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Yankees-Nationals Opening Night game shattered MLB television ratings

Jul 23, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; A view of the game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals in the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The game might have been called after less than six full innings. It was played without fans in attendance. That’s all fine and dandy. But having live team sports back after a four-plus month hiatus piqued the interest of fans around the United States.

An average of four million viewers tuned into the defending champion Washington Nationals hosting the New York Yankees on ESPN Thursday night. That was quite the accomplishment.

Most-watched regular-season MLB broadcast since 2011

To put this into perspective, last year’s World Series between the Nationals and Houston Astros drew an average of 14 million viewers. It was the least-watched World Series in five years despite going a full seven games.

The game also received an 8.4 rating in the nation’s capital, making it the highest-rated regular season MLB game on ESPN.

It goes without saying that fans not being in attendance will impact television ratings this season. That’s what Major League Baseball and its players are hoping for given the revenue loss they are facing this season.

The bigger test will be moving forward. Can MLB maintain this level of interest once the NBA’s season resumes in Orlando next week? What about once the 2020 NFL season gets going on Sept. 10?

For now, it’s some great news.