Baseball is a localized phenomenon, but the All-Star Game remains a golden opportunity for the big leagues to engage with fans on a national level. Because it arrives during summer’s stickiest interval, that nothing-much-moving-out-there stretch where ratings points are especially hard to come by, the annual broadcast is a big money grab for Fox.
According to media buyers, Fox booked spots in tonight’s broadcast at an average rate of more than $700,000 per 30-second unit, a significant premium compared to the $550,000 advertisers shelled out during the last few years of the pre-pandemic era. Given a cache of around 72 in-game units, Fox is on pace to clear nearly $50 million in total sales before make-goods/audience deficiency units nibble away at the network’s Tuesday night haul.
While Fox did not confirm the amount of sponsor dollars it expects to rake in, insiders said the final figure will be the largest sum in the network’s 22-year history of calling the game. The advertisers contributing to this windfall include official MLB sponsors Geico, General Motors and Google.
As is the case with pretty much everything that airs on linear TV airwaves, the All-Star Game is now only a shadow of its former self. In its first decade as the host of the midsummer MLB scrimmage, Fox’s All-Star coverage averaged 14.7 million viewers, a far cry from the 36.3 million viewers ABC scared up way back in 1980. As it happens, that was the last time that the game was held at Dodger Stadium.
Among the things that weren’t stealing share from broadcast TV 42 years ago: basic cable—ESPN was exactly 10 months old on July 7, 1980—the Internet and mobile phones. There were all of three broadcast channels to choose from, you had to get up off the couch in order to change the channel, and the only thing airing in opposition to the All-Star Game was a repeat of The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, a spinoff of a show about a freelance truck driver and his chimpanzee sidekick (B.J. and the Bear).
That Fox is able to generate so much revenue off its All-Star broadcast, which last season averaged 8.24 million viewers, has everything to do with the fact that the AL-NL skirmish is quite literally the only game in town for advertisers eager to reach a large, young-ish audience during the summer doldrums. While NBC will air a fresh episode of America’s Got Talent opposite the game, that show’s average delivery of 6.12 million viewers per episode doesn’t translate to a crowd of demographically apposite viewers. Per Nielsen, America’s Got Talent is currently averaging south of 940,000 adults 18-49, well shy of the 2.5 million members of the under-50 set that Fox expects to serve up tonight.
Last year’s All-Star broadcast marked the second-lowest TV turnout for the game, but improved on 2019’s low by some 100,000 viewers. The last time the Midsummer Classic drew more than 10 million viewers was in 2015; Fox notched its strongest deliveries back in 1999, when its second All-Star production averaged 17.6 million viewers.
For those taking in the action from home, Fox has all but bugged every surface of Chavez Ravine, deploying 45 cameras and as many as 76 microphones to provide a fully immersive viewing experience. Joe Davis will call his first-ever All-Star Game alongside Fox MLB mainstay John Smoltz. Rounding out the broadcast crew are Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci, while the 7 p.m. EDT pregame show will be helmed by the big-hitting threesome of Alex Rodriguez, Frank Thomas and David Ortiz.
If you’re looking to make things a little more interesting tonight, the American League is listed as a slight -105 moneyline favorite. (Note: please do not gamble on baseball, let alone an exhibition game. You’re better than that. Probably.) Since Fox has been airing the game, the AL has put together a 19-3 record, a near-perfect run that was besmirched only after the junior circuit fell to the NL in straight sets between 2010 and 2012.
Fox Sports’ coverage of the 2022 MLB All-Star Game starts at 8 p.m. EDT. The game will be simulcast on the Spanish-language channel Fox Deportes.