SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/Media

Price increases for next season’s sports-ad deals in mid- to high single digits

Sports advertising deals for next season are coming in at mid- to high-single-digit price increases, similar to last year, several media buyers said. Once again, sports is trailing the entertainment programming market, where a record-breaking broadcast "upfront" saw deals written at about 15 percent increases on a cost-per-thousand basis, some much higher.

Leading the pack is NFL football, where increases are in the 7 percent to 9 percent range. ABC Sports/ESPN sales chief Ed Erhardt said his group has moved 65 percent of the "Monday Night Football" inventory it had hoped to during this advance selling season, and expect to be wrapped up by July 4. ABC is also putting together prime-time packages that run across several lower-profile properties, including figure skating, college football, the NHL, the Little League World Series and preseason "Monday Night Football." Erhardt said eight packages have already been sold across an assortment of those properties to advertisers who don't traditionally make major sports buys.

Fox has sold a good chunk of World Series inventory, with sales pacing ahead of last year on a volume basis, said a network source. The price increase is not as high as Fox is getting for football.

CBS said it is far along with football and broke out of the gates early with the Super Bowl. Tony Taranto, CBS' senior vice president of sports sales, said about one-third of Super Bowl inventory has been sold, and that does not include any of Omnicom buying agency OMD's clients, who traditionally buy about 20 percent of the total Super Bowl ads. Including the spots that Anheuser-Busch traditionally buys would mean another 10 or so units have been sold. Taranto would not comment on pricing but said that much of what CBS has moved has been third- and fourth-quarter inventory and spots for Super Bowl newcomers.

"Our intention was to bring people to the party in places where normally demand isn't the greatest," he said. "You'll be surprised who it is."

Buyers said NBC also made a strong push behind the 2004 Athens Olympics as part of its upfront presentations.

HBO BACKS LEWIS-JOHNSON: HBO is putting one of its most aggressive marketing pushes ever behind its live telecast of the June 21 heavyweight title bout between Lennox Lewis and Kirk Johnson, making an estimated mid-six-figure cash investment in radio, print ads and billboards in the top 20 media markets.

HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg would not comment on the financial outlay. He said this campaign is rivaled in size and cost only by campaigns HBO executed for some George Foreman fights in the mid-1990s.

He predicted that the fight, staged at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, will score a cable rating between 8.0 and 11.0.

HBO scored a 10.5 cable rating for the last heavyweight title fight it televised, the December IBF championship bout between Evander Holyfield and Chris Byrd. The last time Lewis fought for a title on HBO he was upset by Hasim Rahman in April 2001, a fight that scored a 9.7 rating. A June 2002 bout between Holyfield and Rahman did an 11.1.

In other news, HBO said it has extended the HBO Latino series "Oscar De La Hoya Presenta Boxeo De Oro."


GREEN FLAG FOR BOOK: NASCAR television publicist Carrie Gerlach landed a mid-six-figure book deal with HarperCollins Publishing, a division of News Corp., for a comedic novel called "Emily's Reasons Why Not." It's been a busy few weeks for Gerlach, who runs her own agency and also has several cable television clients. She was to marry former Pro Bowl safety and ex-SI cover boy Chuck Cecil last Saturday.

Andy Bernstein can be reached at

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