Thanks to the pandemic, every bit of reporting on the financial state of MLB and its teams had to come with a big asterisk for 2020 and 2021. The ability to generate revenue “normally” was impacted both of those years (substantially in 2020, modestly in 2021), so any long-term discussions you wanted to have about the health of the sport or whatever was challenging.
2022 is a different story. That isn’t to say that human behavior wasn’t still impacted by the pandemic (and fallout from the pandemic, including behavior changes, spending changes, inflation, and the like). But there were no more artificial restrictions on MLB’s ability to generate revenue … save for the self-imposed restriction of a lockout that may have soured fans’ mouths for the early part of the season.
So, then, how did the revenue picture for Major League Baseball look in 2022, now that things were “back to normal”? Well, for whatever else you might say about what is happening in the fandom, the money kept flowing:
According to Maury Brown, MLB topped $10.8 billion in revenue in 2022, which was a new record for the league. The previous high came, as you might expect, in 2019 ($10.7 billion). Profit numbers were not available.
So where did the increase in revenue come from? Primarily it was due to a trio of national rights deals – FOX, ESPN, TBS – that all kicked in for the 2022 season, and the addition of other national streaming rights deals with Apple and Peacock. That, alone, goosed the revenue number by nearly $250 million over prior years, according to Brown. Sponsorships were also up slightly from last year.
Take those bits together and you can rightly conclude that attendance was down, continue a trend in the wrong direction there. I’d argue the risks there are less about incremental losses in revenue and more about the long-term losses you might see in fans, which in turn will harm your other sources of revenue over time. Just my opinion ….