'Field of Dreams' MLB baseball game draws 5.9 million viewers for Fox


Members of the Chicago White Sox celebrate at home plate after Tim Anderson #7 of the Chicago White Sox hit a game winning, walk-off home run in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees on August 12, 2021 at Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.

Ron Vesely | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Major League Baseball’s Field of Dreams game was a dream come true for Fox Sports.

The network announced MLB’s movie-themed contest between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox attracted an average of 5.9 million viewers across TV and streaming, and was most-viewed MLB regular-season game on the network since 2005. In that season, the Yankees-Boston Red Sox contest on Oct. 1 also drew roughly 5.9 million viewers.

The game was played in Dyersville, Iowa, in a ballpark built next to a cornfield, echoing the scene from the 1989 Universal Pictures film starring Kevin Costner. Costner entered from the cornfield in a cinematic fashion, followed by Yankees and White Sox players, who wore throwback uniforms.

The White Sox beat the Yankees, 9-8, in a Hollywood-like ending. Thursday’s game concluded with a home run in the ninth inning by White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. That two-run score came after Yankees hitters Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton recorded their two-run homers in the top of the ninth after trailing 7-4. Stanton’s hit gave the Yankees an 8-7 lead until Anderson saved the White Sox’s dream from turning into a nightmare.

Fox Sports said the game peaked at roughly 6 million viewers between 8:45 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, and top markets that watched 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 the network would accumulate a record-high in sales from any other MLB regular-season game aired on the network, according to Sports Business Journal. The executive didn’t disclose a figure, though.

Kevin Krim, the founder and CEO of advertising metrics data firm EDO, said brands drew NFL-like impressions around searches. EDO uses analytics that track brand and product searches and sales when ads air, helping companies and networks determine an ads’ value during sporting events.

The company has clients including Fox Sports, ESPN, and CNBC parent company, NBCUniversal.

Krim said one of the top ads included Hyundai’s 30-second spot, which drew 35,000 incremental searches in the minutes following its Field of Dreams game airing. “That would be a really good number for an NFL game on prime time,” Krim told CNBC, adding Thursday night NFL games draw an average 43,000 searches around automobile ads.

Krim said a segment of marketers who want to be “innovative” are drawn to customized sporting events like MLB’s Field of Dreams game and the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic. “And it certainly helps the networks have a new thing to sell,” he added. “It takes a slow time of year, and it gives you something to sell.”

It also helped that two competitive teams were playing. The Yankees are still in playoff contention, only seven games removed from first place, and the White Sox have a comfortable 11.5-game lead atop the AL Central. Also, MLB has little competition from other sports now — it only had to compete with NBA’s Summer League games and NFL preseason contests.

The Field of Dreams game was originally going to feature a White Sox-Cardinals contest during 2020 season, but got postponed due to the pandemic.

Players from the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees walk though the corn rows while being introduced prior to the game on August 12, 2021 at Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.

Ron Vesely | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

“It the type of presentation that MLB should do all the time,” said former Oakland Athletics executive vice president Andy Dolich. “It shows the storytelling capabilities of baseball. Anytime you can present an event and get people’s focus from all levels, which that did, you should look to annualize it but not overdo it.”

Official attendance was 7,832, with some premium tickets selling for $10,000. With the hype and engagement around this year’s contest, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said another Field of Dreams game is scheduled for the 2022 season — should MLB avoid a work stoppage.

“I think the reception that this event has received has been so positive that we will be back,” Manfred said via MLB.com. “I think it’s pretty clear we’re going to 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.”



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