Major League Baseball’s Field of Dreams game was a dream come true for Fox Sports.
The network announced that the movie-themed MLB game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox attracted an average of 5.9 million viewers on TV and streaming, and has been the most-watched regular-season MLB game on the network since 2005. The Yankees-Boston Red Sox game on October 1 also attracted approximately 5.9 million viewers.
The game was set in Dyersville, Iowa, in a stadium built next to a cornfield, following the scene from the 1989 Universal Pictures film starring Kevin Costner. Costner came in cinematically from the cornfield, followed by Yankees and White Sox players, wearing throwback uniforms.
The White Sox defeated the Yankees 9-8 in a Hollywood-esque ending. Thursday’s game ended with a homerun in the ninth inning by White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. That two-run score came after Yankees-hitters Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton registered their two-run homeruns in the top of the ninth inning after trailing 7-4. Stanton’s goal gave the Yankees an 8-7 lead until Anderson saved the White Sox’s dream from a nightmare.
Fox Sports said the game peaked at about 6 million viewers between 8:45 PM and 9:00 PM Eastern Time, and top markets watching the game outside of Chicago and New York included St. Louis, Kansas City and Hartford, Conn.
On the advertising side, a Fox Sports executive estimated that the network would achieve record sales from every other regular-season MLB game aired on the network, according to Sports Business Journal. However, the director did not disclose any figures.
Kevin Krim, the founder and CEO of EDO, the ad statistics data company, said brands drew NFL-esque impressions around searches. EDO uses analytics that track searches and sales of brands and products when ads are aired, enabling businesses and networks to determine the value of ads during sporting events.
The company has customers including Fox Sports, ESPN, and CNBC’s parent company, NBCUniversal.
Krim said one of the top ads was Hyundai’s 30-second spot, which drew 35,000 incremental searches in the minutes after the Field of Dreams game aired. “That would be a really good number for a prime-time NFL game,” Krim told CNBC, adding that Thursday night NFL games generate an average of 43,000 searches around auto ads.
Krim said a segment of marketers looking to be “innovative” are drawn to tailor-made sporting events such as MLB’s Field of Dreams game and the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic. “And it certainly helps the networks sell something new,” he added. “It takes a slow time of year, and it gives you something to sell.”
It also helped that there were two competitive teams playing. The Yankees are still in the playoff battle, just seven games away from first place, and the White Sox have a comfortable 11.5 game lead atop the AL Central. In addition, MLB now has little competition from other sports — it just had to compete with NBA’s Summer League games and NFL preseason games.
The Field of Dreams game was originally supposed to feature a White Sox-Cardinals game during the 2020 season, but was postponed due to the pandemic.
“It’s the kind of presentation MLB should always be doing,” said former Oakland Athletics executive vice president Andy Dolich. “It shows the storytelling potential of baseball. Anytime you can present an event and get the attention of people of all skill levels, whatever that did, you should try to calculate it on an annual basis, but not overdo it.”
Official attendance was 7,832 with some premium tickets selling for $10,000. With the hype and involvement surrounding this year’s game, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said there is one more Field of Dreams game scheduled for the 2022 season — should MLB avoid a work stoppage.
“I think the reception this event has received has been so positive that we’ll be back,” Manfred said via MLB.com. “I think it’s pretty clear that we’ll be back next year, and we’ll have to talk about it after that. But it’s just been so successful that it’s hard not to take the opportunity to do it again.”