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TV ratings and the MLB All-Star game

July 9, 2015

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(Via Flickr.com)

On Wednesday, I wrote about how ballot stuffing for the MLB All-Star game next week could have cost the league big money.

Today, I’ll cover another business angle to this year’s Summer Classic in Cincinnati: television ratings.

The Game Itself

The MLB All-Star game has consistently had higher ratings than the NBA’s and even the NFL’s iterations, according to an analysis from Deadspin.

This contradicts almost all trends in sports TV ratings. As I wrote back in April, baseball has been experiencing a significant decline in viewership since 2001. During that same period, the NBA and NFL trended in the opposite direction.

The graph below from the Atlantic shows just how far behind baseball has fallen in TV ratings compared to football and basketball.

(Via the Atlantic)
(Via the Atlantic)

But while MLB’s top games have fallen in viewership compared to other sports, baseball’s All-Star game ratings have remained relatively consistent.

It’s been neck-and-neck with Pro Bowl (the NFL’s All-Star game) ratings since 2010, and will probably edge football’s game — which only received 8.77 million views in 2015 — by a few million viewers this year.

The Home Run Derby

But MLB’s All-Star game is more than a showdown between the American League and National League. The Home Run Derby, usually held a day before the AL-NL matchup, consistently draws a huge viewership every year.

It features some of the biggest names in the game, doing what they do best: attempting to hit home runs. In 2014, 5.4 million households tuned in. By contrast, the NBA All-Star game only had 1.8 million more viewers in 2015.

Back in 2013, the Home Run Derby outdrew every NBA playoff game on ESPN with 6.8 million households tuning in.

This year, the contest might get a viewership boost, thanks to its new format.

Previously, each Derby participant received 10 outs and the contestants who hit the most homers moved on to the next round. Now, players will face off in head-to-head matchups in a three-round bracket with eight spots.

Participants & Bracket announced for the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders. pic.twitter.com/dVnIMQ7NPQ

— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) July 8, 2015

As you can see, the contest pits some of MLB’s up-and-coming stars, like Kris Bryant, against its more established sluggers like Albert Pujols.

Unfortunately for MLB, some of its top players, like Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, have declined to participate or cannot partake because of injury. But the magic of watching a ball fly into the stands may be enough of a draw.

For story ideas, check on how the game and the Home Run Derby have done in your market in the past. Is one of your local players involved in one or both contests? How is your team promoting the All-Star festivities?


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