the internet via MLB.TV in record numbers. In the 20-season history of MLB.TV, the beginning of this season was the most-watched 18-day period to date. 

“During the 18-day period from Opening Day through April 18th, fans watched more than 1.34 billion minutes of live games on MLB.TV, a +12% increase compared to the first 18 days of last season and +43% when compared to the same time period of the 2019 season,” according to MLB. “In addition, total games watched on the league’s out-of-market streaming platform are up +22% compared to last season and +35% compared to 2019.”