If you use Snapchat on any given Wednesday, you'll see MLB Wednesdays featured on its story page. The social app's first regularly scheduled sports program, which officially launched on May 13, collects photos and clips from users who post content during baseball games.
"There's no platform that aims at millennials almost exclusively," said Bob Bowman, Major League Baseball's president of business and media. "Snapchat and Instagram: They are millennial magnets."
Despite record revenues, some have sounded a death knell for baseball, whose games are often criticized for being long and plodding. What's more, Nielsen ratings show that half of baseball TV viewers are over 55, while declining interest in the World Series has been widely noted, with 2014 viewership down 64 percent from its peak between 1978 and 1982. The Washington Post reported that Little League participation dropped from almost 3 million in the 1990s to 2.4 million in 2013, the last year numbers were reported. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that only 14 percent of Americans said their favorite sport was the national pastime, compared with 39 percent who preferred football.
Bowman argued, however, that people may be looking at the wrong stats. He said the Nielsen numbers only look at linear TV viewership, while it's well known that younger viewers prefer watching on digital platforms. It's still a $36 billion industry, with the average team worth $1.2 billion.
MLB.com At Bat was the top U.S. sports app last month in terms of time usage, logging 1.3 billion total minutes of user consumption, according to comScore. ESPN came in second at 8.1 million minutes. The average At Bat user is 30, and two-thirds use it daily, according to the MLB. ComScore also reported that MLB.com was the second most viewed sports website by duration, recording 2.9 billion minutes last month. MLB.TV, which streams games on more than 400 devices, is accessed more than 2 million times a day.
Some publishers have reported that there has been an increase of interest in baseball on their sites. SB Nation said unique visitors to its baseball properties have been up 77 percent year over year (3 million in April 2014 versus 5.3 million in April 2015), and it's on track to have a 100 percent increase in May. Traffic referrals from social media accounts have grown about 150 percent compared to last year.