MLB streaming viewership up 42% on Opening Day in 1st season with pitch clock

It will likely take months, if not years, to gain an objective analysis of the pitch clock's effect on MLB, but the preliminary numbers are highly encouraging.

MLB's Opening Day saw 172 million watched minutes on the league's streaming platform, shattering the platform's previous single-day record of 121 million by 42%, according to SportsPro. The previous high came on Opening Day 2021, the most recent previous on-time start to the MLB season.

The numbers on the league's nationally televised games were also encouraging. Per Front Office Sports, Fox Sports' season-opening doubleheader Saturday saw an average of 2.2 million viewers, up 10% from last year, while ESPN’s opening weekend averaged 1.6 million viewers, up 11%.

ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" saw a milder gain of 4% from last year's average, with 1.5 million viewers. However, the ESPN2 "KayRod Cast" — ESPN's attempt to create a baseball version of the Manningcast with Alex Rodriguez and broadcaster Michael Kay — brought in 245,000 viewers, a larger portion of SNB viewers than expected.

That was a lot of numbers, but the takeaway is that more people are watching baseball five days into the season. It might be a step too far to say it's all thanks to the pitch clock and other rule changes, but it's also difficult to imagine that the changes and the ratings boost aren't related.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias (7) delivers a pitch in front of the pitch clock during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, March 30, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Fans are watching more MLB so far, possibly due to the rule changes. Will it last? (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

As MLB hoped, Opening Day saw a 26-minute decrease in the average length of games. Four days into the season, games were 29 minutes shorter, along with a boost from .230 to .245 in league batting average (possibly attributable to the shift ban) and a boost from 67.4% to 83.3% in stolen-base success rate (possibly due to a limit on pick-off attempts and larger bases).

MLB games this season have so far been faster and featured more offense, more hits and many more stolen bases. That's about everything MLB commissioner Rob Manfred could've wanted when he signed off on the rule changes.

There will be awkward moments and heated arguments, yes, but it seems that fans are definitely interested in this slightly different version of baseball.