Fox sells out Daytona spots

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NEW YORK -- Fox has sold out its Feb. 17 telecast of the NASCAR Daytona 500, with 30-second spots selling for $550,000 each, up from $475,000 last year, sources familiar with the situation told Mediaweek.

The network has also sold about 90% of its ad inventory for its NASCAR race telecasts through the end of March. Overall, for its 17 race windows into June, Fox has sold close to 85% of its ad inventory, which is more than 20% ahead of last year. Ad inventory for the regular NASCAR race telecasts is selling for about $200,000 per 30, up from $175,000 last season, a 14% increase per unit.

NASCAR sales have been buoyed by strong advertiser interest in several categories, including prescription and over-the-counter drug companies, fast food, wireless, financial services and retail.

The strong ad sales for NASCAR follows last season, which saw TV ratings for Fox's telecasts decline from a 6.4 household rating to a 5.8 and viewers decline to 9.7 million per telecast from 10.6 million.

But those ratings declines last season were mitigated by three rainout telecasts that had to be rebroadcast. Two of those were moved from Saturday night in primetime to Sunday afternoon, and a third telecast aired on a Monday.

Excluding the rainout telecasts, NASCAR ratings on Fox last season were a 5.9, down 3% from the previous year's comparable races, a 6.1, and viewers were down only 2% to 9.8 million from 9.9 million.

But those numbers are still solid ratings and viewership, particularly because NASCAR telecasts are watched by harder-to-reach young men, which many advertisers covet. Fox's male 18-34 rating last season was up 7% to a 3.1.

The TV sports marketplace continues to be strong, and with primetime entertainment program ratings continue to decline at a greater rate than sports ratings, advertisers see TV sports as a very viable alternative. Other than the NFL, NASCAR telecasts offer the second highest ratings for regular season TV sports telecasts.

Fox officials would not comment on the network's NASCAR sales.

The first Fox NASCAR telecast will be Feb. 9 in primetime, when it airs the Budweiser Shootout from Daytona. On Feb. 10 Fox will air the Daytona 500 qualifying races. Both telecasts are sold out.

Sources said Fox sold out the Daytona 500 prior to the Super Bowl, the earliest it's ever sold out.

Fox has the rights to televise the first third of the NASCAR season, which includes the Daytona 500 qualifying race and Daytona 500 and 12 other Sprint Cup races, in addition to the Budweiser Shootout and two NASCAR Craftsman Truck races.
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