MLB Sees Average Attendance Dip For Fourth Straight Season
MLB saw its average attendance drop 1.7% this season compared to '18, the fourth consecutive year-over-year decline. Since '15, the league shed 7.1% of its average attendance. However, the league's biggest draws -- the Dodgers, Cardinals and the Yankees -- each made the postseason, so TV screens should be filled with fans. And although six of the seven clubs that showed the biggest increase in average attendance did not make the playoffs, the league should be pleased with that momentum. On the other hand, seven clubs saw a double-digit decline, with the Blue Jays and Mariners each seeing a drop of more than 20% (David Broughton, SBJ Research).
|MLB ATTENDANCE THROUGH SEPT. 29|
|TEAM||TOTAL||DATES ('19)||AVG.||% CAP||PREVIOUS AVG.||CHANGE||DATES ('18)|
|NOTES: * Includes two games played in England at the 66,000-seat London Stadium that drew 59,659 and 59,059. ** Includes two games in Mexico at the 22,061-seat Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey that drew 16,496 and 16,793. ^ Includes two games in Mexico at the 22,061-seat Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey that drew 18,177 and 17,614. ^^ Includes two games played in Japan at the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome, that drew 45,787 and 46,451. # Includes one game in Williamsport, Pa. at 2,500-seat BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field that drew 2,503.|
BOOM OR BUST: The AP's Ronald Blum wrote with some teams "out of contention even before their first pitch" of this season, average attendance has "dropped four years in a row for the first time since the commissioner's office started tracking it" in '80. More and more teams have "adopted an all-in or all-out philosophy." The Giants this season have "dropped from 3.2 million fans at home to about 2.7 million," the Blue Jays and Mariners "both from 2.3 million to about 1.8 million." The Orioles "drew 1.3 million, its lowest total at home in a non-strike shortened season" since '78. The Royals' 1.5 million is their lowest figure since '06. The Phillies' attendance "rose by about 500,000 following the signing of Bryce Harper" and the Twins by 300,000 during the club's "winningest regular season in a half century" and the Padres by over 200,000 after adding Manny Machado. But even so, "about half the teams are headed to declines" (AP, 9/28). In DC, Dave Sheinin noted the Orioles nearly finished 50-plus games out of first place in the AL East for the second consecutive season, and their average home attendance of a little more than 16,000 per game was the "lowest in Camden Yards history and lower than that of every team in the majors this season" besides the Rays and Marlins (WASHINGTON POST, 9/27).
NO NEED FOR CONCERN: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in response to those who think baseball is dying, "We draw 68 million people roughly at the big league level. We are going to draw another 41-plus in minor league baseball. Minor league baseball is up from last year. We may be down 1%. But 110 million people are watching baseball live. I'll take that number. I don't think that is an indication of a dying sport." Asked what his postseason expectations are for TV ratings, Manfred said, "I expect that we will get good ratings, and I expect that really for two reasons. Ratings all year long (were) strong. And I think we have some great stories going into the postseason. Obviously, the iconic franchises -- the Dodgers, the Yankees -- very exciting. Houston, another big market, has been a great story all year long. And there's some real interesting stories in some of our smaller markets" (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/30 issue).
STARTING A TREND: In N.Y., Allentuck & Draper note four teams "introduced the ballpark pass" in '15, and now 18 of the 30 MLB clubs have "some type of subscription option, which varies in price from $30 each month for standing room only to $125 for a guaranteed seat." While it has "not been enough to reverse the downward trend in ticket sales, baseball executives believe it is attractive to younger fans, who are used to paying for subscription services like Netflix and Spotify." According to MLB, fans in their "mid- to late-20s represent the largest group of ballpark pass buyers." The A's "first implemented their subscription option A's Access" in '17, and have "gone further with it than any other major league team." It is "now their only season ticket option." Meanwhile, total attendance during the regular season "dropped by about 1 million fans this season to about 68.5 million," about 14% "lower than a high of 79.5 million tickets sold" in '07. The drop for '19 followed an '18 season in which total attendance "dipped below 70 million for the first time" since '03. At the same time, league revenue, which topped $10B in '18, is up more than 70% from a decade ago, "thanks in large part to increasing media rights fees, which reached an all-time high this year" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/30).