MLB: Is 162 Games Too Much Baseball?
As we pillage through 2021 with a new Major League Baseball season on the horizon. The age old question is brought up once again; Is 162 games too long for the MLB season?. Personally, I do not believe this is the right question to ask when looking at the future of the MLB. Instead of asking if the season is too long, the better question is are they marketing everything correctly. Is the leadership of Major League Baseball doing enough to ensure that America’s pastime is in front of enough consumers to be able to keep it running for the long haul.
Sure, we could get into things like shortening games and what not but what is the difference if the league shortens games and then does not increase the marketing for said games. It seems to me that this is that old bear in the woods argument. In short, if the MLB completely warps the game that people supposedly do not watch are people who did not watch baseball before going to notice the changes? The answer to that is no.
Last season according to Forbes, Major League Baseball saw local TV and streaming viewership up over four percent in 2020. There were some teams like the Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Chicago White Sox that saw significant increases in viewership from 2019-2020. Taking a look at each of these teams outside of the Dodgers it’s clear that when the team is doing well, viewership rises. The Los Angeles Dodgers are an interesting case, earlier in 2020 the Dodgers reached a deal with DirecTV and AT&T to finally end the six year blackout and allow the fans in Los Angeles to watch their team without issue. The Dodgers in 2019 and 2020 were at the top of the National League in both of those seasons if anything the Dodgers got a little bit better from year to year but not the jump that some of the previously mentioned teams did. So why the increase in viewership? The answer to this is crystal clear for the MLB; more eyeballs.
In order to get more eyeballs, The MLB needs to first get out of it’s own way. An increasing issue in the United States is losing options for teams to be able to watch their hometown teams. Recently Hulu, YouTube TV, and Sling TV have stopped carrying the channels from Sinclair Broadcast Group. If you look at statements from the streaming services they say Sinclair is wanting too much money for their channels and it would require the streaming services to increase their monthly rates. If you look at statements that Sinclair has put out they read like childish political attack ads towards the streaming services and do not have a ton of actual substance. If you are Major League Baseball you should be infuriated. This basically means that if a team is not on ESPN or another national network there is no market for advertisers what so ever. After the pandemic, the people that are cutting the cord is on a steady increase jumping from 45 million to 50.2 million from 2019 to 2020. In addition to that the cable penetration rate is set to drop below 60 percent by the year 2030. Currently this rate is around 81 percent which is decent but if it drops to below 60, that means there’s only a 50/50 chance that a home you can walk into would have cable.
With viewership already declining this is an issue that The MLB needs to tackle immediately. The answer of how to do this is fairly simple. Major League Baseball needs to talk to Sinclair and the holder of the regional sports networks and create a deal that would allow for people to watch their local teams through MLB’s own service so they basically hold all of the chips. Currently Subscribers of MLB At Bat can watch any non nationally televised game in the country, except for the one that might be going on a half hour away. This needs to end before we talk about altering the product itself.
Major League Baseball needs to become easier to access for the average Americans. Keep the 162 game season so tickets can remain somewhat affordable but at the same time launch grass roots marketing campaigns to try and get baseball into more communities, especially those less privileged. Also for the love of God, pay the minor league players a livable wage, this isn’t 1920 anymore like their wages currently show.
Is MLB Doing Enough To Market The Product? Leave a comment below.
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