BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- PART IV: REPLACEMENT SPONSORS?
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).