Fox Sports executives have been busy negotiating TV and
digital rights extensions for Major League Baseball and NASCAR, with new
agreements recently announced that will keep baseball on Fox through 2021, and stock
car racing on through 2022. Fox also reupped its NFL TV rights deal last year
and earlier this year won TV rights to the men's and women's FIFA World Cup
soccer tournaments beginning in 2015. And this fall, the network also began
televising college football every Saturday night for the first time.
It's safe to say Fox has a lot of sports ad inventory, and the man overseeing those ad sales is Neil Mulcahy, executive VP,
sales, Fox Sports Media Group. Mulcahy took time out to talk about the current
season and postseason for Fox telecasts of MLB, NFL and college football, and
to look ahead to next season's Daytona 500 and NASCAR races, and the World Cup.
Where do ad sales
stand for the MLB National League Championship Series and the World Series
games on Fox?
We sell most of the ad inventory for the first four games of the
Championship Series in the upfront. With two games now played and the series
tied 1-1, we know there will at least be a fifth game, so we are selling that
right now. Once we know [if] there will be a sixth game and then a seventh
game we will sell those. We pretty much have a list of advertisers who will buy
into those games once they know they're being played. As for the World Series,
we also sold a good amount of inventory in the upfront. I would say we are
about 90% sold for the first four games. We do hold back some inventory for audience
deficiency make-goods that we sell as the games start to be played and we can
see what the ratings are. There are also a few advertisers who hold back
to see what the matchup will be. But we are in good shape. If advertisers want
to get into the NLCS, they still can.
How many ad units
are sold for each MLB game?
There are four 30-second spots for every half-inning but there are also
commercial breaks for pitching changes, so we usually sell about 85 ad units
per game. We also make contingency plans with advertisers in case the games go
into extra innings. Postseason games are a little different in that if there
are audience deficiencies, advertisers will want to get make-goods for the next
game, so we do have to hold back some inventory for that possibility.
What are your strongest
ad categories for postseason baseball telecasts?
Auto is always strong. Other categories that have shown growth are
computers and electronics. Companies like Apple, Samsung, Motorola and
Microsoft are all big spenders.
How has pricing
been for the postseason MLB games?
We have sold our inventory at 7-9% increases for both the NLCS and World
televising college football games on Saturday nights in primetime this fall.
How are sales doing there?
College football has been a very positive experience for us so far. We did
get off to a bit of a slow start viewership-wise because I think it takes
viewers a while to realize the games are on and to begin getting into a pattern
of watching each week. And it's a process for us to educate them about that.
But our ratings have been getting better and the matchups going forward for
both Pac-12 and Big 12 games are also going to have more top ranked teams.
What kind of
pricing are you charging for ads in the college game telecasts?
We have actually sold a little less advertising than we could have, because
we did hold out on certain pricing levels and did not want to discount
advertising that much. It is our first season so we wanted to establish a
pricing level that wasn't too low.
What ad categories
are strong for your college football telecasts?
Auto is very strong. We have a car advertiser sponsoring every quarter of
each game. The beer category is strong with both MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch
in. We have a good number of credit card companies and other financials,
insurance, electronics and QSRs.
So there are ad
avails left for each Saturday night moving forward?
Yes, there are avails for both the regular season and the two conference championship games we are televising, but avails are tighter for those two
Where do you stand
on NFL regular and postseason ad sales?
NFL sales are up over last year at this point and pricing is also up from
last year in the same upper single-digit area that postseason baseball is up.
But we are still open for business for NFL telecasts. We have inventory left
for both the regular season and postseason.
The Fox NFL postgame
show each Sunday, The OT, varies in
length based on how long the late-afternoon games extend into primetime. How do
you sell ad inventory for that?
The OT is one of the highest-rated shows on television no matter how long
it is on each week. Some Sundays it might be on for only five minutes and on
other Sundays it could be on for a half-hour. The average is about 15 minutes.
If we are televising a doubleheader on Sunday, which we do about eight weeks
out of the season, we will always extend The
OT until 8 p.m. regardless of when the game ends and it comes on. Lowe's is
the featured sponsor but we do sell some commercials to other advertisers.
Fox recently signed
a new and extended TV rights deal with NASCAR which allows the network to
continue televising the Daytona 500 in February along with the first portion of
the NASCAR season. When do you start selling that?
We are beginning to go to the marketplace now, which is earlier than we
ever have. We are talking first with our current clients and then we will be
branching out our discussions. Going forward, we are going to approach the
marketplace in a dual manner selling both Fox and Speed together under
the Fox Sports Media Group umbrella. After the Super Bowl in February and into
the spring, there are not many sports out there where you can get a 5.0 rating
like you can with NASCAR each week.
Fox has also won
the World Cup TV rights that begin with the Women's World Cup in 2015. When do
you start selling ad time and sponsorships for that?
We've haven't approached the marketplace yet with specific World Cup ad
discussions. Right now, we are doing our due diligence to see what all the
possibilities are and seeing what types of packages we can offer.