Pent-up demand for sports is translating into major advertising bucks, according to Fox, which is kicking off baseball season with its first-ever-triple header on Saturday.
The advertising inventory for the nine-hour block of games is sold out, Fox’s head of sports sales, Seth Winter, told Bloomberg Wednesday. This includes a fourth “nightcap” game that airs at 9 p.m. ET on the company’s Fox Sports 1 cable channel.
The sudden avalanche of ad spending, following months of drought due to the pandemic, came as a surprise, Winter said. “Our baseball inventory 10 days ago just shot off the shelf when people realized that we could put a product on the field,” Winter said. “We just had a tsunami of investment.”
Baseball returns Thursday night with a 60-game season after months of no live sports, starting in March. The pent-up demand is expected to help boost interest by sports fans who have been house-bound with little to do other than watch TV during this time.
Indeed, audience ratings for eight preseason baseball games that aired on regional sports networks last weekend more than doubled those of spring-training games played earlier in the year, according to Home Team Sports, a Fox division that sells ads on those networks.
Fox, which is the largest player in the baseball market, thanks to its rights to broadcast a league championship and the World Series, has also managed to convince most of its sponsors to stick with their pre-pandemic spending plans, Winter said. The few advertisers that asked for their money back have returned, he said, noting that new advertisers are paying about 10 percent more than they would have had they bought earlier.
The biggest ad spend came from tech companies, including makers of products for kids who will be attending school online in the fall. Spending by mortgage companies is also on the rise, as Americans take advantage of low interest rates.
Despite early indications of robust baseball ad spent, it remains to be seen if the industry will be able to come close to last year’s spend, which according to Kantar Media, amounted to $584 million.
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