Batting first at the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game: "The X Factor."
Simon Cowell's understated art project is getting a "world premiere preview" on July 12 in advance of the night's game, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. While there's been no formal announcement of the "preview" and representatives for Fox aren't commenting on it, the network has been promoting it in primetime with on-air "snipes"–those pesky marketing messages that scamper across the lower-third of the screen during that episode you'd rather concentrate on–and there's a video promo on the show's page on Fox.com.
No indication has been given as to what shape this preview will take, though the promo seems to indicate that it will unfold before the game begins. That doesn't preclude insertions elsewhere during the telecast, like, say judge Nicole Scherzinger adding some coloratura to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch.
The timing of the preview makes sense; "Factor" just wrapped up auditions in Seattle on Thursday, so there's plenty of footage to show off. And yet you have to wonder whether Fox will try staging something more ambitious than just a pretaped segment, like appearances from Cowell & Co. on the field in Phoenix.
The All-Star Game is about as good as any a promotional platform Fox will have on its air over the summer, when the pickings are slim for event programming capable of reaching mass audiences. That said, the big game is coming off its lowest audience ever last year, when the 12.1 million total viewers who tuned in represented a 17% decline vs. the 2009 edition.
Maybe a "Factor" sneak peek will juice the All-Star Game, not the other way around. Regardless, whatever stunt Fox has planned, it could be a significant piece of a marketing campaign that will be the network's biggest priority heading into the fall.