All-Star Game in New York Helps Fox Get Off to Strong MLB Sales Start
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/22/2013 2:17:55 PM
It's still early, but ad sales for MLB games right now are pacing 25% in dollars ahead of last year at this point, buoyed by the 2013 All-Star Game being held at Citi Field, home of the top market's New York Mets.
Despite its ratings shortfalls last season, Fox is getting high single-digit to low double-digit increases for MLB ad packages, according to Mike Falco, VP of ad sales for Fox Sports.
"We are seeing a lot of demand that we don't normally see this early in the year for Major League Baseball," Falco says.
He adds that MLB official corporate sponsors such as General Motors, Anheuser-Busch, Bayer, MasterCard and Taco Bell, to name a few, have stepped up big for both regular-season ad buys and the All-Star Game.
Falco says All-Star Game sales are running about 10 units ahead of last year at this point, with the movie category being a major driver. Other strong categories so far include retail, which Falco says is stronger than in previous years, along with the quick-service restaurants and wireless categories.
One major new advertiser this season will be T-Mobile, a recently named MLB corporate sponsor. Falco says there are new advertisers in the retail category for both the regular season and the All-Star Game but he did not want to divulge who they are.
He adds that MLB corporate sponsors normally account for about 30% of all the ad revenue taken in for the telecasts and this season that could be as high as 40%.
Fox will offer a 24-week schedule of MLB games that includes eight consecutive primetime Saturday games at 7 p.m. E.T. running each week from May 25-July 13, with the All-Star Game airing on Tuesday night, July 16.
Every U.S.-based MLB team will make at least one appearance on Fox this season in either its Saturday afternoon or Saturday night telecasts. The Fox schedule debuts on Saturday, April 6, with a three-game regional schedule of games beginning at 3:30 p.m. E.T. that includes the New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers, the latter game featuring Josh Hamilton returning to Texas, the team he left during the offseason.
The Saturday primetime schedule each week will include five regional telecasts. The final two Saturdays of the regular season, as usual, will be "wild card" dates for which Fox Sports and MLB will select the best games that have postseason implications.
In postseason this year, Fox will televise the American League Championship Series as well as the World Series.
Falco says the primetime telecasts, because they draw higher ratings, are what has been bringing advertisers "to the table" along with the eight consecutive primetime weekends which allow marketers to build campaigns leading into the All-Star Game.
Last season, Fox averaged 3.2 million viewers for its primetime Saturday games, compared to 2.2 million viewers for its afternoon games, a 45% difference. But Fox will be selling packages that include regular season day and night games, as well as All-Star inventory.
Falco adds that it is still early to be selling postseason and World Series inventory, although he is sure "the corporate sponsors will be there."
The last All-Star Game televised from New York was at Yankee Stadium during 2008, the last season the Yankees played at their old stadium. That telecast averaged 14.5 million viewers. The past three All-Star Games have averaged 12.1 million viewers, 11 million and 10.9 million viewers, respectively.
As far as Fox's plans for continuing its experimentation of split-screen for commercials, any testing during MLB games has not yet been finalized. Fox is still sharing viewership data from its previous tests with college football, the UFC and NASCAR and it hasn't been determined when testing on MLB games will be rolled out.
One media buyer who saw Fox's presentation on split-screen commercials, says, "We're not opposed to it, but I don't know that anyone is fighting to get into it either."
Fox Sports Media Group will hold an upfront presentation for advertisers in New York on March 5, at which time it is expected to formally announce plans for its new national sports cable network Fox Sports 1. That network will also carry MLB games when it goes live, so how Fox sells the remainder of its baseball ad inventory could be impacted by details announced at the forum.
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