Will the Pitch Clock Equal Big Baseball Ratings?
Major League Baseball now has a pitch clock. It's a brave new world and the change is noticeable. The entire point of implementing something so drastic was to capture new fans and new eyeballs. Ratings appear to be the most obvious metric to gauge success because if a game is shorter and has more action packed into it but no one watches it, did it even happen? Since it's March 1 there's not a ton of data to pour over in this department.
But ESPN saying yesterday's New York Mets-St. Louis Cardinals game drew the highest Spring Training number in seven years is something to consider.
According to Nielsen, the New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals game on Monday afternoon, February 27, was ESPN’s most-watched MLB spring training broadcast in seven years – since a primetime broadcast of a Chicago Cubs vs. San Francisco Giants game – in 2016. Monday’s broadcast averaged 423,000 viewers, peaking with 475,000 viewers at 2:30 p.m. ET.
The Mets vs. Cardinals game was up 44 percent from ESPN’s 2021 spring training viewership average. ESPN did not carry spring training games in 2022.
All small-sample caveats aside, one really wonders if baseball is going to ride its way to impressive ratings as people check in out of curiosity to see what this pitch clock is all about. Additionally, it seems reasonable that those who have sworn off baseball give it another chance. Even if it's only for a few innings.
The sport only needs to convince more people to tune in more often than it convinces to tune out because they preferred the old way. Which seems like a layup because even those who don't worship at the feet of the clock are bound to be traditionalists and would put up with a lot because, well, watching baseball sort of requires an abundance of patience.
Too optimistic? Time will tell.