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Volume 21 No. 1
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Fox to use ‘double box’ at Daytona

Fox plans to end the suffering of NASCAR fans who have complained for years about missing early laps of the Daytona 500.

The network will use its “double box” advertising system during the beginning and end of the Great American Race, ensuring that fans can see live race footage in a small box alongside the first commercials. The move expands on the final hour of uninterrupted coverage that Fox offered during last year’s Daytona 500.

Fox Sports wants to hold the momentum after the green flag.
“When you think about the flow of the races, there’s a huge crescendo of excitement that leads to that green flag,” said Rick Kloiber, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of advertising sales. “By using the double box early we can hold onto some of that momentum rather than going to a traditional break. This should build the vested interest of the audience deeper into the race.”

Fox executives first tested the effect early double box commercials had on its audience during the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4. During the first commercial break, it devoted two-thirds of the screen to a commercial from GM and put live footage of coaches and the bands in a small box in the right corner of the screen. Its research showed that viewers stuck with the broadcast and were more engaged with the commercials in that format. It tried that strategy again with its UFC broadcast Jan. 26.

The network, which broadcasts the first 13 Sprint Cup races of the year, plans to use the double box in early coverage of additional NASCAR races this season.

Kloiber said that the double box plans for the Daytona 500 helped with advertising sales. The race is 90 percent sold, and the amount of inventory remaining mirrors what was available the last two years. The network was able to increase the price of ads by 2 percent to 4 percent on average, but Kloiber declined to say what an average spot was selling for during the race.

“It’s a later moving marketplace for us, but that’s typical for the sport,” he said.

The only major advertiser Fox lost for the Daytona 500 is Pizza Hut. The chain, which sponsored the pre-race show throughout the first quarter of 2012, opted not to return. The network is still looking for another pre-race sponsor.

But sales were strong in other categories. All three of NASCAR’s manufacturers, GM, Ford and Toyota, plan to advertise. Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, Sprint, AT&T, McDonald’s, KFC and Taco Bell are returning, as well. Fox signed several new advertisers, including Sonic, Peak Antifreeze, TurboTax and Disney, which will promote its movie “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

Fox is looking for ratings to increase from last year’s race. Rain postponed its coverage of the 2012 Daytona 500, pushing the race to Monday night when it earned an 8.0 Nielsen rating and averaged 13.7 million viewers. That was down 12 percent from an 8.7 Nielsen rating and 15.6 million viewers in 2011.