Television Ratings Unsurprisingly Skyrocket as NBA and MLB Return

Both MLB and NBA saw great ratings as they returned to action during pandemic

Ratings NBA MLB
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball against Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers during the third quarter of the game on July 30, 2020.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
By Luis Paez-Pumar / August 1, 2020 12:23 pm

With both Major League Baseball and the NBA returning to action recently, the two leagues have continued a trend that started with the return of sports post-coronavirus stoppages: skyrocketing television ratings. Both leagues have seen healthy increases in ratings, a sign that people are currently starved for sports content across the board.

MLB returned first, so let’s start there. ESPN saw a record audience for the first game back last Thursday: according to The Los Angeles Times, the match-up between the New York Yankees and the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals averaged 4.075 million viewers, the highest for a regular-season game since 2011. Meanwhile, the Giants-Dodgers game that night was ESPN’s highest-rated late-night regular season game ever, averaging 2.76 million viewers, according to SportBusiness.

The NBA, meanwhile, returned on July 30th with a doubleheader that saw strong numbers for TNT. The opener for the season restart between the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans saw an average of 2.1 million viewers tune in to see the Jazz pull out the final possession victory. The main event on the evening between the Lakers and Clippers garnered even more viewers, peaking at 4.1 million viewers from 9:45 to 10:45 that evening; as a whole, the game averaged 3.4 million viewers.

It’s not particularly surprising to see the strong viewership as sports came back to life; the German Bundesliga broke records for viewership in both its home country and abroad, while NASCAR’s first race back had an increase of 38% from the last race before the pandemic. Whether baseball and basketball can continue with the high viewership counts remains to be seen, but it’s a strong start for both leagues in these unique times.

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