We’re still roughly a month from the MLB All-Star Game. Heading into this year’s midsummer classic at Minnesota’s Target Field, there isn’t a ton of hype. Hell, most of the attention is getting paid to Derek Jeter’s All-Star farewell and the fact that The Man still won’t go away. When you consider how awful MLB telecasts on Fox and Fox Sports 1 have done this year, and the recent history of All-Star Game ratings falling off a cliff, I’m wondering if this All-Star Game will be the least-watched ever.
The bar that MLB has to clear isn’t high – the 2012 All-Star Game from Kansas City is currently the least-watched ever, drawing just 10.9 million viewers on Fox. A year ago, the 2013 All-Star Game from New York’s Citi Field barely beat it out, drawing 11.0 million viewers. This is becoming par for the course for the game – the last game to crack a 7.0 rating and 12 million viewers was the 2011 game from Anaheim. The last time the game topped 16 million viewers and an 11.0 rating was all the way back in 2001, when Cal Ripken Jr. and the late Tony Gwynn made their final All-Star appearances ever. That was also the first year that Fox exclusively gained the rights to the game after alternating with NBC from 1996-2000.
“The Jeter Thing” is the only possible saving grace for Fox and MLB here, despite a game that will more than likely include some of the game’s brightest stars, like Yasiel Puig, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Felix Hernandez, and Clayton Kershaw, among others. But how much of a bump can really be expected, considering that the lone Yankees game to air on Fox this season helped the network draw just a 1.6 rating? Mariano Rivera and Chipper Jones didn’t do much to move the needle in the last two years, is it naive to believe Jeter would create that much of a difference?
I almost am beginning to think that a more compelling question is “when will the NBA’s All-Star Game surpass MLB’s?” The gap between the two is still wide – this year, the NBA drew just a 4.3 rating and 7.5 million viewers for their game on TNT. However, that gap is shrinking – it was a difference of slightly under two million viewers in 2011, and fluctuated between three and four million in 2012 and 2013. Considering that both leagues are trending in different directions nationally, I wouldn’t be shocked if the NBA eventually put together the second-most watched All-Star Game in America (behind the awful Pro Bowl, but hey, NFL!), especially if ESPN gets the rights to the game in the current round of NBA TV rights negotiations.
The sad thing is that this might spur MLB to try to make people care about the All-Star Game with additional gimmicks, like they have in previous years with having the game decide home field advantage in the World Series and introducing the Final Vote campaign. The All-Star Game doesn’t need to be fixed – this is an issue with MLB’s declining national ratings as a whole and with declining public interest in All-Star Games as a whole. It’s a two-pronged problem that has no easy fix, and might force MLB to irrationally overreact.