I’m in New York this week for Upfront Week and the Sports Business Awards.
I spent years ignoring TV Upfronts, which were usually events where networks bought their scripted shows from ad buyers. The theory has always been that announcers already knew what the audience for a Michigan and Ohio State football game looked like. They need the Upfront to see what Bravo Con is all about — which was a big part of NBC’s upfront this morning.
This focus began to change a few years ago, when sports programming dominated all TV’s most-watched lists. Expect that to change even more this week as the market for selling sports ads evolves sooner than ever.
Historically, the entertainment advertising market was marketed first, followed by cable, then news, and finally sports. “We’ve seen this model flipped,” said Mark Evans, executive vice president of Fox Sports/Sales. “A lot of times now sport comes first. We’re in the middle of our market – it started weeks or months ago.
Disney’s president of advertising sales and partnerships, Rita Ferro, has noticed the same trend. Just five years ago, Ferro recalled asking his boss Ed Erhardt to include ESPN in Disney’s Upfront presentation. Over the previous decade, ESPN had set up its own pitch for advertisers, and Erhardt told him the sports market wasn’t ready yet.
Four years ago, Ferro finally merged the two. “I remember it was tough for some of the early sports agencies,” she said. “But we wanted to make sure we were talking about the full impact of the wallet and the migration of more and more entitlements to other platforms.”
As for the current market, Ferro said the sport is changing earlier than it has. But she said it wasn’t necessarily the first move. “Everything moves together for us,” she said. “There’s no question how important the sport is and what that will play out in a global market I think in the future.”
I was struck by the attention NBC devoted to its FIFA World Cup coverage on Telemundo during this year’s Radio City Music Hall Upfront. Fox owns the English language rights to the event in the United States; Telemundo owns the rights in Spanish.
This year’s World Cup was the only specific sporting event mentioned by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell during his opening remarks, when he said, “Telemundo’s momentum is going to be fueled further this winter. with the World Cup.” NBC also brought announcer Andrés Cantor to the stage – about 80 minutes after a 90+ minute presentation – to announce that NBC would be broadcasting games in Spanish on Peacock. Cantor also announced that Telemundo will host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup from Australia and New Zealand.
“Sunday Night Football” talents Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Maria Taylor made stage appearances, as did WWE’s The Miz and Bianca Belair. The main point that NBC has tried to impress on ad buyers is that they should trust Comcast-owned network content and platforms.
“It’s trendy these days to talk about the money companies like ours spend on content. We spend as much or more than anyone else,” Shell said. “The bottom line is that we don’t just have the best programming and the best platform. But unlike our competitors, we run it as one company. We run it as one company. We program it as one company. We promote it as one company. And we sell it as one company.
The best joke came from Seth Meyers. “I don’t want to go after the Golden Globes and pile on the Hollywood foreign press. But you have to work hard enough to have less diversity than at the Winter Olympics.
Fox will have the Super Bowl, NFL playoffs and FIFA World Cup this fall – three events he pushed hard during his Upfront presentation at Skylight on Vesey, the former headquarters of the New York Mercantile Exchange . “It fits with the narrative we’ve had for the last countless years of owning the drop,” Fox’s Mark Evans said.
Moving the World Cup from summer to late fall has raised concerns that it could hurt advertising rates, given the huge number of viewership points added to an already congested fourth quarter of sport. But Fox has sold more than half of its World Cup inventory and is moving “so far ahead of our internal sales expectations,” Evans said. He said advertisers still want to reach the most audiences ahead of the Christmas shopping season.
“Marketers feel like we’re going to be promoting all of this in the NFL, in college football and in postseason baseball,” Evans said. “Some holding companies wanted to do their World Cup deals in concert with their NFL deals and Major League Baseball deals as part of that initial negotiation.”
Fox typically sells 75-80% of its NFL inventory on the Upfront Market, Evans said. Because the market is moving so quickly, he expects Fox to sell out their regular season at 80-90%. Price increases for NFL ads will hit double digits for “the vast majority of this market,” Evans said.
Expect Disney to push its women’s sports content more forcefully than in the past during its Upfront presentation tomorrow at Basketball City on Pier 36 in Manhattan. It’s no coincidence that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
“At last year’s upfront, we asked for a pledge to make sure brands take some of their budget and make a commitment against women’s sports,” said Disney’s Rita Ferro. “We over-delivered that. What you’re going to hear me say on stage this year, I’m not going to ask them to double, I’m going to ask them to triple.”
Ferro pointed to the WNBA. She said ESPN expanded its coverage of the league after Google stepped up its investment. “We wouldn’t have had the funding to do it,” Ferro said. “Google wanted to make sure ESPN covered the WNBA because if ESPN covered it in the prime time window, just like it covers all other sports, it would look good.”
- It might be hard to believe, but Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were at ESPN headquarters for the first time today to promote the new “Monday Night Football” booth, and Buck had nothing but good things to say. say about his former employer. “They understood how much I wanted to come to ESPN. I think they understood how great it was in my life to be selfish and personal about it. … It all ended very well at Fox on a personal level, and … the conversation I had with David Hill right at the end was what really sealed it.”
- Speculation continues around Tom Brady’s potential suitability for a role on the Fox Sports NFL stand. SBJ’s daily publication today has a roundup of opinions.
- SiriusXM runs ads at MLB media properties to promote its baseball-themed podcast, “Black Diamonds,” which is a collaboration with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, notes SBJ’s Austin Karp. The podcast will also be promoted on billboards in Times Square, as well as in LA and Nashville.
- Pac-12 presidents and chancellors began meeting today in San Francisco for the start of their May annual meeting, and Commissioner George Kliavkoff will brief the board on the media rights landscape, “but the situation is very fluid,” notes the San Jose Mercury News. .
- It’s not “The Hangover,” but Mike Tyson “returns to the ring,” joining Sean Penn and Tye Sheridan in “Black Flies,” a thriller “set in the frantic world of New York City paramedics.” notes The Hollywood Reporter. Tyson’s role is “described as a starring role in the film”.