The Boys of Bummer: MLB All-Star Game Ratings Fall to a New Low

Midsummer Classic Draws Just 8.71 Million Viewers

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Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees and the American League walks off the field during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at Petco Park in San Diego on Tuesday night.
Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees and the American League walks off the field during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at Petco Park in San Diego on Tuesday night. Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Major League Baseball on Tuesday night passed a less than auspicious milestone, as ratings for the 2016 All-Star Game on Fox dropped to a record low across just about every conceivable metric.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the 87th edition of the Midsummer Classic averaged just 8.71 million viewers and a 5.4 household rating, down 20% and 18%, respectively, versus last year's draw of 10.9 million viewers and a 6.6 rating. The American League's 4-2 victory over the National League now stands as the only time in the 50 years in which Nielsen has been keeping track of the All-Star Game ratings that the exhibition has delivered fewer than 10 million viewers.

The game also eked out a 2.2 in the demo, which translates to around 2.79 million adults 18 to 49, and marked a 29% decline versus the year-ago 3.1 rating. For the sake of context, the event that determined home-field advantage in the 2016 World Series was out-gunned by NBC's competition show "America's Got Talent," which averaged 11.5 million viewers and a 2.4 in the target demo.

Two years ago, when the All-Star Game pulled double duty as a tribute to retiring New York Yankees great Derek Jeter, Fox averaged a more princely 11.3 million viewers and a 7.0 household rating.

While baseball's national TV ratings have been in slow, but steady, decline since the go-go 1970s and the subsequent rise of the hyperlocal, insanely lucrative regional sports network model, the All-Star Game continues to out-deliver the other leagues' annual exhibition match-ups. ESPN's coverage of the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl averaged 7.99 million viewers and a 4.5 household rating, while TNT/TBS' presentation of this year's NBA All-Star Game drew 7.61 million viewers and a 4.3 rating.

If the audience for the AL-NL showdown is on the wane, Fox continues to drum up big business with its annual broadcast. As one might expect, official MLB sponsors like Chevrolet, MasterCard, Pepsi, T-Mobile, Budweiser and Bank of America were among the most conspicuous advertisers -- altogether, those six brands invested in no fewer than 16 spots, or nearly one-quarter of the available in-game units -- while newly-minted baseball backer Intel ponied up for another three units.

As was the case with last month's NBA Finals, Intel's signature 360-degree replay technology also was featured during the Fox broadcast. Since July 1, or when Intel was finalizing the deal making it the MLB's newest official sponsor, the company has spent some $2.43 million on live baseball inventory, per iSpot.tv estimates. That tally includes commercials in ESPN and Fox's national baseball telecasts, as well as the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. Prior to Intel joining forces with MLB, it hadn't spent a dime on the 2016 baseball season.

Top All-Star categories included automotive (Chevrolet, Ford, Lexus, Infiniti, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Ram Trucks); tablets and tech (Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Apple); wireless (T-Mobile, Samsung Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, Cricket Wireless) and quick service restaurants (Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings).

Among the movie releases that were promoted during the game were the Weinstein Company's Roberto Duran biopic "Hands of Stone," Universal Pictures' "Jason Bourne," Paramount Pictures' "Star Trek Beyond" and Warner Bros.' "Suicide Squad" and "War Dogs."

Per media buyer estimates, the average cost of a 30-second spot in the broadcast ranged from around $575,000 to $600,000 a pop.

As expected, Fox used the All-Star Game to promote its upcoming baseball-themed drama "Pitch," running a 30-second teaser for the show and zooming its cameras in on stars Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. The network did much the same for the upcoming action series "Lethal Weapon."

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