MLB teams, researchers grapple with millennials’ interest in baseball
Rich Luker, Founder of the SSRS/Luker on Trends Sports Poll, Weighs In
Some researchers on American sports say the hand-wringing over baseball’s smaller footprint is overblown. Rich Luker, who has studied sports and demographics for 40 years and founded the ESPN Sports Poll, said numbers have decreased for most sports in the country over the past 15 years, in part because Americans just have more options for entertainment.
“The challenge I see in the free time industry as a whole is that, while [entertainment options] are competing with each other for people’s time, that’s not what’s in the mind of a person at all,” he said. “So I think the way we go about looking at it is flawed at its heart.”
Baseball, in a broader context, is doing fine, he said. His company Luker on Trends also found that “60 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are behaving, engaged fans of MLB” — on par with the NBA.
Asking people in the smartphone age whether they “follow” professional baseball was “the wrong question,” he said.
“Because you can get fast access to any sport, any time, in a variety of ways, we no longer have to reserve thoughtful energy to follow it, to keep up,” Mr. Luker said.