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TBS 'Virtually Sold-out' of MLB Postseason Ad Inventory: Diament

With tonight’s play-in game between Tampa and Texas serving as a Nielsen appetizer of sorts, TBS is in a very strong position as it gets ready to toss out the first pitch on its coverage of Major League Baseball’s 2013 postseason.

Jon Diament, executive vice president of ad sales and marketing of Turner Sports, said TBS, which is seeing pacing equivalent to last year, is “virtually sold-out” of its postseason inventory encompassing a pair of Wild Card Games, up to 18 Division Series contests and a potential seven matches with the National League Championship Series, as well as all its entitlement positions on the telecasts.

Diament said TBS, which has averaged a 3.2 U.S. household rating and more than 4.9 million total viewers with its postseason coverage since 2007, has scored with diverse sales pitches and players in establishing its playoff sponsor roster.

“[The MLB postseason] is very a strong schedule that wins the nights in cable. Along with the start of the NBA season, Turner has a lot of GRPs in fourth quarter,” said Diament, who also noted that MLB benefits from participation in a trio of marketplaces: sports, primetime entertainment and scatter. Should there audience shortfalls, Diament said TBS would try to position make-goods within the property, but could offer units in its NBA presentation if advertisers had fourth-quarter flighting needs.

He said TBS's advertiser lineup, which features a cross-section of sponsors from such categories as auto, financial, insurance, beer/wine/distilled spirits and QSR/food/restaurants, was forged through sponsors with multiyear MLB pacts; companies that bought on for this particular postseason; and others that have schedules across Turner’s array of sports properties.

“Some buy baseball annually; for others, it’s a mix of sports. Some have flights that include fourth-quarter sports in their mix,” he said. “Baseball’s audience tends to be a little more upscale than other sports.”

New advertisers for TBS's 2013 MLB postseason include: Joe’s Crab Shack, Toyota, Volvo, Novartis and Midas.

Diament said the telco/hardware arena has been quite active. “The smartphones, wireless providers and tablets all compete against each other on national TV. Sports is a great place to be for these marketers,” he explained.

QSR has been another big category: Taco Bell, Arby’s Sonic, Subway and Joe’s Crab Shack will all take swings during TBS’s postseason coverage.

As to presenting sponsor positions, Diament said TBS is returning an incumbent lineup:  MLB Postseason Pre-Game on TBS presented by Jeep; MLB Wild Card presented by Budweiser; National/American League Division Series coverage presented by T-Mobile; National League Championship Series presented by the Venture Card from Capital One; Bank of America Game Break; and The Postseason Show presented by Johnnie Walker.

Many of TBS’s postseason sponsors are being moved up into tonight’s Rays-Rangers battle tonight at 8 p.m., with the winner moving on to face the Cleveland Indians in the AL Wild Card game on Wednesday, However, Diament’s team on Monday was exploring some last-minute opportunities with local companies around the participating clubs.

Similarly, he said TBS has held back some inventory around the National League Championship should certain clubs advance. If the Los Angeles Dodgers make it to the senior circuit’s title round, Diament said some movie money could come from the studios. If the St. Louis Cardinals advance, In Bev’s Anheuser-Busch, which holds the naming rights to the Redbirds’ Busch Stadium home, might pour some beer money into the telecasts.

While the 2013 postseason won’t have the top-market and playoff perennial, love-'em, loathe-'em New York Yankees in the mix, Diament believes there are intriguing story lines. “The Wild Card games are exciting. They’re do or die and go against the grain of baseball’s series format,” he said.

He also called the Pittsburgh Pirates, which ended a record 20-year run of losing seasons, and will host Tuesday’s NL Wild Card game against NL Central rival Cincinnati Red, as “a very good storyline. This is live sports, it’s DVR-proof. Big markets are not necessarily always better. You want long, compelling series like we had with Tampa and Boston in 2008.”

Diament was referencing to the Rays’ triumph over the then defending World Series champion Bosox in seven games, which saw the decisive contest draw 13.4 million viewers, cable’s most-watched baseball telecast ever.