Thursday, July 12, 2012

Too much of a good thing

I'm not sure how many of you watched the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night. But based the ratings, I can assume very few.

The game which as usual featured baseball's biggest names and best stories drew its lowest audience ever, just 10.6 million viewers. I was one of those for about three innings.

Unfortunately for MLB and Fox, Justin Verlander's uncharacteristically awful first inning ensured the game would be a ratings bust. But the lack of viewership can't all be blamed on Verlander's 95 mile per hour meatballs.

Ratings for the All-Star Game have been falling since their peak in 1976, driven by the near ubiquity of televised regular season games, free-agency and interleague play.

The All-Star game failed to draw this year not because the product on the field was uncompetitive, but because there's no more mystery in it.

Years ago, as a kid in an American League market, I watched the midsummer classic to catch a glimpse National League stars like Clemente, Bench, Carlton and Aaron who I only otherwise got to see play if they were lucky enough to be on the Game of the Week or make the World Series.

Now as a baseball fan I can see just about any player on any given night thanks to local affiliate broadcasts, ESPN, and MLB Network – arguably a good thing. But the benefits derived from those changes in media presence and the game's rules have permanently devalued one of the sport's crown jewels.

Exposure is a tricky thing: not enough and people don't know who you are; too much and you cease to be special.

No matter whether your product is baseball or breakfast cereal, getting the balance right between niche and mass is the secret to maintaining interest, loyalty, margin and profits.

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