SBJ/Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Red Sox ready to ride rebound at the gate

After artfully pivoting from the twin disasters of the chicken-and-beer saga and late-season collapse of September 2011 and the 93-loss season of 2012 to a 2013 World Series appearance, the Boston Red Sox are poised to reap the benefits of the turnaround.

The club’s World Series run postponed offseason business planning for 2014 that ordinarily would have started in mid- to late October. But Red Sox executives are anticipating a quick return next year to the type of intense ticket demand that fueled an MLB-record 794-game sellout streak that stretched for nearly 10 years before ending in April.

“We went through a really difficult time, and we certainly saw the lag effects behind that,” said Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy, referring to the streak’s end and an accompanying 7 percent drop in attendance this season. “But we saw things pick up in the latter stages of this year, and I do anticipate fan interest will be stronger next year, and that we will see that lag effect again in a positive direction. You’re judged on how you rebound, and great teams withstand down years.”

Season-ticket sales this year fell to about 21,000 full-season equivalents, below the 22,000 cap the team has used in prior seasons. Kennedy said he anticipated a return next year to that cap level and the return of a waiting list.

Decisions on ticket pricing for next year have not yet been made, but the Red Sox are considering the use of variable pricing for 2014. The years of constant sellouts at Fenway Park insulated the club from needing to experiment with ticketing structures such as variable and dynamic pricing, which have swept through much of professional and college sports. The Red Sox stand as the only MLB team with fully static pricing.

But the club is interested in placing higher values on marquee games, such as ones next year against the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs, and ones on peak calendar dates.

“We’re exploring that,” Kennedy said, echoing Red Sox vice president of business development Tim Zue, who last month said at the Sports Analytics Innovation Summit in Boston that the club was considering such measures. “It’s something we haven’t done, but we’ve obviously seen how commonplace it’s become in our industry.”

Red Sox sponsorship sales, meanwhile, are also expected to increase in 2014. Revenue in this area was flat this year compared with 2013, but required the signing of about 10 additional sponsors to get there, bringing the club’s total portfolio to 110 companies. A recent, two-year extension with longtime partner John Hancock has provided some early momentum heading into the winter.

ARCHIVAL ACTION: Last week’s release by MLB Productions of a special, three-minute online video commemorating the career of Fox Sports’ Tim McCarver as a World Series broadcaster marked just the latest example of a heightened use of baseball’s expansive video archives.

During this year’s postseason, MLB Productions has used the current-day matchups and events as inspiration to develop a series of short-form clips using archival highlights. Other recent examples include a clip of Reggie Jackson stealing home in the 1972 playoffs against Detroit, a playoff matchup revived again this year; and another of legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully interviewing Sandy Koufax in 1965, released while this year’s Dodgers were playing in the National League Championship Series.

It’s not the first time MLB Productions has used its capability to quickly develop short clips such as those. During last year’s World Series, in which San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1, it created a video linking Sandoval with prior three-homer World Series stars Babe Ruth, Jackson and Albert Pujols. But the pace of this year’s archival work has accelerated considerably.

The clips have been widely distributed on MLB.com and MLB’s social media feeds and have been picked up and embedded by dozens of third-party websites and blogs.

“We have more than 200,000 hours of footage, and we’re constantly going back and retagging it so it’s easier to retrieve when needed,” said Nick Trotta, director of library licensing for the Secaucus, N.J.-based MLB Productions. “So we’re constantly trying to come up with new and better ways to mine that library and think about what the fans would want to see.”

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