The NBA All-Star Game last night drew a 5.9 overnight, up 9% from last year. The game itself came under a lot of scrutiny for sloppy play and all-around apathy from the players, but fans still tuned in. The same criticisms have been levied at the All-Star Games in other sports, especially the Pro Bowl. But years ago, everyone loved their sport's All-Star Game. The players played hard. They played to win. It seemed like an *event* as opposed to just another random event in the middle of the season. Things have apparently changed in recent years, but just *how* much have they changed? Have viewers stopped tuning in to each of the four major sports' All-Star Games? Let's find out…
Yikes. Disaster abounds for the MLB All-Star Game on Fox. They've lost 25% of their viewers in the last five years. And to think, all of this is happening as Bud Selig tries to make the game count and the league fiddles with the rules every year to keep things fresh.
In 2010, the Pro Bowl switched from taking place the week after the Super Bowl to the week before. The game has also been televised on three different networks, including on ESPN in 2010. Since the move to the week before the Super Bowl, ratings have jumped for the NFL and the Pro Bowl has surpassed the MLB All-Star Game as the most-viewed All-Star Game of the four major sports. While ratings have decreased in each of the past two seasons, the NFL's numbers are actually relatively flat since the move, despite many fans speaking out about the game's lack of physicality and overall sloppiness.
Since we don't know anything about this year's NBA All-Star Game aside from the overnight rating, I've left it off the above chart. The low rating in 2012 is due to the game going head to head with the Academy Awards on ABC, but aside from the huge increase for the 2011 game, the NBA has been pretty consistent in their ratings, if not rising slightly. The overnight for this year ticking up is a good sign for the league for the final viewership numbers.
And then, there's the NHL All-Star Game, the most erraticly played of the bunch. The game was canceled in 2005 and 2013 due to lockouts, wasn't played in 2006 and 2010 due to the Winter Olympics, and won't be played in 2014 again due to the Olympics. Ten years, five All-Star Games… makes sense, I guess. But anyway, the last two NHL All-Star Games have done fantastic numbers in comparison to the other post-2005 lockout games and the end of the NHL's deal with ESPN/ABC. Of course, the next NHL All-Star Game won't be played for another two years, so we have no idea if these ratings will hold up or not.
What can we make of the ratings for the four sports overall? The NBA and NFL have slightly increasing ratings, while the NHL has taken a massive step forward (still a dozen steps behind the rest of the pack, though), and has squandered that ratings surge due to the lockout nixing this year's game and the Olympics eliminating next year's game.
The only sport that's seen a decline in All-Star ratings since 2007? Major League Baseball.
With all of the All-Star Games behind us for 2013 (already) aside from the MLB game, it'll be interesting to see if the league's perilous downward trend continues. I think 11 million viewers for the midsummer classic is something that MLB and Fox would probably be happy with given the ratings over the last two seasons. Still though, with all the complaining about the declining relevance of All-Star Games, it's ironic to think the only one seeing a significant decline in viewership is the one claiming to count for something.