World Baseball Classic Draws Record Viewers
Is baseball back? Looking at the numbers from the World Baseball Classic, it’s hard not to think so. The WBC Final, pitting the US against Japan, averaged 5.2 million viewers across FOX networks in the US, up 69% from the tournament’s last championship game in 2017. In fact, aside from the “Field of Dreams” game in 2021, the WBC Final beat out every single regular-season MLB game dating back to 2011.
The raw numbers are promising. But are they due to an increased interest in baseball, or more in the way this specific tournament played out? Hollywood couldn’t have written a better narrative—the unicorn of the sport, Shohei Ohtani, facing off against a powerhouse American team featuring Ohtani’s MLB teammate and former league MVP, Mike Trout. The one-run game ended with Ohtani striking out Trout in the ninth to win the game for Japan.
While the exact reason may be unknown, 5.2 million viewers is a great number for the sport of baseball to tout as the game implements high-level changes this season to further increase interest in the sport.
The most significant of these MLB changes is the addition of a “pitch clock,” already proving controversial among players and purists. The clock, which gives pitchers just 15 seconds to throw the ball if the bases are empty, is designed to speed games up and make them more enjoyable to watch on television. But the pitch clock won’t move the needle much. What will supercharge fanbase growth: a greater focus on epic storytelling along the lines of the Field of Dreams and Ohtani vs. Trout.