Opening Day of the baseball season was not exactly a blockbuster draw on ESPN and ESPN2, but the networks had a substantial increase in viewership over last year.
ESPN and ESPN2 averaged a 0.7 U.S. rating and 961,000 viewers for four Opening Day Major League Baseball games on Monday, up 45% in ratings and 51% in viewership from four comparable telecasts over two days last year (0.5, 636K).
If the numbers seem low for a major league sport on national TV, keep in mind all four games were blacked out locally.
To the surprise of presumably few, Red Sox/Yankees was the top draw of the day with a 0.8 U.S. rating and 1.1 million viewers on ESPN — up 72% in ratings and 87% in viewership from Red Sox/Tigers last year (0.5, 595K). Later in the afternoon, Giants/Dodgers drew a 0.7 and 963,000 viewers — up 69% and 68%, respectively, from Marlins/Reds last year (0.4, 573K).
Shifting to primetime, Phillies/Braves scored a 0.7 and 1.0 million viewers on ESPN2 — up 49% in ratings and 48% in viewership from Giants/Diamondbacks last year (0.5, 682K). The Cardinals/Diamondbacks nightcap drew a 0.5 and 704,000 viewers, virtually even compared to Royals/Angels last year (0.5, 701K).
Sunday’s Rangers/Astros Opening Night game finished with 2.3 million viewers on ESPN, down 6% from Cardinals/Marlins on a Wednesday night last year (2.4M), and down 3% from Giants/Dodgers on a Thursday night in 2011 (2.3M).
(Monday’s numbers from ESPN; Sunday numbers from TV By the Numbers)