March 8, 1995 in Sports

Replacement Ads Are Anything But Big Sellers

Richard Sandomir New York Times

Beyond dropped balls, inept double plays and a rotund Pedro Borbon, replacement baseball now means lost advertising. If replacement players open the season, 95 percent of the MSG Network’s advertisers will stay out.

Some advertisers have refused offers of free advertising to stay in.

“They’d rather wait until the strike is over than be part of replacement baseball,” said Jim Liberatore, MSG’s acting head of sales. “A lot have unions, and if they buy time, they’d look like they’re crossing picket lines.”

Liberatore said MSG has allowed long-term sponsors to pull out of commercial commitments in anticipation that major leaguers will return with enough time left in the season for the network to run all contracted advertising.

He said the advertisers who are balking at Yankee games have not had commercials shifted to valuable, nearly sold-out Knicks and Rangers games.

Advertisers know that replacement baseball will yield only a small percentage of the ratings they desire, and they would rather spend their money in other areas that yield the same male 18-to-49 viewer baseball does.

“Replacement players aren’t legitimate, and the public isn’t buying into it,” said David Ianucci of McCann-Erickson, the account supervisor for the local GMC Truck dealers. He said dealers were sensitive to the union issue, “but the main consideration was the legitimacy of all this.”

Nationally, ESPN’s slate of 77 telecasts starts April 2.

“We’re not where we’d like to be,” said Ed Durso, ESPN’s executive vice president. “We’d like to be doing better. We’re not dead in the water. Many advertisers are hesitant. There’s a cloud out there.”

TBS, meanwhille, which saw $100 million in business disappear when players went on strike Aug. 12, is prepared to make the necessary arrangements to keep advertisers happy, strike or no strike.

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