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MBPT Spotlight: Regional Sports Nets’ Cumulative MLB Ad Sales Projected To Finish Up 5% Above Last Season

Regional network Major League Baseball telecasts cumulatively are having another solid ad sales year as the season heads into the final pennant stretch-run.

Kyle Sherman, executive VP of Home Team Sports (HTS), a division of Fox Sports Media Group, which sells advertising for RSN telecasts for every MLB team except the Toronto Blue Jays, says he anticipates overall ads sales finishing up about 5% higher than last season, and in the current marketplace where many marketers are cutting back on their ad spending, up is good. In fact, Sherman says HTS within the past few weeks signed a major deal with Volvo, which bought an ad package across several markets.

Sherman says overall ad sales for the RSNs will finish ahead of the previous season for the fifth straight year. “We’ve been showing ad sales growth every year since 2010 of between 5% and 15%,” Sherman says. Of course ad sales vary among the regional networks, and is pretty much tied into the type of season success the MLB teams in those local markets are having.

So far this season 12 of the 29 U.S.-based MLB teams are No. 1 in household ratings since the start of the season in their respective markets in primetime, which runs from 7 p.m., when most of the local games start each night, to 11 p.m.

Those teams, based on Nielsen local ratings, include the Detroit Tigers (Fox Sports Detroit, 8.38 HH rating), St. Louis Cardinals (Fox Sports Midwest, 7.56), Pittsburgh Pirates (Root Pittsburgh, 7.56), Cincinnati Reds (Fox Sports Ohio, 7.01), Cleveland Indians (Sportstime Ohio, 6.73), Milwaukee Brewers (Fox Sports Wisconsin, 6.16), Baltimore Orioles (MASN/WJZ, 6.03), Kansas City Royals (Fox Sports Kansas City, 5.93), Seattle Mariners (Root Northwest, 5.72), Boston Red Sox (NESN, 5.64), San Francisco Giants (Comcast Sports Net Bay Area, 4.86) and Arizona Diamondbacks (Fox Sports Arizona, 3.92). Most of those teams are still in contention for postseason playoff berths.

Sherman says particularly hot markets for scatter ads as the season moves into the late August and September pennant races are Milwaukee, San Francisco, St. Louis, Atlanta, Miami and New York, where the Yankees, on YES, are still in contention but have recently been fading.

“Right now we are selling ads for the pennant races and there are a lot of teams still in it so we feel we have a lot more sales activity to come before the end of the season,” Sherman says. “Adding that extra wild card position in each league this year has helped us in that area as more teams have a chance to get in.”

Sherman says in addition to selling the remaining regular season in-game inventory, HTS is also getting ready to sell local postseason, pregame and postgame show inventory. The RSNs have no rights to show the postseason games locally, but they each do shows that wrap around the national postseason game telecasts, so that adds a lot more ad inventory for HTS to sell for October.

Sherman says with 23 of the 25 biggest advertisers having returned this season, HTS headed into the year riding a big ad base. He says overall scatter ad buying throughout the season so far has been steady across numerous categories with no major “category explosions.”

During the second half of the season, the biggest scatter advertisers to come in have been in categories such as automotive, financial services and retail, the latter with lots of marketers promoting back-to-school merchandise.

Once the postseason ends, Sherman says HTS will begin finalizing early deals in November and December with some advertisers for the 2015 season. The bulk of the deals for next season, however, will be done between January and March of next year.

While the number of MLB telecasts nationally continues to increase, Sherman still thinks there is national advertiser demand to get into local team telecasts where he believes the most passionate fans are tuning in each night. Each RSN televises an average of 148 MLB games per season, most in primetime, so there will always be enough inventory available during the season, and HTS can customize packages for marketers who want to come into some or all of the markets.