FOX PITCHES YOUTHFUL APPEAL FOR MLB

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It's time for "America's Presentime."

That's the internal lingo at Fox for how the network intends to market Major League Baseball, whose TV rights it now shares with NBC and ESPN.

Impressed with how Fox pumped new energy into the National Football League with its "Same Game, New Attitude" marketing approach, MLB owners accepted Fox's five-year, $575 million offer looking for the same. Fox's strategy is to make the national pastime relevant with kids without alienating the purists.

"The game doesn't need changing to excite kids," said Tracy Dolgin, exec VP-marketing at Fox Sports. "It's the same game kids fell in love with 20 years ago. What happened was that baseball stopped talking to kids in a language that appealed to them."

Fox will market to kids by tailoring its programming to interest them and scheduling it to reach them. Fox's Saturday "Game of the Week" coverage will air right after its top-rated Fox Children's Network block of programming.

Bridging the gap between cartoons and game time will be an hourlong pre-game show in which the first 30 minutes will be aimed directly at kids.

On the local level, Fox will look to leverage its Fox Kids Clubs to promote baseball and deliver information about the game and players, give away trading cards or offer ticket information.

On the production side, Fox Sports President David Hill has a reel of footage from Hollywood baseball films that he's studying for ideas on how to juice up broadcasts.

As for on-air promotion, which will skew broader, Mr. Dolgin promised a bigger push than the "NFL on Fox" effort. Spots will be player-focused, with the bulk of the campaign hitting early in the first quarter.

One creative idea the network won't explore is a suggestion from Fox Sports agency Seiniger Advertising Group, Beverly Hills, Calif., to use "Beavis & Butt-head" as baseball spokesboys.

"We'll get Gen X without their help," Mr. Dolgin said. "We want to have fun with baseball, but we're not going to make fun of it."

Joe Mandese contributed to this story.

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