As a die-hard Mets fan, Bruce Lefkowitz would just as soon see the World Series end on Halloween night, with the Amazins putting a bow on a four-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals. But as the No. 2 hitter in the Fox Networks Group ad sales organization, he'd much prefer watching as David Wright or the playing-out-of-his-mind Daniel Murphy is crowned Mr. November.
With just hours to go before the Mets and Royals fight to end their respective generation-spanning title droughts, Mr. Lefkowitz said Fox had sold more inventory in Games 1 through 5 than it has in recent memory. And while only four games in a best-of-seven series are guaranteed, history and the balance of power between the two ball clubs suggests a sweep is highly unlikely.
Since the Mets won their last World Series crown back in 1986 (the year after the Royals won their first and only championship), there have been only eight sweeps. Four of these were broadcast by Fox. Over the course of the 17 World Series that Fox has carried since 1996, the average number of games necessary to determine a winner is five-and-a-half.
Sidestepping the brooms can be the difference between a good TV turnout and an absolute disaster. It's no coincidence that the Giants' 4-0 whitewash of the Tigers in 2012 stands as the least-watched, lowest-rated Fall Classic in history. Detroit's hasty exit averaged 12.7 million viewers and a modest 7.6 household rating. In losing out on three games of inventory, Fox left an estimated $115.8 million and oodles of potential gross ratings points on the table.
Conversely, any Series that extends to a sixth and/or seventh game is pure gravy. Game 7 of last year's Royals-Giants nail-biter put up NFL numbers, averaging 23.5 million viewers and a 13.7 household rating, nearly double the deliveries from the previous night's broadcast.
Like most savvy baseball fanatics, Mr. Lefkowitz has a hard time envisioning a scenario wherein either the Mets or Royals steamrolls over the other nine. Kansas City batters this postseason are hitting .350 with runners in scoring position, and while the Mets' stable of young flamethrowers is a force to be reckoned with, the Royals hit the fastball better than any team in baseball.
On the other side of the ledger, Daniel Murphy is hitting dingers like he's some kind of 21st century Sadaharu Oh, and the Mets starting rotation has an absolutely filthy arsenal of junk pitches that are practically unhittable. Case in point: According to Baseball prospectus, opposing hitters this season scratched out an anemic .144 batting average against Jason deGrom's changeup.
Sorry, 'Chevy Guy'
In terms of the stuff Mr. Lefkowitz can control, he's taken advantage of an active financial services/insurance market to attract seven new World Series clients, a roster that includes MetLife, eSurance, Edward Jones and Navy Federal Credit Union.
"We did a major press on the category, because the demography of baseball is more upscale and slightly older," Mr. Lefkowitz says, adding that the fourth quarter is generally an active period for insurance and financial services companies.
For the most part, Fox's client base is similar to what it fielded during last year's series. Chevrolet is returning as the sponsor of the pre- and post-game shows, and Taco Bell is reprising its self-explanatory "Steal a Base, Steal a Breakfast" campaign. Budweiser will sponsor the game summary, Geico is backing the in-game box score, and DirecTV is manning the aerial coverage.
Chevy once again will also sponsor the presentation of the MVP Award, although last year's viral media sensation Rikk Wilde is going to sit this one out. The automaker this evening will take the wraps off two new in-game spots that build on its existing "Real People, Not Actors" campaign. A longform (90-second) version of the Chevy Traverse "7 Kids" ad can be viewed here; "Math Problem," a 120-second piece of creative supporting the Chevy Equinox, is also available for an advance look.
Half a million dollars for 30 seconds
According to media buyers, the going rate for a 30-second commercial in the World Series is around $545,000 a pop. And while Fox does not disclose its ad rates, the network confirmed that it is pricing units at a significant premium versus the 2014 series.
Along with a strong scatter market and advertisers' desire for the sort of reach that most general entertainment programming simply cannot deliver, Mr. Lefkowitz said his biggest ally may well be the Royals' reliance on its lethal bullpen.
"The great thing about having the Royals in the series again is that we could be looking at a lot of pitching changes," he said before boarding a flight to Kansas City. "From where I stand, pitching change are good for business." Indeed, in the comparatively rigid framework of four-spot ad breaks between the halves of every inning, a few unscheduled pods can add up to millions of dollars in bonus revenue.
In the meantime, Mr. Lefkowitz is rooting for a blue-and-orange-flecked parade down the Canyon of Heroes on, say, Nov. 6. "As [Fox ad sales chief] Toby Byrne says, 'Hope and prayer aren't a good business strategy, except for when you're talking about the World Series,'" he joked. "You hope for five games and pray for seven."