5 Ways The All-Star Game Is Baseball's Super Bowl

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- It doesn't matter that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig didn't get enough votes to make Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. It doesn't matter if the New York Yankees' Robinson Cano deserves to start at second base or not.

What matters is the money. Everything else is just there to distract fans from what's exiting their wallets.

In the eyes of Major League Baseball, it just doesn't matter what they give the fans. When Pete Rose bowled over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game as if he were going for the run that would win the World Series, he separated Fosse's shoulder and was roundly criticized by fans for being overly aggressive in an exhibition game. When Barry Bonds lifted Torii Hunter onto his shoulders after Hunter robbed him of a home run in the 2002 All-Star Game, fans wondered why it had become a beer-league softball game and pined for Rose's "Charlie Hustle" grit of yore.

When the game ended in a tie in 2002, fans complained. When the league made the outcome of the game decide home-field advantage in the World Series, fans wept for the integrity of the game. If you can't please 'em, you may as well fleece 'em.

After all, when you're in a league where a series-format playoff decides the championship, a one-off event such as this is a rare treat. It limits supply, jacks up demand and puts baseball on a level with the National Football League and the NCAA's college basketball postseason. It may not be MLB's Super Bowl, but it's far and away the most competitive and defense-driven All-Star game that any of the major leagues have to offer.

With that in mind, here are five reasons why the All-Star game is Major League Baseball's big money event:

Ticket prices

As we mentioned, limited supply tends to boost prices a bit. Get demand to play along and it gets lucrative in a hurry.

In May, TiqIQ quoted an average ticket price of $1,052 for this year's All at Citi Field in New York. Compare that to the $697 average paid for World Series tickets to games at San Francisco's AT&T Park last year, according to TicketNetwork.com, and the average $517 paid by fans going to World Series games at Detroit's Comerica Park.

That's lofty, but even by All-Star Game standards, it's a bit high. That's 82% more than the $577 fetched for tickets to last year's event at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City and a whopping 258% increase over the $294 tickets to the 2011 All-Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Ad revenue

Last year, MLB's partners at Fox ( NWS) were only able to pull in $450,000 per 30-second World Series ad, according to Kantar Media.

We say "only" because the NBA Finals on Disney's ( DIS) ABC that same year fetched $460,000 per 30 seconds. That put the World Series in third place behind the NBA Finals and the Super Bowl for championship marketing power.

Switch to the All-Star Game, though, and it's a different story. Fox was able to rake in $550,000 per 30-second ad, placing it behind only the college football and basketball championship games and Super Bowl as an ad draw. Keep it mind, the All-Star game did that in Year 4 of a ratings slump that dropped it from a 9.3 rating and 16 million viewers for the first nine innings of the 15-inning marathon in 2008 to a 6.8 rating and just 10.9 million viewers last year. Which leads us to ...

Viewership

Keep in mind, this event is in the dead middle of the summer when prime-time television on networks and cable is largely in its offseason.

That said, any boost a network such as Fox can get is greatly appreciated. Would it love to have the 36.3 million viewers who watched the game in 1976? Sure. But 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%).

In a world where viewers can just head to Hulu, Amazon ( AMZN) or Netflix ( NFLX) to stream various other entertainment and have Comcast ( CMCSA), Time Warner Cable ( TWC), Apple ( AAPL), Wal-Mart's ( WMT) Vudu and others pitching pay-per-view options, an event that can provide that big of a boost is a midsummer miracle. There's a big reason for that ...

The sports void

A scant 10.5 million people watched Game 3 of last year's World Series. It would have been the least-watched World Series game ever if a rain delay hadn't forced Game 3 of the 2008 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays to start after 10 p.m. on the East Coast and not finish until about 2 a.m.

Don't blame the San Francisco Giants, the Detroit Tigers or the series' momentum for this, either. World Series viewership that had been steadily declining since 1986 began declining rapidly in 2005. The All-Star Game certainly hasn't been immune, especially since interleague play began in 1999 and the novelty of All-Star Game matchups wore off a bit.

The All-Star Game doesn't have 24/7 football coverage, though, and early season basketball, hockey and college sports to deal with. Not having football around is proving especially important, given that even the NFL's weaker showings are crushing the major leagues.

Remember how we said baseball's All-Star Game was the only competitive game of its kind? Well, football's Pro Bowl is a step above celebrity flag football and usually features a bunch of alternates to replace players who are injured or who played in the Super Bowl. That absolute travesty of an event still drew 12.2 million viewers in January. That was not only a better draw than MLB's All-Star Game, but roughly the same amount of people who watched Game 1 of last year's World Series. That's also quite the switch from 2009, when All-Star Game ratings were nearly 70% higher than the Pro Bowl's.

Where Major League Baseball is concerned, you don't get a more solitary spot on the calendar than the All-Star Game offers. That also comes in handy for ...

Location, location, location

So when can a city reasonably start preparing for the World Series? When its team clinches a playoff berth? Once it wins its opening series? Only when it's clinched a spot in the championship?

Any of those answers put the World Series at a tremendous disadvantage against the Super Bowl, Final Four and college football bowls and championship game -- all of which have locations settled well in advance. That gives sponsors plenty of time to set up parties and suites, that gives the league enough time to squeeze cities for infrastructure and service improvements and that gives cities themselves plenty of time to hype the events and pack the hotels, bars and restaurants.

Back in 2009, the All-Star game in St. Louis drew 2,000 journalists alone. In 2010, more than 200,000 people came to Phoenix to watch the game and its run-up events, including the FanFest, Futures game, Home Run Derby and All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball game. That generated nearly $70 million in tourist revenue and filled more than 15,000 hotel rooms.

In the case of this year's game at Citi Field, it's also a chance for the host team to boost a sagging bottom line. With the team's books crushed by fallout from the Bernie Madoff scandal, its lineup depleted of stars not named David Wright or Matt Harvey, its on-field product getting used to life in fourth place in the National League East and its average attendance dropping by nearly 12,000 since Citi Field opened in 2009, the Mets could use a little pick-me-up.

Having the All-Star game allowed the team to boost ticket prices on fans who had to buy into season ticket packages for first crack at All-Star seats. For a team that finished just a spot above its division's cellar last year, that All-Star lead time came in handy.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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