Speedy Series Sales

Sep 29, 2003  •  Post A Comment

This year Major League Baseball celebrates the 100th anniversary of the World Series and marketers are buying into the 2003 fall classic on Fox faster and earlier than last year, according to the network and media buyers.
The 2003 Series gets under way Oct. 18 and is now fetching on average $325,000 for a 30-second spot in the first five games, with prices falling off in later games to about $275,000, according to executives with knowledge of the deals. Last year, the average price for a 30-second commercial was $300,000, according to media buyers.
“It does great numbers, comparable to prime time,” said Andy Donchin, senior VP, director of national broadcast, for Aegis Group’s Carat North America. “I’d rather be running ads in the World Series than against it.”
Jon Nesvig, president, advertising sales, for Fox Broadcasting Co., said the network has already sold close to 80 percent of the Series inventory. “Like everything else in TV now, the Series is moving better,” Mr. Nesvig said. “We pretty much sold out the divisional playoffs in the prime-time upfront as well as the [league championship series].”
Fox and Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN split the playoff and league championship series between them. According to executives, the early rounds of the playoffs are essentially sold-out, with unit prices averaging about $90,000, while league championship series inventory is selling now at an average of $115,000 a unit. About 25 percent of the World Series’ ad time was sold in the upfront and in package deals to Major League Baseball sponsors such as PepsiCo.’s Pepsi and Visa USA. Other advertisers already in for the 2003 games are RadioShack Corp., John Hancock Financial Services, General Motors Corp., Sprint Corp., Allstate Corp., Subway Restaurants and Bank One Corp.
“We are pacing 10 percent to 12 percent ahead of the rate at which orders came in last year,“ said Mr. Nesvig, adding that cost-per-thousand increases this year for the World Series alone are in the 8 percent range. Fox, which has aired the World Series since 1996, is also selling virtual signage this year (which uses technology that allows advertisers to insert a message that appears to be in the stadium but is seen only on TV), a break from the past, when that signage was reserved for baseball’s corporate sponsors and network promos.
Last year’s regional battle between the Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants did not draw large numbers of viewers from across the country, and advertisers did not flock to the games. According to Nielsen Media Research, the World Series games last year averaged an 11.9 household rating, whereas in previous years the average was a 16 rating.
Though the division games-airing on ESPN and Fox beginning Sept. 30-have not yet begun, team matchups are looking more promising, media buyers said.
“This has probably been one of the greatest Septembers in baseball in a lot of years,” said John Muszynski, executive VP, chief broadcast investment officer, at Publicis Groupe’s Starcom Worldwide in Chicago. “The fact that you have these great races, right down to the wire, helps the playoffs get off to a good start.”