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In a Summer of Juiced Balls, the MLB All-Star Game Fails to Take Flight

By Published on .

Robinson Cano and Andrew Miller celebrate after winning this year's All-Star Game. Fox might not be as thrilled with its results.
Robinson Cano and Andrew Miller celebrate after winning this year's All-Star Game. Fox might not be as thrilled with its results. Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images

Major League Baseball on Tuesday avoided setting another unenviable record, as Fox's coverage of the 88th annual All-Star Game delivered slightly stronger ratings than last year's dismal results.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the American League's 2-1 victory over the National League averaged 9.28 million viewers and a 5.5 household rating, and while those numbers were up marginally compared to last year's historically low draw of 8.71 million viewers and a 5.4 rating, they were still far from encouraging.

Not only did Tuesday night's results mark the second time a Midsummer Classic has averaged fewer than 10 million viewers, but in keeping with the ongoing greying of baseball, many of those who did tune in were a bit long in the tooth. The median age of the viewers who watched the game was 56 years, up from 54.6 years in 2016.

The game delivered a 2.3 rating in Fox's target demo, which works out to some 2.95 million adults 18 to 49. Last year's All-Star Game drew a record low 2.2 in the demo, or 2.79 million members of the 18-to-49 crowd.

By way of comparison, Tuesday's All-Star Game was routed in the demo by the previous night's Home Run Derby on ESPN, which drew a 2.9, or 3.53 million adults 18 to 49.

Around 3.57 million men age 50 years and up tuned in for last night's exhibition, nearly four-and-a-half times the turnout among men 18 to 34 (802,000).

Billed as a moonshot youthquake because of the fresh-faced talent set to play, the 2017 installment of the All-Star Game turned out to be a rather ruthless celebration of high-velocity pitching prowess. While baseball purists may live for that sort of display (pitchers on both staffs rung up a combined 23 strikeouts), casual fans generally don't tune in to watch hitters have the bat taken out of their hands. As the radar guns kept registering pitches that exceeded 100 mph, sluggers like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and George Springer failed to lay wood on the ball.

If it wasn't much fun to watch from home, it couldn't have been tremendously engaging for those at the stadium, either; fans could be seen making their early exit from Marlins Park well before the AL squad slammed the door on its fifth straight win.

In one noteworthy change, Tuesday's result won't have an impact on October baseball, as MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has elected to junk the longstanding rule that gave home-field advantage in the World Series to the team representing the winning side in the All-Star Game. Instead, winning percentage will determine how the Fall Classic schedule will shake out. (If the elimination of that particular incentive gave rise to a few memorably light-hearted moments -- before he stepped up to the plate in the the sixth inning, Nelson Cruz asked his pal Yadier Molina to take his photo alongside umpire Joe West -- there's nothing in the Nielsen data that suggests the rule change had an impact on the ratings either way.)

My All-Star Game is better than yours
Although baseball's national TV ratings have been in steady decline since the 1970s, the All-Star Game continues to out-deliver the other top-tier sports leagues' annual exhibitions. For example, ESPN's coverage of the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl averaged 7.45 million viewers and a 4.2 household rating, while TNT/TBS's presentation of February's NBA All-Star Game drew 7.75 million viewers and a 4.2 rating.

Among the more conspicuous advertisers featured throughout the Fox broadcast were official MLB sponsors MasterCard and Chevrolet. Also suiting up were wireless providers Verizon and Boost Mobile and automaker Lincoln.

The top ad categories in the game were auto, insurance, wireless, quick-service restaurants and movie studios. Representing the latter category were Warner Bros. ("Dunkirk"), Columbia Pictures ("The Dark Tower," "Spider-Man: Homecoming"), STX Entertainment ("Valerian"), Twentieth Century Fox ("War for the Planet of the Apes") and Focus Features ("Atomic Blonde").

Fox devoted just one 30-second spot to promote its upcoming fall lineup, putting the spotlight on "The Gifted," an X-Men-adjacent action/adventure strip set to premiere on Monday, October 2.

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