We’re already three weeks into the lockout imposed by the Major League Baseball (MLB) owners and it doesn’t look like we will see real movement anytime soon. If there is a silver lining to the lockout starting in the offseason, it’s that there is plenty of time for resolution.
However, due to the major sticking points between the owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), there is a very real possibility that the beginning of the season may be in jeopardy, and that’s potentially bad news for baseball.
This work stoppage hasn’t done the image of Major League Baseball any favors, watching millionaires and billionaires fight over (mostly) money. Neither side is willing to take responsibility. This finger-pointing and playing the blame game isn’t a productive way to bring baseball back any sooner and MLB can’t afford to delay the season, hurting fan support in the process.
MORE THAN ONE OPTION
In order to maintain or even grow its popularity, Major League Baseball needs to play its full season and regain viewership. Baseball is already struggling in the area of viewership and in the advanced age of technology and entertainment options we live in, the game is not in the public eye like it used to be. Ratings have declined over the years mostly in large part due to the rise in multiple streaming service options, “cord-cutting”, and the existing deals that major league clubs have with Regional Sports Networks (RSN) like Bally Sports/Sinclair.
Because Bally Sports was unsuccessful in negotiating deals with outlets such as YouTube TV, Sling TV, Dish Network, and Hulu, RSNs were removed from those platforms and viewership dropped significantly from 2019 to 2021 because of it, as outlined by Forbes. While Bally Sports is looking at a direct-to-consumer streaming option coming in 2022, odds are it will still come with some type of catch and won’t be immune from media blackouts ideal for the out-of-market fans.
This is a major area of focus for Major League Baseball that needs to be addressed in order to become a more available viewing option for fans.
Attendance of MLB games has also steadily declined over the past few years, down from a peak of almost 80 million fans in 2007 to 68.5 million fans during MLB’s last full season not affected by the global pandemic in 2019. That’s a decline of almost 11 million fans over the 13-year period, and an average of just under 1 million fans each year.
Take the 2021 season with any grain of salt that you wish, blaming it on attendance restrictions or the lingering fear of the pandemic itself, but the fact remains that the cost of attending a Major League Baseball game has risen by 4.5% since 2019. From a revenue standpoint, MLB lost $3.1 billion during the pandemic-shortened season in 2020 and a lengthy work stoppage, coupled with fewer games and rising attendance costs would greatly affect the bottom line.
Knowing all of these factors will negatively affect all parties, we can only hope that cooler heads will prevail and both sides can get a deal done before Major League Baseball will be faced with the possibility of delaying the start of the 2022 MLB season.
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