MLB & Young Fans

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Baseball fans are getting increasingly older. Once a very popular American pastime, it has begun to dwindle. Less and less people are watching baseball on TV. Only 14 percent of Americans consider baseball as their favorite sport. The sport is not popular with women as 70 percent of the fan base is male. As a result, baseball is dealing with a huge issue; fewer people are attending the games.

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MLB and Young Fans infographic

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MLB Viewership

In 2007, attendance numbers were at 79.5 million. Compare this to 73.7 million fans present at the games in 2014. The Super Bowl far outweighs the World Series in popularity. Approximately 13.8 million people watched the World Series. This sounds like a large number until you consider the Super Bowl. At least 112 million people watch the Super Bowl. Less older people are viewing baseball on TV but that includes young people too.

Fewer children are appreciating being postseason spectators of the sport. Approximately 4 percent of the viewers in 2014 were children between the ages of 6 and 17. Whereas, ten years ago, children in this age group took up 7 percent of the audience. The number of Little League players is being affected by the decline of baseball popularity. There are currently 5.3 million players in the Little League. The number has reduced from 9 million players in 2002. This is 41 percent decrease in players, significantly affecting the sport’s influence on young people.

MLB doesn’t make it easy

Games are costly which is making a huge impact on attendance. It costs about $200 families for a family with four members to attend a baseball game. Therefore, it’s a given that it will cost more for a larger family to attend a game, not to mention multiple games. Due to contract disputes it’s actually more difficult to watch baseball on television. It’s harder for Angelenos to watch the games.

Approximately 70 percent of them are not able to watch the Dodgers play. Plus, the game requires more time today than it used to. It used to require 2.5 hours in the 70’s and up until the mid 1980’s. Compare this to the 3 hours the game requires today. The game simply isn’t making a connection with younger people. The majority of people between the ages of 18 and 29 are not regular followers of baseball. Only 20 percent of people in this age group keep up with the sport closely. Perhaps this is due to the sport’s lack of having icon?

Technology can save the day

It’s feasible for baseball to regain more fans by adapting to the digital world more. There is hope yet, MLB.tv currently receives 2 million engagements every day, which is no small feat. In today’s world, even the largest brands in the world have to clamor for the attention of their audiences. MLB.tv can be streamed on 400 different devices. At least baseball has a fighting chance against other sports in the app world. MLBatbat.com was the top sports app in the United States in April 2015; at least 1.3 billion minutes of time were spent on the site during that month. MLB.com was the second most viewed sports site in the world in 2015. The traffic that SB Nation receives on baseball-affiliated sites is increasing by 77 percent each year.

It’s much easier for local fans to watch MLB online. Play-by-play coverage is available depending on the market. The MLB truly began taking their social media marketing seriously in 2015. The league posted 1,000 to 1,200 items every single day on social media in 2015. So why are the major league players struggling to maintain their fan bases? People haven’t gone anywhere. The population has increased; people simply just haven’t been watching baseball. The MLB has to work harder at attracting the fans that are definitely out there. The MLB is taking a double-pronged approach to solving the problem by working to get more people in the stadium and more awareness online. The supposed solution is to make the games more thrilling and shorter in length to hold the attention of today’s audience.

Redefining the rules

The median age of baseball watchers in 2016 was 56. The MLB is taking matters into their own hands and making an effort to attract younger viewers. The average age of users of MLBatbat.com was 36 in 2016. The commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred believes the true answer to getting younger fans is getting them to play the sport. His belief is that if you don’t play the sport, you won’t watch it. The reason why many adults have an affinity for the sport is because they played baseball as children.

To help address this problem, baseball hall of famer Cal Ripken Jr. was hired as a special adviser to Manfred during December 2016. Ripken was brought on board for the purpose of youth outreach. He has stated that introducing radical new rules to the game will attract young viewers. In consolation and tournament games, the new and experimental rules are being tested. Some new concepts to baseball include; starting each inning with a runner on first base, beginning each inning with a different count or even requiring players to steal. It seems that ideas that were previously considered crazy or outlandish are being considered out of desperation.

Ripken believes it is important for more action plays to be created in the sport. He admitted himself that baseball can be the most boring sport in the world if taught by a coach who doesn’t coach well. It seems shocking at first that such a successful baseball player would consider changing age-old rules that made him successful. He has even stated that rules should have been improved a long time ago. Athletes have chosen other sports likely because baseball is a slow and boring sport. Also, the MLB is taking advantage of emerging technologies to drive youth interest. A company named Diamond Kinetics has developed software that allows a player to analyze their swing. A player can obtain data about themselves such as exit velocity, bat speed, and more.

Learn More

The Ohio University online Master’s in Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is the pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.