Major League Baseball will run its summer classic event,
the annual All-Star Game, on Tuesday, July 10. Granted, the first
pitch hasn't yet been thrown, but TV has already produced two game winners. Both
Fox, which airs the showdown, and ESPN, which televises the Home Run Derby on the
preceding night, are sold out of their ad inventory.
Both networks sold their entire commercial time allotments weeks
before the telecasts and the sellouts are a testament to the popularity of both
events among advertisers, considering many of the same marketers have loaded up
with Summer Olympics advertising later this month.
Last year, the All-Star Game on Fox drew about 11 million
fans, the lowest viewer total of the past decade, but it still rated higher
than any other primetime programming on the other broadcast networks. Nielsen
data shows that during the 2000s, the average MLB All-Star Game telecast rated
30% higher than that night's average primetime ratings for ABC, CBS or NBC.
That gap is the highest percentage differential since the 1970s. In the 1980s,
the gap was 26% and in the 1990s it was 27%. So, despite audience decline, which
fell from an average of 14.6 million viewers in 2002, and even given all the
audience fragmentation, game viewership has held up pretty nicely compared to
other broadcast programming on the night.
Last year, the All-Star Game on Fox also out-rated the most-watched
broadcast network shows of the summer, even edging out NBC hit America's Got Talent.
This year, according to sources familiar with ad sales for
the game, Fox averaged about $550,000 per 30-second spot, getting high
single-digit cost-per-thousand increases. And viewership does tend to fluctuate
year-to-year. In 2005, the All-Star game drew 12.3 million viewers, while in
2006, it was watched by an average of 14.4 million. In 2007, an average 12.5
million watched, while in 2008, that number jumped to 14.5. Advertisers seem to
be willing to roll the dice, and agree to pay the increased CPMs, although they
also do the same for primetime entertainment programming, which is almost
always on a downward slide with very few shows increasing viewership year-to-year.
Among the top advertisers on the Fox All-Star Game telecast this
year are Anheuser-Busch, General Motors, MasterCard, Pepsi, Taco Bell and State
Farm, who also all happen to be MLB corporate sponsors. Top ad categories in
the game include auto, financials and quick-service restaurants, in that order.
Chevrolet is sponsoring the pregame and postgame shows on Fox.
The Home Run Derby on ESPN will be televised beginning at 8
p.m. on Monday, with the event also available on ESPN radio, ESPN Deportes,
ESPN Mobile TV, WatchESPN and ESPN3. ESPN radio will also air the All-Star Game
on Tuesday night.
ESPN has, over the years, come up with lots of tech features
to make the Derby more interesting and fan-friendly for viewers. The telecast
will include a homer tracking system that will also be available on ESPN.com to
provide distance readings as soon as the ball lands. It will also include ESPN
Ball Track, which will include a virtual spray chart showing the path for each
batter's home runs. And in a well-publicized development, participants in the
Derby along with other All-Stars on the field will be tweeting during the
competition with selective tweets being shown to viewers. Participants will
also be wearing microphones.
ESPN's coverage will begin on Sunday with the minor league
All-Star Futures Game at 5 p.m. on ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Mobile and via the
WatchESPN app. ESPN will also televise the All-Star Legends and Celebrity
Softball Game that will be taped and run right after the Home Run Derby on
The Home Run Derby is once again being title sponsored by
State Farm. The Futures Game title sponsor is Sirius XM Radio, and Taco Bell is
title sponsor for the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game.
Last year's Derby telecast drew an impressive 6.6 million
viewers, up from 6.4 million in 2010. Featured advertisers in the Home Run
Derby telecast in addition to State Farm include Holiday Inn, Audi and DirecTV.
During a recent Fox press call about the All-Star game, Major
League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said MLB live attendance at games this
season so far has totaled 37 million. He added that over 40 million ballots
were cast in All-Star player voting, up from 32.5 million last year. He also
believes that the five no-hitters pitched this season so far and the emergence
of several rookie players in both leagues could lead to a positive effect on
viewership of the All-Star game and accompanying event telecasts.
"There's been an extraordinary infusion of young players
into the game this season," he told reporters.
Also, Erin Andrews, a onetime fixture on ESPN who recently
joined Fox Sports, will be an on-air reporter during the All-Star Game