MLB All-Star game strikes out in ratings

Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:43am EDT
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By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - When the American and National League face off in Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game in New York, there will be fewer people watching than there were the last time Yankee Stadium was the host in 1977.

Last year's game drew 12.5 million viewers, the smallest audience for the "Midsummer Classic" since at least 1970. With the exception of the 2006 game in Pittsburgh, which bucked the trend, the ratings have fallen since 2001.

That's the way it is for most of TV these days. But for the All-Star Game, the signature TV event of the summer, the ratings losses are particularly stark. Blame the TV landscape, interleague play, the fact there's plenty more baseball on TV and cable these days or even the fact that many of the recent games have been blowouts by the AL. There's also a lot more competition, albeit reality programming mostly, from broadcast and cable rivals. Whatever the reason, it adds up to diminished ratings.

"The All-Star Game used to be one of the highlights of television in the summer," baseball fan and Horizon Media researcher Brad Adgate said. "I don't think you can necessarily make that claim anymore. It's still relevant and it's a lot of fun." But there's no doubt, Adgate said, that it has lost much of the cachet it has enjoyed since the first one was dreamed up by a Chicago sportswriter in 1933.

But Major League Baseball has high hopes for this year's game, which will be played in the last year of one of baseball's most storied homes, Yankee Stadium. Several days of celebration kicked off this past weekend, with a free concert in Central Park by Bon Jovi and continuing Monday with ESPN's telecast of the Home Run Derby and Tuesday's parade in Manhattan and the game itself. It's a big investment for MLB and Fox.

Fox Sports president Ed Goren said that the historic nature of this year's game -- the last year in a fabled ballpark and the participation of almost every living Hall of Famer -- makes it something special.

"The viewership for this All-Star Game is going to be sensational," Goren said.

What's also sensational is the ad sales, which recorded a double-digit increase this year. The average 30-second spot goes for between $425,000 and $450,000 a throw. Some spots are going for $550,000 each and only one spot was left heading into the weekend. There is strong support from MLB's corporate sponsors, among other advertisers -- something that other sports can't always claim.   Continued...

<p>The New York Yankees unveiled the 2008 All-Star Game logo at Yankee Stadium before their MLB American League baseball game with the Chicago White Sox in New York, July 31, 2007. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine</p>