Red Sox-Yankees Game Gives ESPN Its Largest Baseball Audience In 23 Years

Major League Baseball's wild card matchup between New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox attracted over 7 million viewers on Tuesday, ESPN reported. This was despite the leagues 2019-2020 ratings being lower than expected, as sports viewership slowly recovers from the Covid-induced slump.

Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox, hits a two-run homer in the first inning against... [+] New York Yankees at Fenway Park, Boston on Tuesday. MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Key Facts

According to ESPN, 7.7 million viewers tuned in to ESPN2 and ESPN3 Tuesday night to see the Red Sox beat the Yankees 6-2 at Home. This earned them a spot for the MLBs American League playoffs. This is 67% more than the 4.6 million viewers who watched the American League wild-card game between the Tampa Bay Rays (Alaska Athletics) in 2019. The MLB responded to Covid-19 last year by reorganizing its season and offering multiple best-of-3 wild card series. Last year's 16 wild card matchups aired on ESPN and ABC averaged 1.8m viewers. The highest-watched game earned 2.6 million.

Surprising Fact

ESPN stated that the Red Sox-Yankees match was the most watched MLB broadcast since 1998. ESPN has broadcast relatively few MLB postseason games in recent years. They typically broadcast a wild-card game and dozens regular-season matches.

Important Background

This years increase in MLB wild card ratings was likely due to the Red Sox's and Yankees long-standing rivalry. It is also the latest broadcast to see a slight increase in viewership following 2020. This was when the coronavirus forced MLB leagues to cancel their games, reshape their seasons, and expel in-person fans. According to ESPN, the MLB's Home Run Derby averaged 7.1 millions viewers in 2018, its highest viewing audience since 2017. The 26 million viewers who watched the NFL regular-season kickoff match in 2020 was a 20% increase over 2020. In addition, ratings for the NBA Finals jumped 32% between 2020 and 2021.


The MLB All-Star Game attracted just 8.2 Million viewers in July. This is a decrease of less than 1% over the record low of 2019.

What to Watch

The World Series ratings were very impressive this year. Last year's World Series ratings were the lowest ever recorded by the MLB, with just 9.8 million viewers watching six games. Covid-19 disruptions, a presidential election, likely slowed fans' interest last year. However, baseball has been facing other headwinds in recent times with only 37% of Americans identifying themselves as baseball fans in an Oct 2020 Marist College poll, down from 51% in March 2017.


Despite baseball's famed status as America's pastime, the MLB draws less viewers than the NFL. Last Sunday Night Football, a New England Patriots-Tampa Bay Buccaneers match, attracted 28.5 million viewers via NBC and streaming services. It was the most watched Sunday night game in nine year, NBC reported.