Turner Broadcasting is cashing in on post-season baseball.
While the average audience for the first round of the playoffs is down from last year, with three series going all the way to Game Five, including Thursday’s game eliminating the N.Y. Yankees that drew a cable record 7.2 million viewers, a source says advertising revenue is at an all-time high.
Networks like Turner don’t pre-sell Game Five playoff games, but usually have advertisers lined up just in case. The last few years, many first round series ended in sweeps, costing Turner money. As the “if needed” games get played, the cash register rings, especially now with the sports marketplace hot.
This year, Turner also has the option of shifting some of its fourth-quarter National Basketball Association advertisers into baseball. Fourth-quarter NBA games will probably get wiped out by the league’s ongoing labor dispute with the players union and baseball is better than no-ball for some basketball sponsors.
The revenue gains come as viewership for Turner’s exclusive coverage for the first round of the playoffs is down 10% so far, helped by Game Five of the Yankee series against the Detroit Tigers that ended with Alex Rodriguez striking out, eliminating the team from the No. 1 market. TBS’ ratings should continue to improve with two more Game Fives scheduled to be played Friday, with the Philadelphia Phillies taking on the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers squaring off against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Turner execs expect the series two series-deciding games to push the ratings higher, even though they’re being played on a night when television usage is low. MLB changed the playoff schedule. Last year the series started on Wednesdays and Thursday; this year it was Friday and Saturday. Rain also cost Turner a Yankee game in prime time.
But money talks and right now, it’s telling a good story for Turner.