The heavens opened up on Major League Baseball’s opening day in more ways than one last night.
With biblical-scale rain coming down on National Park on Thursday, the long-awaited and coronavirus-delayed face-off between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals to launch the 2020 season was cut short. However, if the record-breaking viewership on ESPN is an indication, fan fervor in a live sports-deprived America was hot and heavy.
Pulling in an audience of 4 million, the primetime game on the Disney-owned sports cabler now stands as the most watched MLB opening-night telecast ever, according to Nielsen. Up 8% from the previous record set by the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs in 2017, last night’s 4-1 Yankees victory in six innings soared an almost unbelievable 232% from 2019’s opening-night telecast between the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners.
Overall, with a very wide opening pitch by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Thursday’s soggy opener was the most-watched pro baseball game since 2011, hitting a peak of 4.5 million viewers in the 8:30 PM ET slot.
Like the Yankees and Nationals game, the follow-up San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers matchup started with players taking a knee and offering solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement. Also like the preceding game, the Dodgers’ 8-1 win over their Northern California rivals was one for the record books – and not just by the lack of fans in the stands.
Scoring an average viewership of 2.8 million, the 10 PM ET-starting game is now ESPN’s most-watched MLB regular-season late-night showdown ever.
If that data wasn’t enough for the doubleheader’s glory, the first game snagged an 8.4 rating in the D.C. market, which makes it the highest-rated regular season MLB game ever on ESPN in the region. Add to that, the second game snared a 6.8 rating in the City of Angels. That hits it out of the park to be the highest-rated regular-season MLB game on ESPN in the LA market, with the exception of the dramatic tiebreaker game against the Colorado Rockies on October 1, 2018.
With that, the odd return of MLB continues tonight with ESPN upping the game to a tripleheader.