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The Pro Bowl isn’t the only struggling all-star game

ProBowl

As TV ratings have declined, the Pro Bowl has been the subject of a great deal of hand-wringing around the NFL, with some suggesting that the game should be canceled. But the Pro Bowl isn’t the only all-star game that’s struggling.

Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game garnered an all-time low 8.7 million viewers, continuing a downward trend in that game’s popularity. In the 1970s the MLB All-Star game routinely topped 30 million viewers, and until 1996 it had never dropped below 20 million. Now the MLB All-Star Game has had fewer than 12 million viewers for six consecutive years.

This year’s NBA All-Star Game (7.6 million viewers) and NHL All-Star Game (1.6 million viewers) both came in below the Pro Bowl’s ratings.

Fans just aren’t as interested in all-star games as they used to be. There was a time not too long ago when most fans could only watch their own home team and maybe one nationally televised game a week, so an all-star game or Pro Bowl was a rare opportunity to see all of the sport’s biggest stars. Now cable and satellite TV packages allow fans to watch any team, any time they want. The Pro Bowl and the all-star games just aren’t as special anymore.

The Pro Bowl has some unique problems, particularly the large numbers of players who decline to play. Players in the other three sports occasionally ask out of the all-star game, but it’s much more common in the Pro Bowl.

Overall, however, the problems in the Pro Bowl look less specific to the NFL than common to all-star games as a whole. Fans who can see all the stars on the same TV screen just don’t care that much about seeing all the stars on the same field.