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6/15/2007 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Fox Sports Sells Out MLB All-Star Game

By Ben Grossman

Baseball ratings soar; basketball series disappoints

Fox Sports is about to sell out its Major League Baseball All-Star Game ad inventory at the quickest pace since it acquired the property in 1996.

According to Fox Sports chief Ed Goren, there are only a “handful” of spots left in the July 10 broadcast. The network has been commanding prices around $400,000 per 30 second spot, up from $375,000 last year. Last year's inventory sold out approximately two weeks before the game.

And while the television ratings of the NBA playoffs were an air ball this spring, both Fox Sports and ESPN have already been banking strong baseball numbers. Fox is averaging an all-time-high 3.7 million viewers for its Saturday baseball package, up from 3.3 million last year.

ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball telecasts averaged 3.1 million viewers for the first nine games, up 45% from the 2.14 million average for the 10 telecasts through this time last year. Including its midweek games, ESPN has seen a 40% increase over last year, to 1.94 million viewers on average.

“For the first year of a new deal to have this strong a start, not just us but the ESPN numbers as well, is just great,” says Goren. He says Fox has already hit its sales-revenue targets for the entire regular season in a year in which the network increased the games it carries from 18 to 26.

“We wondered if the marketplace would be there for the longer season, and thankfully their very loud answer has been yes,” Goren says.

Helping ratings this year is that major-market teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets are all in or near first place, and the New York Yankees are streaking into contention after a horrid start.

Big-market teams playing in an exciting and long series is exactly what Fox and Turner Sports are hoping for in the playoffs, and exactly what ESPN/ABC did not get from the NBA finals.

After the San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in a low-scoring series, the ratings were on track at press time to end up as the lowest series in NBA Finals history.

The small markets—San Antonio is 37th in the country, Cleveland 17th—didn't help either, but the numbers have sounded some alarm bells in the NBA world. “I was surprised [ratings] were that low,” says ESPN analyst Jon Barry.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment of the series was the play of Cavaliers star LeBron James, who jumped to NBA stardom straight from high school. After a stellar 48-point performance in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals had the sports world abuzz and NBA execs dreaming of an audience of millions tuning in to see the hoops prodigy, James failed to live up to the hype in the Finals, and the ratings plummeted.

“LeBron James still has a lot to learn, and everybody wanted to anoint him the next Michael Jordan,” says NBA Hall of Famer-turned-broadcaster Rick Barry. “But he has a long way to go.”

Dunn Named B&C, MCN Publisher

Reed Business veteran Larry Dunn, 49, has been named publisher of B&C and Multichannel News.

“As we solidify our leadership in print and accelerate our high-growth online and events businesses, Larry brings the energy, market knowledge and customer focus to drive our continued success,” says Jeff DeBalko, president of Reed Business Interactive.

DeBalko assumed responsibility last week for the Television Group of Reed Business Information in New York. Besides B&C and Multichannel News, the group includes TWICE, which covers the consumer-electronics industry.

Dunn joined Multichannel News in 1991 as account executive and was later promoted to director of special projects and associate publisher. In 2003, he was promoted to publishing director of both B&C and Multichannel News.

His career includes a stint in broadcasting at WLIR(FM) Garden City, N.Y., where he sold radio ad time, served as music director and program director, and did the morning-drive show for eight years. Dunn currently hosts a national radio show Saturday afternoons on Sirius Radio First Wave Channel 22.

“I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to advance these market-leading brands,'' says Dunn. “B&C and Multichannel News are the definitive 'must-reads' among broadcast- and cable-television publications and Websites today and will be as central in the future to satellite, telephone, Internet video and other emerging forms of screen media.”

Group Publisher Larry Oliver will leave the TV Group July 1. He joined Broadcasting magazine in 1991. With Reed, he was publisher of the TV Group from 2000 to 2003, overseeing B&C and Multichannel News. He became VP of the group at the end of 2005.

Live-Plus-Three Wins Upfront Fans

Good news for the upfront market: After years of debate, buyers and networks are coming to a consensus on a metric, live-plus-three commercial ratings.

With DVR penetration expected to reach 40% by 2011, some standard must be reached to measure the time-shifting audience.

Last week's deal between Group M and NBC Universal put some muscle behind the new metric in the form of an $800 million-$1 billion package negotiated on live-plus-three commercial ratings and encompassing all of NBCU's cable properties as well as digital, product integration and branded content.

Deals were tailored to clients' needs. But the overall metric was live-plus-three commercial ratings. Group M properties represented include Burger King, Sprint, Paramount Studios, Cingular, Volkswagon, Audi, Warner Bros and Nokia.

The Group M/NBC Universal deal, says Brad Adgate, research director at Horizon Media, “could be a template for the future.”

CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves confirmed last week that CBS is negotiating with buyers on live-plus-three commercial minutes.

But networks and advertisers will have to be more nimble this year as they face an expanding array of platforms and new marketing models. Further complicating matters, Nielsen measures a commercial pod, rather than how many viewers are watching a particular commercial. And the data streams are new; Nielsen made commercial-ratings data widely available only two weeks ago.

“There's not really a lot of data out there to use as a basis for negotiations,” says Adgate. “But there are a lot of reasons for marketers and networks to get along and try to close deals.”

—Marisa Guthrie

Correction

Jury Duty is distributed by Radar Entertainment. “No Sweeping Ratings Rise” (6/11, p. 10) incorrectly identified the distributor.

 

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