Maury Brown released the MLB TV ratings for the 2020 regular season over at Forbes, showing a league-wide viewership increase of 4.2%.
The Pirates were not one of the teams contributing to that increase. They were the fourth lowest in the league, seeing a decrease in viewership of 34% from 2019.
These numbers, from the league and the Pirates, come with a few disclaimers.
First is that MLB had to contend with the NBA and NHL, while they normally had the summer all to themselves. This doesn’t impact the Pirates as much, as there’s no NBA team in Pittsburgh, and the Penguins had an early exit.
Broadcast television is down 24% year-over-year, which makes the MLB totals look better. That doesn’t make the Pirates look good, as they were down even more than that amount.
The biggest disclaimer is that while viewership is up, there was no attendance. That means, in theory, those who would have been in attendance were at home watching, which should have led to an increase in viewership. This is where things look really bad for the Pirates.
The Pirates averaged 18,413 in attendance per home game last year. According to Brown’s article, their viewership dropped from 70,122 to 46,386 from 2019 to 2020. That’s a net loss of 42,149 people watching the Pirates this year on a daily basis, and these numbers include mobile streaming.
This continues a trend where the Pirates are bleeding fans, which has been going on since the end of the 2015 season.
From 2015 to 2019, the Pirates lost over one million fans in attendance throughout the season, or over 12,000 per game. Their ratings in 2015 were third best in the league, with 107,000 tuning in each night. By 2019, they had dropped to 55,000 people watching on TV per night. These figures do not include mobile streaming, as the 2020 figure does.
You could excuse the 2020 season for several reasons. The Pirates were horrible, and were expected to be horrible from the start. The world is also dealing with a pandemic, which would have people focused on more important things than sports, and with hits to jobs and wages, people would be trimming the budget of anything unnecessary, which would include TV and sports packages.
But this trend of the Pirates bleeding fans isn’t isolated to the 2020 season. It has been going on for some time. It’s a sad sight to see the Pirates with 46,386 people watching per night. For perspective, during their 2013-14 seasons, before we switched to subscription, this site would see more than that amount of total of readers per day.
The Pirates, one of thirty Major League Baseball franchises, currently have the daily viewership numbers of a popular, free, niche sports blog.
I feel bad for all of the other businesses who have built a strategy of marketing to Pirates fans, only to see their customer base squandered by a billionaire who makes a profit before a single person purchases a ticket or turns on the TV.
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