SBD/May 4, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Network Execs Expect Strong Ad Sales For NFL, NBA Despite Threat Of Work Stoppages

ESPN's Erhardt says NFL, NBA labor situation has not affected ad sales
TV network execs are “expecting a strong upfront selling season this spring -- including in the NFL marketplace” -- despite the “threat of work stoppages in the NFL and NBA this fall,” according to John Ourand in this week’s SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. NFL partners, including Fox and ESPN, said that they “already have started talks with potential advertisers and expect the league’s telecasts to be well sold by early June and could match last year’s record pace.” ESPN President of Customer Marketing & Sales Ed Erhardt said, “It’s business as usual from our perspective. We can’t control what will happen with labor. Advertisers have told us that they are planning to buy the NFL and NBA. We’ve already had conversations about what that should look like.” Fox Exec VP/Sports Sales Neil Mulcahy added, “We’re looking at business as usual.” Sources said that networks “are prepared to refund money to advertisers for lost games.” Ourand notes some advertisers “have talked about hedging their bets by buying time in other fall sports, like college football, MLB’s postseason and NASCAR.” But Erhardt said, “Nobody is buying in place of the NFL” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/2 issue). AD AGE’s Brian Steinberg noted ad buyers “caution that football inventory isn't in danger of selling out immediately, but suggest certain types of marketers, particularly auto manufacturers, have begun to reserve ad time in big-ticket sports broadcasts.” One ad buyer said, "The incumbents are moving as if it is business as usual. The more transient advertisers are probably not jumping to the plate without a major 'out' clause, which the networks are probably not likely to offer up just yet” (ADAGE.com, 5/3).
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