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Volume 20 No. 42
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Fox nearly sold out for game, and ESPN’s in the same neighborhood for Home Run Derby

Fox has virtually sold out its ad inventory around the MLB All-Star Game at a 9 percent to 10 percent increase over last year’s rates, the network said.

The network has sold in-game 30-second spots for as much as $575,000, industry sources said. The only availability is a couple of spots in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Fox says its ad sales have been particularly strong in the auto, movie and telecom categories, while MLB’s official corporate partners also have bought heavy around the event.

The game traditionally has been among the top-rated broadcast programs of the summer. Last year’s game from Anaheim pulled in a 7.5 rating, the lowest ever for the event but still high enough to be one of the summer’s top sports draws on television.

Fox is not planning to make the game available in 3-D. Last year, Fox helped DirecTV produce the event in 3-D, but the two did not see enough demand to roll it out again.

Meanwhile, one of MLB’s other national partners, ESPN, is planning to make the State Farm Home Run Derby available in 3-D, as well as broadband and mobile

ESPN also is approaching sellout levels for the Home Run Derby, sources said.

The network’s telecasts this year have been marked by change, as it replaced longtime announcers Jon Miller and Joe Morgan before the season.

Similar talent changes are expected during its telecast of the Home Run Derby. Last year, Chris Berman manned the set with Joe Morgan and Bobby Valentine. Berman will be back this year, but Morgan and Valentine won’t.

ESPN hasn’t settled on who will replace them, but likely candidates include John Kruk and Nomar Garciaparra. An official announcement could come as early as this week.

This year, ESPN has started using its game talent in studio and its studio talent during game telecasts, a noticeable switch from last year.

“We feel like we have a very strong stable of talent that we weren’t utilizing as well last year,” said Mike Ryan, vice president of programming for ESPN.

“Baseball Tonight” will be on site with a set inside Chase Field for pregame and postgame shows around the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game. It also will cover the XM All-Star Futures Game and the Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game.

“This is a big event for us,” Ryan said. “This is one of the fun times of the year for us.”