The All-Star Game is supposed to get drubbed by the Super Bowl, the NFL (with an average of 17.4 million per game in 2013) and even the Winter Olympics (33.1 million viewers, on average). But when the NBA Finals draw 17.7 million viewers per game and an opening-round World Cup match between the U.S. and Ghana draws 11.1 million viewers on ESPN alone (Univision viewers brought the total to 19 million), the All-Star Game's slow fade seems a lot quicker.
In the past 20 years, the All-Star Game has lost 50% of its audience. It hasn't drawn 20 million viewers since 1995 and last saw more than 15 million in 2001. An audience of 36.3 million like the game saw in 1976 isn't realistic anymore -- especially considering that the NFL's Pro Bowl drew only 11.7 million viewers this year -- but even 13 million has been considered uncharted territory for the past half-decade.
Still, from a network perspective, it beats the alternative. Broadcasting & Cable notes that The All-Star Game during the 2000s came in about 30% higher than that night's average prime time ratings. That's a bigger boost than it provided in the 1990s (27%) and 1980s (26%). That summer lull is a big reason why Major League Baseball came away with an eight-year deal for $700 million per season from ESPN alone the last time it negotiated its television contracts.
All-Star Game broadcaster Fox, meanwhile, just started an eight-year deal that pays Major League Baseball $500 million per year for rights to regular-season games, playoff games, the World Series and the All-Star Game. Compared with the $300 million each season Turner will pay over the same span for playoff access, that's not such a bad deal.Also see: Soccer Isn't Replacing Baseball Yet Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.