This week in “Last Week in BizBall“, robust ad sales for MLB on Fox, big changes for Padres local TV, plus the weekly tidbits.
ROBUST AD SALES FOR MLB ON FOX
Every week the Sports Media Watch blog reports on the declining audience for Saturday baseball on Fox. In response, Fox is considering moving Saturday baseball into prime time next season. Despite the waning numbers, ad sales for MLB on Fox are robust. John Ourand reported for the SportsBusiness Journal, “…Fox is saying that its ad sales inventory is 90 percent sold throughout the regular season. Regular-season games through June are sold out.” Mr. Ourand reports that a resurgent auto sector is pushing the increased demand. The good news for MLB on Fox was not restricted to Saturday afternoons. Next months All Star Game has also proven to be a big hit with advertisers. John Consoli reported for TheWrap.com;
Fox Sports has sold out its primetime telecast of the 81st annual Major League Baseball All-Star game on July 13, the earliest since it began televising the game in 1997, taking in about $38 million for the summer classic.
Although Fox would not comment on the price it sold each unit for, TheWrap learned from individuals familiar with the sales that the network sold about 75 in-game, 30-second commercial units at about $500,000 each.
The $500,000 average per in-game unit garnered by Fox was 8-9 percent higher than it got for last year's game, individuals told TheWrap.
PADRES GAMES TO BECOME MORE WIDELY AVAILABLE
The 1992 Cable Act included the contentious “terrestrial loophole”, aka “terrestrial exemption”, which has allowed some cable companies to withhold access to their RSNs from their local sat and telco competitors. In San Diego this has allowed Cox Communications to monopolize TV rights to Padres games. Cox’s Channel 4 San Diego owns exclusive rights to Padres games. In Philadelphia, Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia has exclusive rights to Phillies, Flyers and 76ers games. In January the FCC essentially closed the “terrestrial loophole”. At the time, Mike Freeman reported for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Telephone and satellite TV providers complained that the loophole prevents them from luring customers because access to a local sports channel such as the Padres plays an important role in subscriber decision making. In San Diego, for example, satellite TV and non-cable TV services have just 11.5 percent market share, which is the third lowest in the country, according to Mark Kersey a cable industry analyst in Solana Beach citing Nielsen Research figures.
Also reporting on the announcement was John Eggerton of Multichannel News, “Looking to capitalize on the change will be AT&T, which filed a program-access complaint against Cox Communications for withholding Channel 4 San Diego, a terrestrially delivered network that holds exclusive TV rights to Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres.” LWIB Mr. Eggerton (HT Fang’s Bites) reported that Cox has consented to make Padres games available to AT&T, DirecTV and Dish. Gerald Nicdao reported for San Diego Sports Examiner that the timing of Cox’s offer was linked to the strong on-field performance of the Padres this season. “With the team performing well and competing for the NL West lead, Cox saw that it would be advantageous to them to seek out licensing fees from AT&T, DirecTV and the Dish Network now rather than when the team is not performing well.”
SELECT READ MORE TO SEE THIS WEEK'S TIDBITS
THE WEEKLY TIDBITS
- Ed Sherman of Crain’s Chicago Business continues his fine work chronicling the efforts of Thomas Ricketts to generate more revenue from Wrigley Field. Mr. Sherman notes that upon first viewing, he quickly became accustomed to the new and controversial “Toyota sign” in the left field bleachers. He also notes that not all local reaction was as blithe. The Toyota ad was not alone in making it’s debut at Wrigley. Mr. Sherman links to this report (includes photo) about the new “giant noodle ad” installed a few yards away from the Ernie Banks statue. Wrigley purists will forever be outraged but fundamental changes to the Wrigley atmosphere are under way. Cubs players now come to bat accompanied by the recorded music of their choice instead of the traditional organ music. Mr. Sherman predicts the installation of “ribbon board” electronic advertising along the “rim of the upper deck” is “the next big move”.
- Supporters of a move of the Oakland A’s to San Jose were encouraged by the news LWIB that voters easily approved a referendum to construct a football stadium in Santa Clara to house the San Francisco 49ers. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and A’s owner Lewis Wolff both (at least publicly) interpreted this as an indicator that there will be similar public support for the proposed ballpark in San Jose. Tracy Seipel reported for the San Jose Mercury News that there is …an Aug. 3 deadline to put a stadium on the November ballot,…Stanford sports economist Roger Noll (see the Biz of Baseball Q&A) estimates within the piece that the Giants ….could demand $25 million to $35 million from the A's in exchange for the territorial rights.
- Forbes SportsMoney blogger Kristi Dosh predicts on her blog that the MLBPA will not agree to MLB’s request to implement “mandatory slotting” in the next CBA. She believes that the argument that slotting in the Rule 4 draft is necessary to allow small revenue franchises to compete is false. Ms. Dosh points to the recent performance of the Pirates in the amateur draft as an example. On the same theme, she agues that changes are needed in the international free agent market. Ms. Dosh believes that the small revenue franchises are at a disadvantage in this area.
- The Editor in Chief of Baseball America, Will Lingo, listed 10 “huge developments” in the Rule 4 draft over the past decade. Amongst those was MLB’s efforts to impose “slotting”. While MLB promotes the need for “mandatory slotting” in the next CBA as a measure to promote greater competitive balance, Mr. Lingo reminds us that clubs have been paying wildly escalating signing bonuses in recent years. “Only one player had received a bonus of at least $6 million before the 2007 draft, but the last three drafts have seen eight bonuses of $6 million or more.”
- LWIB Alan Schwarz reported for the New York Times that six years after the Expos left, Montreal remains by far the largest city in the continental United States and Canada without a professional baseball franchise. Some entire leagues serve hamlets that barely add up to Montreal’s 1.6 million citizens….Not only is there no affiliated minor league franchise in Montreal, there is no independent league franchise there either. According to the report, Montreal lacks a suitable ballpark to house a minor league team and the political will to construct one appears non existent.
- Dan Steinberg reported for the The Washington Post that Stephen Strasburg’s second career start was easily the second-most watched Nats game in MASN history. The most watched Nationals game in MASN history was Strasburg’s debut. The good news for MASN extended to broadcasts of Orioles games. Despite their abysmal on field performance, both Orioles ratings on MASN and attendance at Camden Yards have increased over last year. See the Baltimore Sun for details. (HT Sports Media Watch blog)
“Last Week in BizBall” will return July 5.
Pete Toms is senior writer for the Business of Sports Network, most notably, The Biz of Baseball. He looks forward to your comments and can be contacted through The Biz of Baseball.
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