The annual MLB All-Star Game is nearly here. There are jokes made every year about the value and watchability of the All-Star Game, but it, along with the Home Run Derby the night before, are almost always two of the most-watched programs of the summer. Mock the All-Star Game at your own risk, but the TV networks use it as a way to show off some of their biggest stars and promote important upcoming things.
Here's a network-by-network look at what three networks are doing around the All-Star Game.
The 2012 MLB All-Star Game was the least-watched in history, and it still drew 10.9 million viewers. That's more than any other MLB telecast will draw this season, and it's more than almost any summer program will draw. It gives the network an excellent promotional opportunity, and this year, they're going to use it (wisely) on that big, fancy sports network they've got upcoming.
Fox's broadcast will feature a 90-second "position statement" for Fox Sports 1, which debuts August 17. Directed by Joseph Kahn -- who basically made every great pop music video in the last 10-15 years -- the commercial was shot on location throughout Los Angeles, Charlotte, Detroit and Foxboro.
Robert Gottlieb, Fox Sports' marketing chief, says the ad is "about introducing FOX Sports 1 to America, and letting fans know what they can expect come August 17." The spot includes star athletes such as Joe Flacco, Mike Tyson, Jeff Gordon, Alex Morgan, Georges St-Pierre, Patrick Willis, Lane Kiffin, John Thompson III, Steve Lavin and Miguel Cabrera.
As for the actual game, Fox will send its now-typical big game crew of Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Ken Rosenthal and Erin Andrews to Citi Field. This is scheduled to be McCarver's final All-Star Game as an analyst. It will be his 22nd, more than any other commentator in baseball history.
The Worldwide Leader actually airs most of the content around the All-Star Game. The network will air the Home Run Derby for the 21st consecutive season, and live for the 16th consecutive season. That's right, the Home Run Derby used to be tape-delayed! It is typically one of the highest-rated events of the year on the network, with last year's event drawing 6.9 million viewers. As you'll notice, they're creeping closer and closer to the actual game in terms of viewership.
Chris Berman will host and likely be the subject of Twitter's ire during the contest. He's joined by John Kruk and Nomar Garciaparra as analysts, as well as Buster Olney and Pedro Gomez as sideline reporters. Baseball Tonight will air live an hour before the contest.
The network also airs the Legends & Celebrity Softball game on tape delay following the derby. That will be called by SportsCenter anchor John Anderson and analyst Aaron Boone. Chris Rock, Kevin James, George Lopez, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rickey Henderson and Mike Piazza will be among the competitors.
Finally, ESPN2 airs the Futures Game on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Adnan Virk will call the game with Boone, Rick Sutcliffe, Gomez and Keith Law.
The league-owned network remains stuck to ancillary programming, but they drape the All-Star Game with a ton of coverage. The network will be live from media day and batting practice on Monday. They'll feature live episodes of MLB Now (you know, the Brian Kenny/Harold Reynolds showdown) from Citi Field on Monday and Tuesday. Reynolds and Sean Casey will hang out with the stars of the game on the field during batting practice on the network's flagship MLB Tonight.
The network will shadow the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby with pre- and post-"game" coverage. The network will also air a "red carpet" show as the players make their way down 42nd Street in New York (which is nowhere near Citi Field, but I digress). Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds and Alanna Rizzo share hosting duties.
The network's lone game action is the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday night from Reno, Nev. Paul Severino, Darryl Hamilton, Jim Callis and Sam Ryan have the call.