Report: MLB attendances to slide again but ticketing revenue up
Attendances in Major League Baseball are set to fall for a fourth successive year, but ticketing revenue will rise, according to research from Two Circles, the international data-driven sports marketing agency.
Using its proprietary modelling, the UK-based company calculates that attendances will decline by 1.3 per cent, from 69.7 million in 2018 to 68.8 million this year.
However, with average ticket prices set to rise by 2.1 per cent, from $32.29 to $32.99, revenues from this source are projected to climb by $19 million. Had the prices remained static, there would have been a loss of $29 million.
Two Circles advises teams that they can help to reverse the attendance decline by targeting millennial audiences and adopting a digital marketing-led approach to ticket sales, while overseas games such as those between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in London last month could help engage with and attract new fans.
Analysing the figures of all 30 MLB franchises, the teams expected to enjoy the highest year-on-year attendance increases in 2019 are the Philadelphia Phillies (+34 per cent), Minnesota Twins (+17 per cent) and Pittsburgh Pirates (+14 per cent).
The teams set for the biggest decreases are the Toronto Blue Jays (-24 per cent), Seattle Mariners (-24 per cent), San Francisco Giants (-16 per cent) and Detroit Tigers (-16 per cent), losing between them a combined 1.9 million spectators compared to 2018.
The projected total MLB attendance of 68.8 million for this year equates to 67.3-per-cent capacity at ballparks, down from 68.5 per cent in 2018.
Commenting on the findings, Sam Yardley, senior vice-president of consulting at Two Circles, said: “Numerous issues are contributing to overall MLB attendance decline, including: the length of games in an on-demand entertainment culture; games required to be scheduled in unfavourable weekday slots; and a struggle for relevancy against other sports with more familiar athletes.
“To drive long-term ticket revenue growth, teams need to identify, know and engage with their target audiences – something we have seen our clients achieve internationally, in particular by growing attendances from millennial audiences – and moving from a sales-led ticketing approach to a digital-marketing-led approach. It is no coincidence that teams investing in their ballparks and innovating with their product offering and marketing proposition – such as the Minnesota Twins and Oakland A’s – will post attendance increases in 2019.”
He added: “Though ticketing revenue is up, increasing ticket prices is only a short-term fix to the sport’s longer-term structural challenges. There’s a growing appetite for live experiences across North America, and as a family-friendly spectacle that mixes high-quality sport with entertainment around the stadium, MLB teams have a huge opportunity to increase attendances and grow gameday revenues as a result.
“And with experimental rule changes to shorten games – plus new regular season games in growth markets such as the UK – the league, centrally, is innovating to increase engagement with existing and new audiences.”
London will stage two more games next season, a double-header between the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.