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Fox Sees Strong Sales For Post-Season Baseball

TV Network Has Sold About 90% Of World Series, LCS

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In another signal that advertisers are still pushing hard to align themselves with live sports on TV, Fox says it has sold about 90% of its ad inventory for both the coming World Series and the preceding League Championship Series it broadcasts each year.

The News Corp. network believes sales are "running about 25% to 30%" ahead of where they were at this time in 2008, said Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio, the last time the network sold the game with some economic wind at its back. Mr. D'Ermilio said sales for post-season baseball were pushed back in 2009 due to a long, slow upfront season that was completed months later than is the norm.

At a time when more marketers are shifting some portion of their ad dollars to digital venues with less audience, TV continues to benefit from its relationship with big sporting events. The prevailing view is that TV audiences would rather watch important sports matches -- including the World Series and the Super Bowl -- live as they happen, rather than played back hours later on a DVR. As such, TV networks have been able to command higher prices for big sports events and broadcasts, such as NBC's weekly "Sunday Night Football."

General Motors' Chevrolet and Anheuser-Busch InBev are "particularly strong" sponsors of the events, he said. Late last week, MLB, Fox and Chevrolet unveiled plans to start Game 3 of the World Series at 6:57 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 30 -- the earliest start to a World Series game since Game Six of the 1987 World Series. Fox agreed to move the start time back after General Motors added an extra level of support.

Strong interest in post-season baseball is also coming from telecommunications companies, fast-food marketers and, in an interesting development, financial-services concerns. Financial companies have pulled back in recent years as the economy wreaked havoc with their operations. Additionally, they risked consumer ire by plunking down large sums of money for advertising when wrangling with the U.S. government to keep from being dragged down by the recession.

A 30-second ad in the League Championship Series is said to be running around $225,000, while a 30-second spot in the World Series is said to be running around $450,000.

Fox Deportes, News Corp.'s Spanish-language sports network, will also broadcast both post-season baseball events this year. The network has booked 25% more in sales this year than last, said Mr. D'Ermilio.

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