I’m Bernie San­ders, and I ap­prove this mes­sage. Now, back to the ball­game

▶ Fox Sports plans to bring politics to Amer­ica’s pas­time ▶ “Every­body—moth­ers, fa­thers … grand­par­ents—is watch­ing”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Contents -

Derek Jeter’s fi­nal home game as a New York Yan­kee drew a record au­di­ence on the team’s YES Net­work in 2014, sur­pris­ing no one. But Stephen Ullman, who over­sees po­lit­i­cal ad sales for YES Net­work ma­jor­ity owner Fox Sports, was puz­zled about why there was so lit­tle cam­paign ad­ver­tis­ing dur­ing the breaks, just a few weeks be­fore a gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion in New York. Con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple over­see­ing ad buys for Gover­nor An­drew Cuomo’s re­elec­tion cam­paign, which ran a spot dur­ing the Jeter game, of­fered an in­sight: Cam­paigns of­ten don’t think of lo­cal or re­gional sports chan­nels such as YES Net­work when they buy air­time. Many ad­vis­ers “sort of live by the old dogma, which is that you’ve got to start ev­ery po­lit­i­cal buy with buy­ing in the news,” says Jeff Link, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of An­a­lyt­ics Me­dia Group, which ad­vised the Cuomo cam­paign.

Ullman and Fox Sports are look­ing to change that. Base­ball’s sea­son peaks in late Oc­to­ber, just be­fore the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, but with pri­maries still to be con­tested in ma­jor states in­clud­ing New York, which votes April 19, the com­pany sees a chance to gain a big­ger share of the es­ti­mated $4.4 bil­lion can­di­dates and su­per PACS will spend on TV ad­ver­tis­ing this elec­tion. “Most home team games are the No. 1 prime-time pro­gram,” says Ullman. “Every­body— moth­ers, fa­thers, daugh­ters, grand­par­ents—is watch­ing.”

Fox Sports, a sub­sidiary of 21st Cen­tury Fox, sells ads for a group of about 40 re­gional sports chan­nels across the U.S. Af­ter 2014, Fox Sports com­mis­sioned Link’s An­a­lyt­ics Me­dia Group, which grew out of the 2012 Obama cam­paign, and Repub­li­can-af­fil­i­ated Deep Root An­a­lyt­ics to study view­ing habits. Ad­ver­tis­ers al­ready like sports broad­casts, which peo­ple watch live with­out skip­ping ads. The re­searchers found that view­ers of lo­cal sports tend to be un­de­cided vot­ers— ex­actly the peo­ple cam­paigns most want to reach. They’re 2.5 times more likely to trust can­di­dates whose ads they see dur­ing games, al­most twice as likely to re­mem­ber them, and twice as likely as peo­ple who watch lo­cal news to vote for them. “It’s an un­tapped re­source,” says Brent Mcgoldrick, Deep Root’s CEO. “TV me­dia buy­ers tend to buy what they know, so they lit­er­ally don’t have the data or they don’t re­ally know the peo­ple to con­tact to buy on these pro­grams.”

Just as an­a­lyt­ics changed mod­ern base­ball, the data-driven ap­proach to po­lit­i­cal ad buy­ing pi­o­neered by Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2012 cam­paign has pushed can­di­dates and out­side groups such as su­per PACS to look at buy­ing air­time be­yond lo­cal news and syn­di­cated broad­casts. On April 4, the day be­fore Wis­con­sin’s pri­mary, the Fox Sports Wis­con­sin broad­cast of the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers’ open­ing game against the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants was pep­pered with ads for Ted Cruz and Bernie San­ders. (The Brew­ers lost; Cruz and San­ders won.) Lo­cal broad­cast sta­tions cap­tured 85 per­cent of ads dur­ing the 2012 gen­eral elec­tion, but ac­cord­ing to Kan­tar Me­dia, that’s shrunk to 70 per­cent so far this cy­cle as cam­paigns have in­creased spend­ing on lo­cal ca­ble and satel­lite, which al­lows buy­ers to tar­get view­ers in spe­cific ZIP codes rather than blan­ket­ing en­tire cities. Sports events “bud­gets are get­ting much tighter right now for all of the cam­paigns and the PACS,” says Mark Lieber­man, CEO of Vi­a­me­dia, which sells ad time on lo­cal ca­ble net­works. “It’s re­ally forc­ing the cam­paigns and the PACS to spend on a much smarter ba­sis.” �Tim Hig­gins

The bot­tom line Re­gional sports net­works are look­ing to grab a larger slice of the $4.4 bil­lion in 2016 cam­paign ad spend­ing.

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