Fox has sold out its ad inventory in and around next week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, moving spots at a high single-digit percentile increase versus last year’s rates.
According to industry sources, Fox has priced in-game 30-second spots at around $550,000 a pop, this despite the formidable challenge of having to compete with NBC’s Olympics for sponsor dollars. As in years past, the most active categories are automotive and financial services.
Quick-service restaurant (QSR) commitments also played a key role in Fox’s All-Star sellout.
The usual suspects will be well represented throughout the broadcast, including official MLB sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev, General Motors, State Farm, MasterCard, Pepsi-Cola and Taco Bell. GM’s Chevrolet marque is the presenting sponsor of the pre- and post-game shows.
In non-Olympics years, the MLB All-Star Game is always the highest-rated television event of the summer. Last year’s game in Phoenix, Ariz., averaged 11 million total viewers, and while that marked a 9 percent decline from 2010, it still beat out the Kentucky Derby, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and the final round of the U.S. Open.
In an uncharacteristically one-sided affair, the National League won the 2011 MLB All-Star Game by a four-run margin.
While the ratings were down year-over year, the Mid-Summer Classic easily out-delivered similar exhibitions by the other major sports leagues, including the 2011 NBA All-Star Game on TNT (9.09 million viewers) and the 59th NHL All-Star Game on NBC (1.48 million viewers). NBC’s coverage of the most recent NFL Pro Bowl beat all comers, drawing 12.5 million viewers in January.
Unlike every other pro sports exhibition, the MLB All-Star Game is intrinsically meaningful. Since 2003, the outcome has determined home-field advantage in the World Series.
Fox Sports’s live coverage of the 83rd MLB All-Star Game begins Tuesday, July 10, at 7:30 p.m. EDT. This marks the 14th time play-by-play announcer Joe Buck and analyst Tim McCarver will call the All-Star Game on Fox.
Also scheduled to hold down the fort in Kansas City are: MLB on Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal; and a contingent from MLB Network that includes broadcasters Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds and analysts Eric Karros and Kevin Millar.
The All-Star Game will also serve as the maiden voyage of new hire Erin Andrews, who on Sunday (July 1) joined the Fox Sports team after an eight-year stint at ESPN. Andrews will by positioned alongside the American League dugout and is expected to conduct player interviews after the game.
Andrews will continue to contribute to Fox’s MLB coverage throughout the season. Best known for her work as a sideline reporter, she’ll host the network’s new 30-minute college football pregame show, which is set to kick off on Saturday, Sept. 1 (Hawaii at USC).
This is the first year MLB will allow players to Tweet during the game, as the league temporarily has relaxed its social-media policy. Once a player is deactivated, he is free to interact with fans via his Twitter account.
“Baseball went through a period where it resisted change,” said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. “[Twitter] is another way to maintain contact with our fans, which I think is the reason this sport is growing as it is. I like what we’re doing here.”
Fans next Tuesday may want to keep an eye on the Twitter account of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. The AL’s Player of the Month for June is looking forward to making his third trip to the All-Star Game, but he’s grumbled about teammate Edwin Encarnación being left off the roster.
“How does @Encadwin not make the team and then he’s not even on the 34th man vote?” Bautista Tweeted on Sunday night. “Something is not right about that…”