Brody: MLB attendance, alternatives, and the idea of choice

From Shawn Brody at Baseball Prospectus on February 20, 2020:

Major League Baseball is experiencing a change in consumption. Attendance has dropped every year since 2015, resulting in just over five million fewer fans making their way through the turnstiles in 2019. Last season, Rob Arthur wrote two brilliant pieces on why this drop is happening — rising prices, and lack of competition. Just before the new year I wrote that, even in the presence of falling attendance, MLB is making more overall, and per-fan revenue at the gate. These are choices. These are things that MLB teams can control. It’s an intentional choice to tank, to raise prices on fans, and to pursue strategies that put revenue maximization ahead of actual attendance.

However, there’s another side to things. As writers like Craig Goldstein and Jeff Quinton have noted, MLB teams are risk-averse in almost every way. Teams would only undertake strategies that drive fans away from the game if there’s an understanding that these displaced fans still consume their product. That’s where television and digital viewership come into play. We’ve seen how the aforementioned factors affect MLB attendance, but what about viewership? I set out to build a model.

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Originally published: February 20, 2020. Last Updated: February 20, 2020.