In case you were concerned that MLB owners were struggling financially, you can put those worries to bed.
A new report from Front Office Sports explains that Major League Baseball is expecting record revenue for 2022. It will exceed the last full season before the pandemic, which was $10.7 billion.
MLB’s chief revenue officer, Noah Garden, told Forbes that “it’s safe to say that we’ll be higher than we were in 2019.”
Garden also said that attendance league wide is at 95-96% of 2019 pre-pandemic levels. That hasn’t helped the Cleveland Guardians, who have struggled to attract fans despite winning their division.
Other teams though have had extremely successful returns to full capacity, like the Dodgers and New York Yankees. They rank 1st and 3rd, respectively, in team attendance this year.
Increased levels of competition thanks in part to expanded playoffs is likely partially responsible. The late season exploits of Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols also helped, as they chased down historic home run totals.
But it’s not just attendance that’s record-breaking. According to Garden, the league will see the “most merchandise sold” in the history of MLB, both domestically and in international locations too.
The increasing amount of Nike’s “City Connect” jerseys has given fans new uniform options to purchase. New Era seems to release updated hat designs every week during the season.
Other factors beyond alternates could be in play too, players like Freddie Freeman moving into larger markets, or just general fashion trends moving towards MLB apparel.
Future of MLB.tv?
Garden also brought up MLB.tv as a product the league is working on heavily to create further revenue opportunities.
He said that “In the next 20 years, [today’s MLB.tv is] going to look as archaic as what we did 20 years ago.”
MLB.tv is one of the sports world’s most advanced streaming products, although it’s long been held back by outdated blackout rules that force fans across the country to miss games in their local, and sometimes distant, markets.
If they are able to substantially improve that product, it could be a massive win for the future of baseball and revenue for the league.
While MLB has inarguably lost popularity to the NFL and even the NBA with younger fans, there are many possibilities for the league to recover fans, whether that’s true increased visibility, engagement, or shorter games.
That said, the fact that revenue has recovered this quickly after government imposed restrictions is a very positive sign for the future.
New rules designed to speed up games and make them more exciting to watch could also help by bringing fans back or enhancing television ratings.
This year’s postseason should also be beneficial in that regard, with massive television markets like New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta all represented once again, as well as teams like the Mariners and Padres who don’t often make the playoffs.
Perhaps the most useful takeaway from this news is that fans will have plenty of ammunition to use when owners in the offseason cry poor and say they “can’t afford” to sign players in free agency.
When revenues are breaking records, it’s even harder to take them seriously.