Fox and Major League Baseball announced today that the start of Game 3 of the 2010 World Series on Saturday night, Oct. 30, will be at 6:57 p.m., the earliest start for any World Series Game since 1987.
The early start is being made possible by what Fox and MLB described as "an additional level of advertising support" from Chevrolet, one of MLB's official sponsors and a long-time advertiser on MLB games on Fox.
No specifics were released on what the additional level of ad support would entail, but sources familiar with the negotiations said Chevrolet will double its number of 30 second commercial units in Game 3, and is discussing some type of in-game enhancements that are still being worked out. They could include things like on screen mentions or sponsorships of stats.
The reason additional revenue needed to be generated for Fox, sources said, is that the amount advertisers pay is based on viewer totals and viewing levels between 7-8 p.m. are traditionally lower than from 8-9 p.m.
One source said the earlier start could mean total viewer levels that are 2 to 4 percent lower for the 7-8 p.m. hour.
Fox pays north of $250 million per year for its current deal that runs through 2013, which includes regular season Saturday afternoon games (and a few night games), the MLB All-Star game, one post-season League Championship Series per year, and the World Series. MLB and Fox have been working toward earlier starts of post-season games but it hasn't been easy to do. One obstacle has been getting the Fox affiliate stations to give up a half hour of local programming time to accommodate the network telecast of the game.
In 2009, the start times for World Series games on Fox was moved up to 7:57 p.m. from the previous years, when the start times were between 8:25 and 8:35 p.m. But that was a result of the Fox stations giving up that half hour, so that Fox Sports could air it's World Series pre-game show beginning at 7:30 instead of at 8 p.m.
The broadcast networks' deals with their affiliates define network prime-time as being from 8-11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with prime time beginning for the networks at 7 p.m. only on Sundays.
"Starting the game earlier will allow more families to watch together," said Chris Perry, vp, U.S. marketing for Chevrolet. "This fits perfectly with our commitment to baseball, which stretches from youth teams across the country to MLB."
"We've said over the years that if advertisers were willing to support earlier starts at prime time levels, we'd be able to begin games earlier," said Fox Sports president Eric Shanks. "We're excited to be working with MLB and Chevrolet, along with our Fox owned stations and affiliates to make this happen."
The Saturday night Series telecast will be the only one with an earlier start. All of the weeknight Series starts will be at 7:57 p.m. The Sunday night, Oct. 31 game telecast will begin at 8:20 p.m. because of Fox's commitment to televising the National Football League game that could run over if the Series game started earlier.
"I am extremely pleased we are able to provide our fans the earliest World Series start time since 1987 with Saturday's Game Three," said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. "The changes we made with Fox last year to start the World Series games earlier helped increase viewership including more young fans and we are optimistic that the earlier start time for Game Three will keep us moving in the same direction."