MLB hypes plan to cut ad loads; not so fast, say Fox, ESPN

Major League Baseball on Thursday announced a number of rule changes that will impact the game in 2019 and beyond, and among them is a plan to reduce each national commercial break by 25 seconds. Trouble is, the league has yet to secure the approval of the networks.

In a statement, MLB said it would look to speed up the pace of its games by putting the squeeze on the middle-inning and between-inning ad breaks, reducing the commercial time from 2:25 per interval to an even two minutes. In a standard nine-inning game, this would erase the equivalent of 15 30-second spots from the networks’ available inventory, slashing the average in-game load from 67 ads to a hair over 50.

The break-reduction scheme would shave 425 seconds off the length of each nine-frame ballgame, or a little more than 7 minutes. But the cost of keeping things moving would be dear for Fox and ESPN, which rely on the ad sales revenue to subsidize the expense of broadcasting MLB games. For example, if the skinny-pod strategy had been in place during Fox’s Red Sox-Yankees showcase back on June 30, 2018, the network theoretically could have been forced to leave approximately $885,000 on the table. (That estimate, incidentally, is based on Fox’s 2018 unit cost, which in the event of a reduction in available commercial spots, would only increase thanks to the concomitant decline in clutter and the quotidian supply-and-demand dynamics that hold sway over the TV marketplace.)

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