Major League Baseball team owners and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred have lamented about the financial challenges of operating teams in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, MLB revenue tells a different story.
The league and its players opened 2022 with a lockout that significantly impacted free agency and forced Opening Day to be postponed. Amid negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, team owners cited massive losses from the COVID-shortened 2020 season and defended club payrolls dropping across the sport.
Amid negotiations with the players union, MLB began finalizing contracts with its broadcasting partners on media rights deals. The new contracts with Apple, NBC paired with agreements reached with ESPN and FOX in previous years meant hundreds of millions of dollars in TV revenue for baseball.
Now, as baseball prepares to introduce advertisements on uniforms as just one of several new ways to further increase its profits in 2023, revenue numbers from this past season are officially in.
According to Front Office Sports, MLB earned more than $10.8 billion in revenue during the 2022 season. It’s a record-setting mark for the sport, surpassing the $10.7 billion revenue figure it achieved from the 2019 season.
MLB revenue by year
- 2022: $10.8 billion
- 2021: $9.56 billion
- 2022: $3.66 billion
- 2019: $10.7 billion
- 2018: $10.3 billion
As noted by Front Office Sports, TV partnerships with FOX, TBS and ESPN alone account for $1.76 billion annually, far surpassing the $250 million in TV revenue the league earned under its previous media rights agreements.
The revenue increase also represents a major transition for the sport. Despite the record-setting earnings, MLB attendance dropped 6% from the 2019 season as it continues to experience a steady decline that isn’t greatly impacting the sport’s bottom line.
The figures also just come a few years after Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts publicly talked about the financial losses of ‘biblical proportions‘ that owners feared they would experience. In February 2022, former Miami Marlins president David Samson claimed many teams lost money every season.
While the 2020 season provided a financial challenge for team owners, it isn’t any different from many businesses that lost money during the COVID-19 pandemic. One big difference, highlighted by the upcoming Washington Nationals sale, is that MLB teams can eventually be flipped for billions of dollars and league revenue is expected to keep climbing every year.