MLB’s All-Star Game doesn’t mean as much today as it did when I was a kid, but I still cheer hard for the American League every year.
Ad sales for next month’s Field of Dreams game are not sold out yet, but the telecast already brought in more revenue than any MLB game in Fox history. The network’s previous high-water mark: last year’s debut effort from Iowa.
Fox has been getting $250,000 per 30-second spot from some new advertisers, which also marks a regular-season high and is up double digits over last year’s game. Fox’s revenue haul is already $2 million more than last year, with several more spots still to be sold.
There will be 20 new advertisers during the game telecast, with the tech and travel sectors performing particularly well. T-Mobile bought a new sponsorship of drone coverage during the game.
Fox’s ad sales performance for Field of Dreams mirrors what happened for Wednesday’s MLB All-Star game, which saw Fox collect 30% more in ad sales revenue than it’s ever made from baseball’s All-Star Game. The ASG has around 70 guaranteed fixed units — assuming the home team wins and there are no pitching changes. The ASG rarely has added ad sales inventory since the pitching changes are planned and occur between innings.
Another example of the red-hot ad sales market for sports — despite menacing economic headwinds: Disney wrapped up the 2022-23 upfronts with double-digit increases in sports volume and pricing. All told, Disney says it brought in $9 billion in revenue.
The stat that particularly stood out to me: 40% of the upfront revenue went to streaming and digital via Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu. Ad sales head Rita Ferro says it was the strongest upfront in Disney’s history.
Early numbers suggest that baseball viewership is down sharply through the first half of the season, with declines on Fox and FS1 approaching 15%, according to SBJ’s Austin Karp. Fox’s final first half numbers should improve somewhat considering Saturday night’s Red Sox-Yankees, but the company still is flirting with its lowest season averages on record.
Even with the addition of the KayRod telecasts, “Sunday Night Baseball” numbers on ESPN and ESPN2 are down 1% compared to 2021 at the same point. Numbers are up 1% from 2019, but the 2019 numbers did not include an out-of-home audience, while this season’s does.
The most intriguing ratings are at TBS, which moved its non-exclusive games to Tuesday nights from Sunday afternoons. The 15 games to date have averaged 252,000 viewers. The bad news is that those numbers are down from last year’s Sunday afternoon schedule. The good news is that many of those early games ran up against NHL or NBA playoff games. Since May 31, TBS has averaged 315,000. Last season, TBS’ Sunday window averaged 290,000.
On a more positive note, SBJ’s Eric Bacharach reports MLB.tv is reaching new heights in its 20th season with minutes watched and total games up 9% and 10%, respectively, over last season’s all-time high marks at this point in the season.
Last year, ESPN/ESPN2’s audience for the Home Run Derby drew only around 1.1 million fewer viewers than Fox’s audience for the All-Star Game, Karp tells me. I would not be surprised if the Derby eclipses the All-Star Game at some point. After all, my focus group — my 23-year-old son — loves the Home Run Derby, but can’t sit through an entire All-Star Game telecast.
I set up a Twitter poll today with this question: When will the Derby bring in a bigger audience than the All-Star Game? This year; within five years; never. Let us know what you think.
|MLB Home Run Derby and All-Star Game audience trend|
|YEAR||NET(S)||DERBY (000)||NET||ALL-STAR (000)|
NOTE: There were no All-Star weekend events in 2020 due to pandemic.
When I caught up with Fox’s new lead baseball announcer Joe Davis on Sunday, he was studying up the AL pitchers (he was on Yankee closer Clay Holmes when we spoke). Just days before Davis’ first truly big assignment for Fox — calling Tuesday’s MLB All Star game — he acknowledged that he feels as though he’s drinking through a firehose trying to learn as much as he can about every player.
“I’m trying to remind myself that I’m covering the sport on an everyday basis,” said Davis, who calls Dodgers games for Spectrum SportsNet L.A. “Reading about this sport and watching this sport is my life. It helps solve every bit of those nerves. But the nerves are going to be natural when you consider that this is that first crown jewel event that I’ll do in this new role.”
Also calming his nerves: He will be calling the game from his home booth at Dodger Stadium. “Just the simple fact that I can sit in my own chair and be in my comfortable surroundings — that’s no small deal. I’m feeling that more and more as the game gets closer.”
Last Tuesday, when the Dodgers were in St. Louis, Davis met up with Joe Buck, who occupied Fox’s MLB announcing chair up until last year. Buck gave Davis the scorebook that he had used from the last 10 All-Star games. Davis said he plans to use it tomorrow night. “It’s a giant scorebook that basically got blown up to be able to accommodate an All Star Game that has so many guys to play,” Davis said.
Of note: I asked Davis a technical question about how he would score a groundout to the shortstop who is in the shift. Without missing a beat, Davis said he’d write 6@4-3 in the scorebook.
Worth a click: Tyler Kepner wrote a good profile for the N.Y. Times on Davis that you should check out.
Bob Chapek and Jimmy Pitaro hosted an intimate gathering of about 100 people at Neuehouse Hollywood as part of a “Champions Live Here” event that included a screening of four clips of the Derek Jeter docuseries that premieres tonight.
Jeter attended with his wife Hannah and participated in a Q&A with director Randy Wilkins and producer Mike Tollin to discuss how the project came together.
Spotted at the event: WWE’s Nick Khan and Jamie Horowitz, Words + Pictures’ Connor Schell and Dodgers radio play-by-play announcer Charley Steiner. Also in attendance: Disney/ESPN staff such as Justin Connolly, Russell Wolff, Rob King, Laura Gentile, Seth Ader, Jay Jay Nesheim, Omar Raja and Mina Kimes.
For part of the night, I cornered Jeff Passan, who assured me that the Orioles are going to be really good in a couple of years.
The previous night, Fox Sports’ Andrew Fegyveresi hosted a get-together in a packed Dodger Stadium suite during the Futures/Celebrity games. Spotted at the gathering: MLB’s Matt Bourne, the AP’s Joe Reedy, Bloomberg’s Chris Palmeri, plus Chris Smith and Erik Bacharach from our shop, who were among a host of outlets who posted.
Tonight: Fanatics hosts a party with the MLBPA where J Balvin will perform, as will “a surprise multiplatinum, Grammy-nominated A-list performer,” according to the official invite.
- MLB Network will air a four-minute feature on Jackie Robinson’s widow Rachel Robinson, who turns 100 tomorrow. Tom Verducci wrote the piece, and Octavia Spencer voiced it. A version of the feature will run in-stadium during Tuesday’s game.
- I was part of a sad group text on Sunday with people remembering their friend Dan Fawcett, who died suddenly on Friday. Fawcett is well known in the business as someone who worked as top exec at Fox Sports, DirecTV and Hulu. In the text messages, Fawcett was remembered as a whip smart exec who had a great sense of humor.
- The W Series, which is a women-only open-wheel series aligned with F1, wants to get ESPN more involved (it airs W Series races) and is creating a docuseries to see if the property can enjoy any of the increased buzz that F1 got from the Netflix series “Drive To Survive,” notes my colleague Adam Stern.
- The NBA is exploring new ways to present the NBA Replay Center review process within the broadcast, and used the Vegas Summer League as a lab for experimentation, notes Sports Video Group. “We’re working with the referee-operations group and the network partners,” said NBA Director of Broadcast Planning & Strategy Barney Carlton. “We are trying out several different cameras, lenses, and microphones.”