As expected, Bryce Harper’s spring training debut with the Phillies on Saturday was a huge television draw.
NBC Sports Philadelphia drew a 2.9 household rating for the superstar’s debut, according to Nielsen (the ratings peaked with a 4.0 household rating when Harper stood in for his first at-bat). That’s an increase of 311 percent over the average viewership of Phillies spring training games on NBC Sports Philadelphia this season prior to Harper’s debut.
Harper’s debut was also the highest-rated Phillies spring training game on the network since April 2, 2012, which was a primetime but otherwise unremarkable game against the Pittsburgh Pirates (though it did feature the Phillies debut of Juan Pierre and Jim Thome’s first pinch hit for the team since 2005).
According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, the digital stream of the game delivered 13,500 unique viewers 546,000 live stream minutes, making it the most-streamed Phillies spring training game in the network’s history.
Harper played four innings in right field on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out once and walking once in a game that aired on NBC Sports Philadelphia+. According to my colleague Matt Breen, Harper is expected to play again Wednesday night in Tampa against the New York Yankees. That game won’t be televised, but can be heard live on 94.1 WIP.
Harper has been a massive draw for the Phillies since he sign a 13-year, $330 million contact with the team earlier this month. The Phillies sold 220,000 tickets in just three days after reaching a deal with Harper, and Fanatics announced that his No. 3 jersey was the best-seller of any jersey launch in any sport in the company’s history.
He’s also been driving thousands of new fans to the Phillies’ official social media accounts, according to Missy Perez, an interactive media coordinator for the team.
Harper’s newfound fame also helped land the slugger on ESPN The Magazine’s annual World Fame 100 list, becoming the first MLB player featured since Alex Rodriguez in 2016.
According to ESPN, senior writer Peter Keating ranked 800 athletes from 78 countries based on three fame factors: Google trend score, endorsement dollars, and social media followers. Harper came in at No. 99.
”During the seven years I spent in DC, all everybody talked about was me going somewhere else," Harper told the magazine. "I was in that city and wanted to be in that city, but it didn’t matter. Now, I’m so thankful not to have to hear that for the next 13 years.”