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Fox hits triple with postseason
Network could clean up some loose ad spots with three big-market teams advancing to league series.
October 7, 2003: 1:23 PM EDT
By Andrew Stein, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - For Fox Entertainment's baseball programming, three out of four isn't bad.

Even without a West Coast team in the final two rounds of the postseason, the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Chicago Cubs could tie up some loose advertising spots for Fox because they represent three of the largest TV markets in the nation.

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CNNfn's Mary Snow reports on the network's high expectations for this playoff season.

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"The league series sold pretty well in advance, but there may be a few spots open in games six and seven," said Andrew Donchin, director of national broadcast for media buying firm Carat USA. "Having three large market teams will help sell some of the remaining spots in those games."

With the Red Sox facing the Yankees, Fox has two of the largest market teams playing in the American League Championship Series.

In the National League Championship Series, Fox has the No. 3 market covered with the Chicago Cubs, but drops off to the 17th largest market with the Florida Marlins, who play home games in Miami.

The Marlins eliminated the San Francisco Giants, who would have added the fifth-largest market and a West Coast presence to the NLCS, according to Nielsen Media.

Nevertheless, Fox has sold about 90 percent of the spots in the two league championship series and the World Series, according to Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio.

D'Ermilio added that Fox was charging an average of $325,000 for a 30-second spot in the first five games of the World Series. That would be up 8 percent from a year earlier, based on figures from Advertising Age.

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"We (will) have a better geographical spread than last year and that's a key difference," D'Ermilio said. Last year, the Anaheim Angels defeated the San Francisco Giants in an all-California World Series.

In its latest tally, Advertising Age reported that Fox was selling spots in the league championship series for about $115,000; D'Ermilio said he was still checking on average rates for the championships.

Fox is seeing a boost in demand for the later games in the series, which typically sell for less because they may not be necessary.

Advertising Age reported at the end of September that rates dropped about 15 percent to $275,000 for spots in the later games of the World Series, but "we're seeing increased interest from companies based in the competing markets and that's allowed us to maintain our pricing."

Despite its ability to hold pricing rates, the added interest will have a marginal impact on Fox's profit, according to Andrew Baker, analyst with Cathay Financial.

Fox Entertainment (FOX: up $0.32 to $29.82, Research, Estimates), which includes the 20th Century Fox movie studio, is a separately traded unit of News Corp. (NWS: down $0.02 to $33.78, Research, Estimates).

"It certainly helps because they won't have to offer free spots to make up for bad ratings numbers," Baker said. "But it won't have a meaningful impact on its bottom line."

As for its perfect matchup, "there are compelling story lines in every case," said Fox's D'Ermilio. "The Yankees-Cubs has historical significance, the Red Sox-Cubs would have great interest (neither team has won the World Series in more than 85 years), and the wild card Marlins facing either the Yankees or the Sox would be a 'David vs. Goliath' scenario."  Top of page

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