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Fox Hopes for Cubs vs. Sox

Sep 28, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Fox thinks two teams long known as lovable losers would be a winning combination in this year’s World Series.
A matchup between the American League’s Boston Red Sox, who broke their 86-year championship drought in 2004 and are the defending champions, and the National League’s Chicago Cubs, who haven’t won the series in a century, would be huge in terms of viewership and ad revenue, said Neil Mulcahy, executive VP for sports sales at Fox Broadcasting.
“Certainly if you get a Cubs-Red Sox series and you go six or seven games, you’re going to have some of the biggest numbers you’ve seen in baseball in the last six to eight years,” Mr. Mulcahy said.
Mr. Mulcahy said Fox has sold about 85% of its Major League Baseball postseason inventory and is pacing about 5% ahead of last year. The prospect of a matchup between two storied teams from two big markets could pull nontraditional baseball advertisers into the postseason. Prices are up by between 7% and 9% on a cost-per-thousand basis.
World Series commercials, now going for about $400,000 for 30 seconds, could prove to be a bargain.
If the right teams advance to the series, Mr. Mulcahy said, “We certainly have a good shot at overdelivering, which is great for the advertiser,” particularly if the Series goes six or seven games.
Short series, including last year’s sweep, have held down ratings of late.
In the Zone
Turner Broadcasting, which for the second year will broadcast a league championship series on an exclusive basis—this year it’s the American League Championship Series—as well as the divisional playoff games, also is seeing strong demand for postseason baseball, re-signing most of last year’s sponsors and adding some new ones, according to John Diament, executive VP for Turner Sports Ad Sales and Marketing.
“There are games that really count,” he said. “It’s a good place to be if you’re a fan and it’s a great place to be if you’re an advertiser looking for an engaged audience.”
One new baseball advertiser on Turner is BlackBerry, which will be a presenting sponsor for the MLB Division Series, which begins Wednesday.
In addition to the usual bells and whistles a presenting sponsor gets, Turner is creating custom on-air promos with TBS studio host Ernie Johnson. During each game of the division series and the American League Championship Series, Mr. Johnson will appear in spots asking viewers to e-mail questions that he will read on his BlackBerry. Mr. Johnson and the other members of the TBS broadcast team—Cal Ripken, Dennis Eckersley and Curtis Granderson—will pick questions to answer during HotCorner, which appears after games on MLB.com.
Another sponsor, Sharp Electronics, is increasing its spending on Turner’s postseason telecasts. As part of its deal with Turner this year, Sharp, the official HDTV of Major League Baseball, will sponsor a “Lights Out Challenge” during the playoffs.
The challenge is designed to promote Sharp’s environmentally friendly stance by urging viewers to turn out lights, particularly in the rooms where the TV set is not on.
Promotions during the Division Series and the first three games of the LCS will lead into game four, when viewers will be asked to log on to a microsite at TBS.com to enter how many lights they have turned off and where they are located. A map on the site will show where the most energy is being saved.
Meanwhile, Captain Morgan Rum will return as sponsor of TBS’ postgame show, and a deal is near for a pregame sponsor, Mr. Diament said.
Last year, in its first shot with the playoffs on cable, Turner had great ratings for the divisional playoffs, but its numbers tanked in the NLCS as the Colorado Rockies-Arizona Diamondbacks contest generated little excitement.
But this is a different year, with different teams in the mix, Mr. Diament said.
“So far advertisers have not reflected on last year,” he said. “We have not had any advertiser not come back from either last year or the regular season.”
Fox, which will broadcast this year’s NLCS before it airs the World Series, likes the teams that are heading into the playoffs. As of last week, the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies appeared to be in, along with—barring another tragic late-season choke—the New York Mets.
“Those are great markets for baseball, but also great markets for advertisers,” said Mr. Mulcahy.
That should help Fox move its remaining ad time.
“I think everybody’s kind of sitting back looking at that and it’s certainly going to draw a lot of interest from people to get us that final step,” he said.
GM Stays in the Game
General Motors, which said it won’t be in this year’s Super Bowl, remains one of the biggest World Series sponsors, Mr. Mulcahy said. Other new automotive marketers have signed up for this year’s postseason. Also new to the postseason are some additional quick-serve restaurant chains and soft-drink companies.
During the regular season, Fox’s baseball ratings were down, averaging a 2.0 in households compared to 2.3 last year. But the playoffs are a whole different ball game.
“It’s great ratings in October,” Mr. Mulcahy said. “I think if you compare it to what’s out there, there’s a few prime-time shows that do as well. But if you look at the World Series for the past 40 years, every year it’s in the top 10.”

28 Comments

  1. What about the Cubs v.s the WHITE Sox? I think the city of Chicago going ape over both teams being in the WS would be priceless in terms of ratings.
    The Red Sox are no longer looked at as underdogs or “loveable losers”-many now see them as the new Yankees. Thye just won the WS again recently!
    I also think Tampa Bay (which never even had a winning team before this year)-vs. the Cubs would be exciting. TB and the Cubs really are both perennials losers who would like to change that.

  2. Thank you, Phil K. When I saw the headline, I thought it was about a possible Cubs vs. White Sox series. Boston can’t win everything, you know (e.g. the Bruins…)

  3. A White Sox vs. Cubs Series might be huge in Chicago (which is the third-largest market), but wouldn’t play as well on a national scale as Red Sox vs. Cubs, hence why Fox would prefer that. The White Sox don’t have the national fanbase the Red Sox do (Red Sox have routinely led, or finished near the top, in road attendance, for the last several years, and yes, that goes back before they won the Series in ’04).
    A crosstown Series might be exciting for Chicagoland, but, a look at the ratings for the 2000 Subway Series (New York is bigger than Chicago, mind you), and it didn’t play all that well outside of the tri-state area.

  4. Please give the 1st round back to FOX or ESPN. TBS announcers are the worst I’ve heard for years. And Mr. Commissioner, please stop these games that run into midnight and wee hours of the morning. For the 1st round stagger the start of games every hour and a half on two or three different networks, with the last one starting no later than 8pm eastern. Similar to what you see for the NCAA tournament. Late games are an injustice to the working fan, school kids, and anyone else to has to be up bright and early the next morning.

  5. Forget a Cubs vs. White Sox series. The way those teams are playing so far this postseason… Get ready for the Rays and Phillies…

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