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Volume 26 No. 228
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Fox Sells 90% Of Ad Inventory For Shortened MLB Season

Nobody knows if a pent-up demand of sports viewers actually exists, but MLB advertisers are banking that it does and have been flocking to the regular season at an unprecedented pace. Fox Sports Exec VP/Sports Sales Seth Winter said the regular-season MLB package is 90% sold. Fox typically heads into the regular season with 60% of its MLB ad inventory sold. The network’s opening weekend is essentially sold out of its “fixed positions,” save a few pitching changes, Winter said. “I saw it with NASCAR and I saw it with baseball,” he said. “They just need to have the confidence that the teams and the leagues can get back onto the fields of play and compete.”

Part of the reason for the gaudy numbers is scarcity -- a short 60-game regular season combined with the fact that Fox moved a lot of the advertisers who had already brought MLB schedules in the spring into this shortened season at the same rate. “That was the right thing to do,” Winter said. “They invested in us and the belief that baseball will come back.” Fox is seeing a 5-10% increase in rates for new advertisers, though Winter warned that Fox’ rates will increase for the final 10% of inventory. In general, Fox collects five figures for a 30-second regular-season spot.

As expected in an election year, political advertising is doing well. “You’ll see some campaign and PAC advertising this weekend,” Winter said. “We’re seeing the dynamics of a political marketplace where there are so many swing states and so much money being thrown against the campaign, that they’re more and more migrating to national media.” With T-Mobile as an official sponsor, the telco sector is particularly strong, Winter said. The financial services, soft drink, retail, technology and malt beverage categories also have been strong. “We’ve seen almost two dozen new advertisers come in,” Winter said. Some of the categories hardest hit by the pandemic -- airlines, casual dining, automotive, hotel, travel -- have not been as aggressive as they’ve been in the past.

On a local level, RSN inventory will be virtually sold out by next week, according to an executive with Home Team Sports, which sells national ads across the regional networks. Several teams, including the Dodgers, Braves and Tigers, already are “oversold,” said HTS Exec VP Craig Sloan. “It’s been the most interested and highest demand that I’ve felt, and I’ve been in this business a long time,” Sloan said. “That pent-up frustration is not just from fans. It’s also from brands that have not been able to get out with this type of content.” Locally, Sloan said the insurance, QSR, OTT services and banking sectors have been particularly active. Taco Bell bought a presenting sponsorship for opening week and increased their spending this season, Sloan said.