Major League Baseball's opening day is upon us, and in certain corners of this country, you can just feel the excitement.
Listen, we're going to level with you: Major League Baseball saw the Chicago Cubs end a championship drought more than a century long, and it still isn't setting the world on fire. Last year, total Major League Baseball attendance hit 72.98 million, according to Ballparks of Baseball. That's not only well shy of the record 79.45 million who attended games in 2007, but it's baseball's lowest total attendance since 2004.
Last year's World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians drew 40 million viewers for Game 7. That's the biggest audience the World Series has seen since 1991, but the average 22.8 million who watched all seven games is still far fewer than the 25.4 million who saw the Boston Red Sox end their own streak of futility in 2004. Only 8.7 million people watched baseball's All-Star Game last year, making it the smallest audience in the game's history and the first time it's failed to draw 10 million viewers or more.
Those who are watching are aging rapidly. Three years ago, Nielsen put the average age of a World Series viewer at 54.4 and noted that audience age was trending upward. Two years ago, Nielsen found that 76% of Major League Baseball viewers are 35 or older -- with 50% of the total audience older than 55. By comparison, the National Basketball Association (45% of viewer under age 34) and even Major League Soccer (40% under 34) seem to have a brighter future ahead of them.
While just about every youth sport is struggling with its television audience, the loss of city ballfields and urban baseball programs has made baseball tough to access. According to the Aspen Institute's Project Play, 3.3 million fewer kids played baseball in 2015 than in 2008. Meanwhile, the National Sporting Goods Association suggests that fewer kids between ages 7 and 17 playing baseball than play either basketball or soccer.
This is a shame for Major League Baseball, where the average ticket price of $31 in 2016 is still far less than that in the National Football League ($93), NBA ($56) and National Hockey League ($62). However, part of the reason baseball faces the issues it does is because fans in its most rabid markets often find themselves priced out of the ballpark. With Opening Day coming up, we spoke with the folks at ticket resale and data site TicketIQ and found the 15 most-expensive Opening Day tickets on the market: