07/16/2003 5:21 PM ET
Some positives in All-Star ratings
The American League's exciting, come-from-behind 7-6 victory in the 74th All-Star Game on Tuesday night drew a 9.5 rating and 17 share on Fox, Nielsen Media Research said Wednesday. The numbers did not represent the desired increase but did match the figures from last season's game, ending two years of ratings declines.
Major League Baseball, in an effort to revive interest in the game and to avoid a repeat of last year's unresolved, 7-7 deadlock in Milwaukee, instituted several rule changes for this year's contest, including awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the game.
"Overnight, a tedious exhibition was forced to became a keener competition, and the result was refreshing," Jack Curry of The New York Times wrote. "It was the climax to a revamped script Major League Baseball would have paid millions to guarantee in advance."
As the drama of the game increased, so did viewership. There was a 12-percent increase for the last half-hour of the game over the first, 9.1 to 8.1. Over the last five years, All-Star Game ratings declined by an average of 23 percent from the first half-hour to the last half-hour.
"The format change, giving the winner of this year's All-Star Game home-field advantage in the World Series, accomplished exactly what the Commissioner [Bud Selig] intended, which was to create a more exciting and engaging game," Bob DuPuy, president and Chief Operating Officer of MLB, said in a statement.
According to the Associated Press, about 30.7 million viewers watched the game, up three percent from a year ago (29.7 million). The increase is attributed to more households being added on a yearly basis. It is the first time in five years that the game has seen a year-to-year increase in total audience. The Chicago market, where the game was played, posted a 19.7 rating.
"In today's environment of expanding viewer options, having the All-Star Game increase its total audience for the first time in five years is a tremendous achievement, especially when you see what's happened to most recent major sports events," Fox Sports president Ed Goren said.
Goren had predicted the changes would result in a 10-percent increase in ratings.
"Actually, it might have, if it had kept last year's start time," wrote Michael Hiestand of USA Today. "There's always debate about the best starting times for night games shown on national TV, with concerns about games running late on the East Coast pitted against worries that games will start too early for West Coast viewers.
"In this year's All-Star Game, the TV ratings for the game began at 8:30 ET -- as opposed to 9 ET last year -- after MLB and Fox changed the schedule. That was key to the ratings: Fox's first half-hour was off 26 percent from last year, and its second half-hour was off 7 percent."
Had the game started later, the overall rating likely would have topped last year's figure.
"It was everything it was cracked up to be,'' Commissioner Bud Selig said after the game. "The intensity was amazing. Did you see the way the crowd reacted? Just watching the American League guys jumping up and down was really something. It was a great night for us.''
The game was the highest-rated television program so far this summer, besting the four-net prime time summer average by 90 percent (5.0/9). It also was the highest-rated sports program since the NCAA basketball championship game in March (12.6/19).
The rating is the percentage of television households in the United States watching a broadcast, and each point represents 1,067,000 homes. The share is the percentage watching a program among those households with televisions on at the time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.