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Has the MLB All Star Game Become Unwatchable?

mlb all star game 2023

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The MLB All Star Week is baseball's traditional showcase of the best talent in the sport. The 3 day event is kick started by the MLB Draft, sandwiched with the Home Run Derby and headlined with the All Star Game. This is the time for the league and it's players to shine. However, the viewership has steadily decreased over the years to record lows. Why has interest in the game and festivities dwindled? Let's discuss.

Ratings Hit Record Lows

This year's edition of the MLB All Star Game was a low scoring affair. We saw the National League end a 9 game losing streak to the American League with a 3-2 win in Seattle. It was an eighth inning 2 run home run by Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Díaz that gave the NL a 3-2 come from behind win.

Despite the star power and comeback win, the ratings didn't do so well. The game averaged a 3.9 rating with 7.01 million viewers. This is a record low for the All Star Game and was down 7% from last year's previous record low of 4.21 with 7.51 million. The news gets worse for the MLB, as the All-Star Game has now set a record-low in ratings with 5 of the last 7 years (2016, 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023).

Moving MLB Draft to Primetime

LSU pitcher Paul Skenes

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The All Star Week festivities started with the highly anticipated MLB Draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates took LSU stud pitcher Paul Skenes with the number 1 pick. The draft saw ESPN and MLB Network combined to score 744,000 viewers for Sunday night from the hours of 7:00-10:30pm ET. However, overall this is below the 780,000 viewers last year, and 28% lower than the 1.03 million the two networks drew in 2021.

But the move to Sunday night during the All Star Weekend is proving to be a benefit. On Sunday night, the first hour of the draft averaged 991,000 viewers, which was up 15% compared to the same first hour window in 2022. The audience peaked during the first hour between 7:30-7:45pm to 1.09 million viewers. I think moving the draft to Sunday during a big weekend was the right move. Even though casual fans might not know the kids getting drafted, it's still fun to watch. To see the excitement on the kids getting drafted spaces and watching people break them down gives a little bit more gravitas to the draft.

MLB Home Run Derby Interest

Vladimir Guerrero Jr home run derby

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The MLB Home Run Derby saw Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. score the Home Run Derby win. Vlad was able to get the win just like his dad did previously. The 2023 Derby scored an average of 6.11 million viewers on Monday night. However, this rating is down from last year's 6.88 million viewers. Interestingly enough, the home run derby almost doubled the rating of the regular All-Star game. This is a sign that this type of entertainment is more watchable than the actual game itself. This is something that MLB Commis

Rob Manfred and MLB can lean on moving forward. The silver lining is that the Home Run Derby still led the primetime slate on Monday night.

Marketability of Baseball

Shohei Otoniti

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One of the big problems with Major League baseball in general is the marketability of their players. It's just not as easy to sell baseball players as it is to sell basketball players or football players. There's no shoe endorsements like basketball players have baseball. Players typically sell stuff outside of baseball. They don't sell bats, cleats, gloves, etc. The biggest star in baseball, Shohei Otoniti, is the two-way superstar. However, he didn't pitch in the game and that's what a lot of people would have liked to see. Also, the reigning AL MVP, Aaron Judge, didn't play because of an injury. Other players are big time, but aren't household names.

There could be an international factor at play in the States. Most of the stars in MLB are not born in the US, so the stars are not completely relatable. You can relate to your team's star but there are few stars that transcend their teams like Aaron Judge or Shohei Otoniti. You have many Hispanic players that have followings across their teams and groups. But they don't match the star power of the individualized NBA players. The MLB sells the teams then the players. The NBA sells and markets the players then the teams.

The Interleague Play Factor

Another reason for possible poor ratings in baseball is the introduction of interleague play. While interleague play is fun, it's kind of become commonplace now. It's easy to see the Dodgers versus the Yankees every season. You used to be able to see that single matchup in the all-star game. Now you can see an interview game every day because of the way the schedule works. The All-Star game has lost that sense of rivalry between leagues because the leagues play each other fairly often. While I don't think this is a big factor in the ratings dip, I think it does contribute.

So What's Next for MLB?

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I think MLB is a unique All-Star game in the fact that it is inherently more competitive than the other sports. Basketball and football have addressed the fact that the games have become completely unwatchable. The NFL came up with a flag, football concept and skills competition that I feel actually landed pretty well with audiences. The NBA has come up with the plan to make the fourth quarter more competitive with adding financial incentives. I don't think baseball has the problem of competitiveness in the MLB All-Star game because the game is naturally competitive. You can't fake baseball, the pictures are throwing hard and the hitters are out there to get their hits.

One option is to have incentives added to the game like they did years ago. The game used to decide home field advantage for the World Series. I don't feel that is the way to go, but I think maybe some type of financial gain would be beneficial. But it's not the players' lack of effort, it's the fans that need to get hooked. So I think leaning into more skills competitions might be the way to go. The Home Run Derby doubles the All-Star games ratings. This might be an avenue for the weed to explore, maybe some fielding competition, pitching competition, more hitting competitions, etc. Either way, baseball has to do something to get interest back in the game before it's too late.

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