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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- PART IV: REPLACEMENT SPONSORS?
Published February 16, 1995
With the prospect that the strike will continue at least through Spring Training '95, baseball's leadership could be faced with defections among its long-time sponsors and broadcast partners. In separate interviews with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, William Marlow, an advertising attorney with Loeb and Loeb of New York, and Dantia Gould, a media analyst with GOULD MEDIA, addressed the high stakes facing MLB in terms of possible loss of advertisers and TV outlets from the ever-expanding labor dispute. SPONSORS: Marlow noted that baseball had problems with its advertisers before the strike: "Baseball audiences have been, to some degree, on the decline before the strike the started. ... There's good reason to believe that it will continue. The question really is, will that trend be increased by the occurrence of the strike? Will it get worse than it would have had there been no strike? ... The strike is exacerbating what was an uncomfortable situation to begin with." Gould, noted that Coca-Cola, a longtime baseball sponsor, will stick with the sport: "That's significant because Coca-Cola has been involved with baseball for so long. In terms of some of the other sponsors, I think it's going to be touch and go." THE BASEBALL NETWORK: Marlow believes baseball will have to give up on TBN and look to a "deep pocket" like Rupert Murdoch for national broadcast rights. Gould: "The unfortunate thing is The Baseball Network did a good job in terms of getting commitments for advertising sales last year. They had Anheuser- Busch, Avis, Country Time Lemonade, GM, MCI, Russell Athletic, Texaco, among others. ... Because of the whole uncertainty in baseball right now, I think you have to wonder who is going to televise baseball in 1995." LOCAL TV: Gould: "When it comes right down to it, [cable and broadcast outlets] will televise baseball with replacement players. They would rather have baseball under less than ideal conditions than have no baseball at all." ESPN: One point made by both was that ESPN saved money by not carrying baseball after August 12. Gould speculates that ESPN was able to use as much as 2/3 of their baseball investment toward other broadcast rights, including the recent long-term NCAA basketball deal. But, Gould adds: "ESPN is very anxious to have baseball in the right form, because ... it enhances the network's value" (THE DAILY).