Fox Warms Up for Baseball All-Stars

Jul 8, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Buoyed by a season-long ratings spike, sold-out ad inventory and a surge of interest in Barry Bonds’ controversial pursuit of the home-run record, Fox Sports execs are aiming to hit it out of the park with the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game this week.
With 23 game cameras and 80 microphones (both the most ever for the game), a tribute to Giants great Willie Mays and a slew of pre-game activities, Fox is trying to make the most of its new seven-year deal to carry the sport. This year’s 78th annual Midsummer Classic matching the stars of the American and National Leagues will be broadcast live Tuesday from Bonds’ home stadium, AT&T Park in San Francisco, preceded by a half-hour pre-game show at 8 p.m. ET.
“Any time you sign a long-term deal, it’s great to have that first year get off to a successful start,” said Fox Sports President Ed Goren. “There is no question that baseball is hot. Last year the game earned a 9.3 household rating, up 15 percent over the previous year. A lot of sports would love for their championship to have that kind of number.”
Since agreeing last year to extend its relationship with MLB for an average of $250 million per season, Fox has sold all of its inventory for the All-Star Game, pulling a 10 percent increase in ad revenue with 30-second spots priced at around $400,000.
Interest in baseball has peaked this season: Fox is averaging an all-time best 3.7 million viewers for its Saturday MLB games, up from an average 3.3 million last year. The growth is fueled by the outstanding performances of many major-market teams as well as Mr. Bonds’ chase of the home-run record.
Mr. Goren is capitalizing on multiple Fox platforms to get the most out of the All-Star Game, including the network, Fox-owned stations, the Internet and cable.
While Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will once again anchor the network’s All-Star Game telecast, among the new sights and sounds will be the tribute to former Giants player Willie Mays, which will include a sit-down interview with the baseball legend conducted by Ken Griffey Jr.
In addition, a two-hour webcast of batting practice on Foxsports.com and MLB.com will precede the telecast. The webcast extends recent programming moves by Fox, whose regional sports channels have brought batting practice to audiences over the past couple of years.
In addition, Fox-owned stations will air their own half-hour show at 7:30 p.m. ET produced out of Fox’s Los Angeles affiliate, KTTV, and hosted by KTTV’s Rick Garcia. Meanwhile, Fox Sports Net will run its red-carpet arrival show, which will air under the cable network’s “Best Damn Sports Show Period” umbrella at 7 p.m. with Chris Rose, Rob Dibble and Charissa Thompson hosting.
“The fact that there is so much demand for additional coverage of the game goes to show the strength of the event and the sport,” Mr. Goren said.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s extensive MLB All-Star coverage will be framed by ESPN, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes and ESPN360.com’s live coverage of the 2007 State Farm Home Run Derby on Monday at 8 p.m. ET. This also marks ESPN’s 10th year of covering the Derby, which is usually ESPN’s top-rated summer program.
The channel’s “Sunday Night Baseball” telecasts have averaged a 2.4 average rating this season, up 26 percent from last year’s 1.9 score. Overall, ESPN’s MLB telecasts are averaging a 1.6 rating, up 14 percent from last season’s 1.4 rating.
The network has tapped Chris Berman to host the channel’s Home Run Derby coverage along with analysts Joe Morgan and Dusty Baker. Peter Gammons will contribute to the telecast and Erin Andrews will provide reports and interviews from the field.
Kenny Mayne will be kayaking in McCovey Cove outside AT&T Park during the telecast with the “Scuba Cam” — a hand-held camera positioned in the water — capturing the atmosphere from San Francisco Bay, an expected landing point for home runs during the derby that will be filled with kayakers looking for souvenirs. In addition, Karl Ravech will host a “Baseball Tonight” preview with analysts Mr. Baker and John Kruk at 7 p.m.
Immediately following the derby, ESPN will debut miniseries “The Bronx Is Burning,” starring John Turturro, Oliver Platt and Daniel Sunjata in the saga of the New York Yankees during the summer of 1977.
The miniseries will be followed by the “2007 Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game,” in which Mr. Mayne will serve as a manager/player for one of the teams and will wear a mike. Gary Thorne will call the game with analyst Rick Sutcliffe. Among the talent lined up to play are actor Kevin Dillon (“Entourage”), ABC late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, actress Alyssa Milano and 49ers legend Jerry Rice, along with several former Giants (Kevin Mitchell, Rob Nenn, J.T. Snow, Robby Thompson and Matt Williams).

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