The 2023 World Baseball Classic has been seen as a massive success, all the way up to its epic Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout ending in the U.S.-Japan final. And the initial ratings are backing up that narrative.
The WBC final Tuesday saw 4.48 million viewers on Fox Sports 1 and 4.97 million viewers when combined with Fox Deportes, according to Sports Media Watch. Those numbers shatter the previous American viewership record for the event, the 2017 U.S.-Puerto Rico final that drew 3.05 million total viewers.
Beyond the WBC, Tuesday's game was one of the most watched non-World Series baseball games in a long time.
It reportedly outdrew all but one game on Fox Sports 1 last season, including some NLCS games. The last time an MLB regular-season game saw more viewers was the "Field of Dreams" game in 2021, and no other regular-season game had more viewers since a New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game in 2011.
The final also finished third overall in total viewership Tuesday, outdrawing Fox's own broadcast of “911: Lone Star” and “Accused.”
Just wait until we see Japan's World Baseball Classic ratings
All of that is very good to hear when you want the World Baseball Classic to inject some energy into baseball, which sees near-annual stories about declining viewership and relevance among younger fans. For a sport that has received so much criticism about how it markets its brightest stars, Ohtani going berserk in the tournament and capping it by striking out the best player of a generation is a good way to drum up interest.
The real success, though, will be gauged with ratings from other countries, and you can bet the numbers out of Japan are going to be comically massive. A pool play game between Japan and South Korea drew a Super Bowl-esque 44.4 rating and 62 million viewers for Tokyo Broadcasting Systems, so we can only imagine how much of the country tuned in for Team Japan's finest hour on the international stage.
It isn't hyperbole to say Tuesday has a chance to be the most watched baseball game ever. Game 6 of the 1980 World Series, the highest-rated World Series game in history, saw a total of 54.9 million viewers.
Add numbers such as how 62% of Puerto Rican televisions watched their team's win over the Dominican Republic, and you have a tournament the world definitely cares about, even if some stateside talking heads still diminish the WBC's importance.