With the first pitch of the 2015 World Series just hours away, Fox is pretty much sold out for the first four games, although inventory is still being sold on a contingency basis for avails that could result from pitching changes and possible extra innings.
Neil Mulcahy, executive VP, sales, Fox Sports Media Group, says ad sales for the New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals series are stronger at this point than they were for last year’s series when the Royals played the San Francisco Giants. And he adds that it is not just due to the success story of the upstart Mets.
While the New York market is sure to bring in more viewers than San Francisco did last year, and while the Cinderella story of the Mets rise to pennant-winning prominence may have become one that has captured national interest, Mulcahy says a majority of advertisers were buying in regardless of the matchup. Whoever wins, it will be that team’s first title in more than a generation. The Mets last won in 1986; the Royals in 1985.
“Our World Series ad dollars have been coming in steadily and I don’t feel the Mets or Royals have had that great an impact on bringing marketers in,” Mulcahy says. “The Mets will most likely help us achieve stronger ratings and enable us to charge more for scatter ads in the Series going forward, but advertiser interest in the Series was strong before the Mets advanced.”
Mulcahy says much of that is due to MLB and its official partners who are supporting the World Series telecast on Fox, either with traditional 30-second units throughout the Series or by sponsoring special features.
“Major League Baseball has been fabulous in getting its official sponsors to participate in various aspects of our World Series coverage,” Mulcahy says.
Chevrolet is back as pre-game and post-game sponsor, while Budweiser is sponsoring the on-screen game summary, MasterCard will sponsor its Stand Up To Cancer moment during Game Three, and T-Mobile will sponsor its Fan Photo Social Feature during each game.
Other sponsored elements during the Series include Taco Bell reprising its Steal a Base, Steal a Breakfast feature, where everyone in America can get a free AM Crunch Wrap when a player steals a base during the Series. Amazon will sponsor the on-screen Statcast, while DirecTV returns as sponsor of the Games’ aerial coverage.
T-Mobile is also the presenting sponsor of Fox Sports live stream of the World Series games on Fox Sports Go. The sponsorship includes what Fox is calling “engagement advertising” powered by true[X] technology where viewers have a choice to interact with a T-Mobile ad for 15 seconds or watch a traditional 30-second pre-roll ad.
Other advertisers will have ads dynamically inserted for each streamed game.
Mulcahy says ad unit pricing is up about 5% but would not say how much 30-second spots were selling for. Media buyers say units have been selling for between $400,000 and $450,000 depending on when they were bought, but buyers also said Fox was holding steady on pricing and not having to discount to sell their avails.
Strongest ad categories in the Series telecasts will be financial, automotive and tech, Mulcahy says.
One category missing will be the big spending daily fantasy players DraftKings and FanDuel. While Mulcahy would not comment, sources familiar with the situation say with baseball season coming to an end, they are concentrating their major ad expenditures on NFL telecasts, as well as on the upcoming NBA season. Clearly the missing fantasy sports advertisers left a big chunk of ad avails for Fox to sell and to the network’s credit, it has sold them.
One sports media buyer from a major agency says there is continued interest in the World Series because, in addition to being telecast live, it is also the highest rated programming on television during the week that it airs.
“World Series viewership may have declined over the years, but it still produces a big audience number and it is still televised live, in primetime,” the buyer says. “It is still an attractive ad vehicle for marketers.”
This buyer believes that the Mets-Royals opening game on Fox will draw the most viewers since the 2009 opening series game when the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies drew 19.5 million.
Last season’s World Series Game One on Fox drew 12.2 million. The overall series, which went a full seven games, averaged 13.8 million viewers. Game Seven last year drew 23.5 million. The last time the Mets were in the World Series, in 2000 vs. the Yankees, their telecasts averaged 18 million in losing in five games.