Yes, the WBC Final Was the Most-Watched Tournament Game Ever
Team USA vs. Team Japan drew more American viewers than any other matchup in World Baseball Classic history
The WBC is officially “real” and it’s spectacular. We now have the numbers to prove it.
More American eyes fixed on “The Matchup” between Team Japan’s Shohei Ohtani and Team USA’s Mike Trout, the unbelievable climax of 2023’s World Baseball Classic, than any other moment in the tournament’s 16-year history. Per The Athletic, viewership for WBC broadcasters FS1 and Fox Deportes peaked at a combined 6.5 million from 10:30-10:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday. That’s about the time period in which Trout stepped into the batter’s box at LoanDepot Park in Miami and was struck out by his Los Angles Angels teammate, which sent Ohtani and the rest of Team Japan into delirium. Ohtani later called it “the best moment of my life.”
What about the game’s overall ratings? It averaged 4.5 million viewers, a tournament record in the U.S. and an increase of a whopping 69% over the previous WBC Final in 2017.
“This was the first year Fox’s platforms aired the tournament after MLB Network and ESPN Deportes had the event in 2013 and 2017 and what is clear from this incredible exhibition of baseball is that there is a market for best on best globally,” wrote The Athletic. “MLB confirmed the Classic will return in 2026, which sets the league up for a nice payday whenever it brings 2026 to market. As long as the United States is competitive in the tournament and star players continue to commit — which they say they will — the Classic is going to draw viewers.”
We May Have Just Witnessed the Birth of an Incredible WBC Rivalry
Even a friendly feud between Team USA and Team Japan, heightened by its transcontinental nature, would be a boon to the tournament's visibility
It was fitting that such a final featuring arguably the two best players in the world would only continue the TV ratings hot streak for the tournament. The 2023 iteration of the WBC set viewership records abroad starting with the first round of games, with U.S.-based marks showing growth as well.
Attendance was up, too. Team USA vs. Team Mexico, held on March 12 at Chase Field in Phoenix, was sold out, while tournament games in Miami were sellouts or close to it. “The 2023 World Baseball Classic registered an attendance record for the First-Round drawing 1,010,999, the most attended round in the history of the tournament and a +98% increase vs. the previous record of 510,056 in 2017,” the MLB said in a press release. “The average attendance of 25,275 also set a record for the First Round of the tournament eclipsing 2017’s average of 20,402 by +24%.”
The WBC Final was also a sellout.
Many of those who were at the WBC games were treated to some incredible moments, like Trea Turner’s game-turning grand slam for Team USA in the tournament quarterfinal against Team Venezuela.
The semifinal matchup between Team Mexico and Team Japan featured a 9th-inning comeback, started by that guy Ohtani and completed with a walk-off rocket off the bat of former Japan-league Triple Crown Award winner Munetaka Murakami.
But all that was just an appetizer. The Final’s filet-mignon main course of Team USA vs. Team Japan, the one every baseball fan hoped they could sink their teeth into, meant Trout and Ohtani would be showcased in a way that was unfamiliar to American MLB enthusiasts — even if they didn’t face off against each other, hitter vs. pitcher. Of course, the two-way star Ohtani was going to appear in the batter’s box in a game of that magnitude no matter what, giving U.S. viewers the first real chance they’ve ever had to see him perform when there were significant stakes. He’s never made the MLB postseason with the Angels, while his all-world American counterpart and club teammate, Trout, has only played in three Angels playoff games.
Not only did they both appear in the WBC Final, a tight 3-2 Team Japan victory, but as all those people who watched live already know, Ohtani took the mound in the 9th for a series-clinching save, and struck out Trout to end it.
It’s not a moment any baseball fan — hardcore ones or those with a mere passing interest in the game — will forget anytime soon. After all those high-profile player injuries during the tournament, which placed a bit of a pall over it, the sport struck a high note during the final, one that was enjoyed by many.
“Including postseason, Japan’s win outdrew all-but-one Major League Baseball game on FS1 last year,” wrote Sports Media Watch. “Game 4 of the Phillies-Padres NLCS averaged 4.88 million. The last regular season MLB game with a larger audience was the first ‘Field of Dreams’ game two years ago, and outside of that no regular season game has had as many viewers since 2011 (Yankees-Red Sox: 4.72M).”
The publication added that “[f]our of the seven largest World Baseball Classic audiences ever took place in this year’s tournament, with the caveat that out-of-home viewing was not included in prior years.”
While we still haven’t learned the WBC Final’s global viewership figure, it could be the best number yet. Many predicted beforehand that it would be the most-watched baseball game in the history of the planet.
They got to see a pretty damn good one.
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