Play ball: As MLB season begins, advertisers clamor for ad time

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Major League Baseball’s opening day will be even more impactful than usual this year. Thursday’s games will take place in a nation hungry for normalcy. And while this truncated season is not “normal” at all, it is like a gift basket for millions of people who want to see live sports back on TV.

The MLB is the latest league to resume play with lots of Covid-related adjustments. ESPN will carry the Yankees at the Nationals at 7pm ET and the Giants at the Dodgers at 10pm. Check out the full broadcast schedule here.

Pent-up demand?

TV networks have high hopes for a mostly homebound audience. Ratings for the recent preseason games were strong. “Nobody knows if a pent-up demand of sports viewers actually exists, but MLB advertisers are banking that it does, and have been flocking to the regular season at an unprecedented pace,” SBJ’s John Ourand wrote Wednesday.

>> Fox Sports said that ads in its regular-season package are 90 percent sold out already. And Disney Advertising Sales described “high demand:” A spokesman said “we are sold out of inventory for the opening week and the rest of the regular season.”

>> A caveat in Brian Steinberg’s story for Variety: “Advertisers continue to worry over whether the leagues will be able to guarantee player health and complete their seasons. Once teams get on to the field, however, sponsors seem eager to play…”

Great advice

Per Ourand’s subscribers-only newsletter, “MLB Network President Rob McGlarry had one main message when he met with his channel’s on-air talent this afternoon, on the eve of Opening Day. ‘We’re already in the middle of the season,’ McGlarry said. ‘We don’t have time. We have to hit the ground running. We only have 60 games.'”

McGlarry’s advice can apply to all of us, pandemic or no pandemic: “Do as much as we can in the limited time that we have.”

Limited access for reporters

“As U.S. team sports prepare to resume,” the AP’s Joe Reedy wrote recently, “journalists are facing the same reckoning that their colleagues who cover politics and entertainment have encountered — coming up with new approaches despite reduced access.” Reedy noted, “Many journalists worry that less access can mean less oversight…”

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