MLB attendances projected to fall 1.3% in 2019 – but ticketing revenue set to grow
Total Major League Baseball (MLB) attendances will reach 68.8m by 2019 season-end – the league’s fourth annual decrease in a row, according to projections by Two Circles.
Using its proprietary attendance-modelling, Two Circles found that MLB attendances are projected to decrease 1.3% on last year’s total league attendance of 69.7m1. However, average ticket price increases of 2.1% (from $32.29 in 2018 to $32.99 in 2019)2 mean that ticketing revenues will be up by a projected $19m league-wide in 2019 compared to 2018. Had average ticket prices remained static, overall ticketing revenue would have fallen by $29m.
Two Circles data shows 2019 attendance decline will not be universal across the board, with 15 teams projected to have total attendance increases for the 2019 season. Of those, the Philadelphia Phillies (+34%), Minnesota Twins (+17%) and Pittsburgh Pirates (+14%) are projected to show the greatest year-on-year increases.
Total MLB Regular Season Attendance (2009-2019)
Sam Yardley, SVP 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.”
Toronto Blue Jays (-24%), Seattle Mariners (-24%), San Francisco Giants (-16%) and Detroit Tigers (-16%) are projected to have the biggest attendance decreases – losing, between them, a combined 1.9m attendees in 2019 compared to 2018.
Yardley 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.”
The projected 2019 total MLB attendance of 68.8m represents a total occupancy – how close to capacity a ballpark attendance reaches – of 67.3% across the league. This is down from 68.5% in 2018.
The first half of the season (to July 7), meanwhile, is down on 2018 by 534 attendance per game on average – however, the year-on-year attendance decline for the second half of the season is smaller than the first half (decreasing to 385 fewer attendance per game versus 2018).
MLB Team Regular Season Attendances (2015-2019)
- Attendances reported publicly by individual teams
- Team Marketing Report MLB Fan Cost Index