Fox has gotten off to a solid start with its 2013 Major
League Baseball ad sales, coming off double-digit ratings declines from last
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
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
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,
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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