Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All-Star Game Commercials Selling Well

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All-Star Game Commercials Selling Well

Article excerpt

Major-league baseball's All-Star Game telecast next week has generated robust sales of commercial time despite sagging ballpark attendance in the wake of last year's season-ending strike.

The strong showing comes even as The Baseball Network, formed less than two years ago to handle baseball commercial sales, has announced plans to disband after this season.

The networks ABC and NBC disclosed last month they would pull out because major-league baseball was unwilling to provide timely guarantees about the future of their cooperative venture.

The Baseball Network sold about $18 million in commercial time on the All-Star Game set for Tuesday night at the home of the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

That is up 24 percent from the estimated $14.5 million that it generated from ad sales on last year's All-Star game. NBC handled last year's game, while this year it will be on ABC.

Ad buyers say a resurgent advertising marketplace and the lack of competing sports showcases like the Olympics helped baseball overcome the legacy of its unresolved labor problems at least for one game.

But they say advertisers will be watching the audience ratings for signs of fan disenchantment already evident in the 23 percent decline through July 4 in average attendance at major-league ballparks.

Ratings for the All-Star Game have risen in each of the past two years. A big ratings drop-off could hurt ad sales for a dozen regular season games and postseason play later this year.

The All-Star ad increase gives major-league baseball a rare moment to savor in a tough period for the sport.

A players strike last Aug. 11 ended the season, forced the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years and delayed the start of this season for about three weeks.

ESPN has been carrying games nationally two nights a week and on holidays as part of its cable TV contract. …

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