Perhaps lost amidst the NFL and NCAA basketball action on Sunday, ESPN casually announced that their Sunday Night Baseball telecasts would start an hour earlier in 2019, with the start time being moved from 8 PM EDT to 7 PM. The announcement is expected to formally be made on Monday, December 10th during MLB’s annual Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. According to Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, the time slot is presumably being moved up due to complaints from some of the players around the league. Per Blum, “players who had to travel after games complained they reached the next city at dawn, disrupting their sleep schedules ahead of the next series against an opponent that usually has more rest.”
While that reasoning is more than valid, Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing presented another interesting argument that I wholeheartedly agree with. Bucholtz ponders that ESPN making the start time earlier than before, “might help them retain the East Coast audience, as long-running games often lead to East Coast viewers who have to work in the morning checking out before the end.”
For years, I have been calling for major prime-time sporting events to be played earlier, especially if they take place during the weekend. I do understand why some events, such as the NBA Finals, need to have a start time closer to 9 PM on the East Coast in order to appease the western portion of the United States. Having said that, moving the start time of Sunday Night Baseball up is a step in the right direction for many other events. I would not be surprised if this internal decision leads to a slight uptick in ratings over the course of the 2019 season and beyond; as an East Coast viewer, I’ll certainly be tuned in more than I used to be.
- Blum, R. (2018, December 10). APNewsBreak: Sunday night games an hour earlier in 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://apnews.com/c90e0538910343b7bddcedc351e72d51?utm_medium=AP_Sports&utm_source=Twitter&utm_campaign=SocialFlow
- Bucholtz, A. (2018, December 10). ESPN is set to move Sunday Night Baseball games up by an hour. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://awfulannouncing.com/espn/sunday-night-baseball-espn-7pm-start.html