MLB All-Star Game Hemorrhaging TV Viewers


Jul 13, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view during the MLB legends and celebrity softball game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Fewer and fewer people are watching the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, as reported by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.

In 1985, when stars such as George Brett and Rickey Henderson roamed the field, the game drew 28.2 million sets of eyes. That number dropped to 16.7 million in 1997, and 12.3 million in 2005. Last year’s total of 11 million was actually up from 2012, but just by 100,000 viewers. That boost ended three straight years of decline, but the game ended as the third-least watched Mid-Summer Classic in history.

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  • It’s gotten so bad for the All-Star Game, that it’s now losing to the Pro Bowl (11.7 million viewers in 2013). The Pro Bowl was thought to be such a joke that some went as far to advocate for the abolition of the exhibition.

    Hearing the news that TV viewership is down isn’t a big surprise. The game’s played in the summer when people are out, not sitting in front of their television sets. There’s also so many more entertainment options than there were in 1985, and even 1997.

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    Deitsch also points out that the game’s audience is getting older. Last year’s average viewer was 53, well out of the 18-49 demographic advertisers covet, which may have something to do with the game’s 8 p.m. start time.

    There’s also the much debated theory about baseball being “too slow” for millenials and younger viewers. If masses of people believe the game to be boring, why watch?

    So how can the game attract new viewers?

    Deitchs suggests marketing individuals players.

    It may not be such a bad idea. The NFL and NBA know how to market their stars. People tune into those sports and their all-star games knowing the participants.

    Just look at the Cleveland Indians’ representative this season. It’s Michael Brantley. Dr. Smooth is obviously well-known in Tribe Country, but who outside of Cleveland knows that Brantley is one of the best clutch-hitters in the game?

    There’s also a slew of relievers on the team, that the casual fan wouldn’t know even if that player wore his full-uniform and drove them to work in the morning.

    The game has also lost a lot of intrigue. Gone are days when Tony Gwynn facing Randy Johnson, or Ken Griffey Jr. facing Greg Maddux was a big deal. Those types of AL vs. NL match ups became moot when Interleague play was introduced in 1997.

    The game will air on FOX and one team will win home-field advantage (although most fans wish this wasn’t the case) Baseball fans will tune in because they love the game, and watching the All-Star Game is what you do in mid July.  But there are fewer and fewer fans who share this passion, and it’s a problem MLB needs to find solutions to, fast.

    Will you watch the game? If so, why?