Screencap courtesy of Digiday.

The World Series is getting a lot of attention right now and all eyes are tuned in to Fox. While NFL ratings are down CBS is reporting that the first two World Series games had an average audience of 18.3 million viewers, the most since 2009, which is promising for the MLB and broadcasters.

Those are impressive numbers. But with the rise of second-screen viewing on mobile devices, the use of DVRs, and even timing bathroom trips with commercial breaks, people are less engaged than ever during commercials. Brands are now demanding additional engagement opportunities and the networks have begun to recognize the need to keep viewers engaged during on-screen promotions. To do this they are turning to native ads and sponsored segments more frequently than ever, and the World Series features a prime example.

Fox Sports + T-Mobile Native World Series Segment

While baseball isn’t my first evening TV choice the combination of my new role and Chicago’s attempt to overcome their “curse” has me tuning in every night. The baseball has been good but I have been paying especially close attention to the sponsorship opportunities, and something Fox is testing caught my eye.

In the middle of the third inning during game 1 of the World Series, Fox Sports skipped a traditional commercial break in favor of a native, sponsored content segment that they are calling a commercial-free break. The segment – pictured above – lasted two minutes and featured a fixed T-Mobile ONE logo on the screen. After the segment the host read a short live-read at the back end to wrap things up.

Fox and T-Mobile are betting that by providing ongoing original content in place of a traditional commercial more viewers will keep their attention locked to their TVs instead of seeking stimulation elsewhere. Though I don’t know for sure, my bet would be that they are right.

NBC Sports + Ryder Cup ‘Golf Playing Through’ Segment

Watching golf isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who can’t get enough, missing action during commercial breaks is a common source of frustration. Unlike many other sports, in golf the play does not stop during a commercial break. Though replays of notable shots are provided when the action returns, it can be frustrating to miss what could be a key moment while a commercial is running.

To solve this, NBC Sports premiered a new sponsored segment in place of select commercial breaks during the 2016 Ryder Cup called Golf Playing Through.

golf playing through sponsored sports segment

Image credit goes to Michael Shamburger.

This segment placed a series of full 30 second commercial spots next to the smaller broadcast of live golf. Brands also received a static logo above the action that remained in place for the duration of the accompanying spot. At first I imagined advertisers would be put off by this segment, but the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense for all parties involved. Here’s why:

  • As a fan, I was happy to be able to see more live golf, even if it was a smaller part of the screen.
  • I was less likely to turn to my iPhone to catch up with Twitter or Instagram, remaining more engaged during these segments.
  • I wasn’t compelled to change the channel during live golf, which is great for the brand whose spot is running.
  • Additional viewership and less channel surfing boosts Average Minute Audience (AMA) numbers, helping the networks.

To be clear, I recognize that I am basing these observations on a sample of one. That said, there are at least enough positives here to call this a worthwhile experiment.

Tyson + The Player’s Tribune ‘Legends at the Grill’

Native has been growing in popularity in the digital space recently, too. Recently I stumbled upon a partnership between Tyson and The Player’s Tribune called Legends at the Grill.


The microsite, pictured above and linked here, features former professional athletes and The Player’s Tribune contributors appearing at barbecues serving Tyson’s product. Although the videos don’t have many views yet, creating this compelling original content involving Tyson product is a great way to drive additional value out of a traditional sponsorship agreement. With the use of ad blockers on the rise, it’s quickly becoming more important than ever for brands to find new ways to tell compelling stories that consumers will actually want to watch.

Though the brands and networks mentioned above have not released pricing or performance data for these new segments, you can bet that we are going to start seeing more of this type of sponsorship as the competition for valuable viewer attention heats up.

Have you seen any great sponsored or native content recently? Hit me up on Twitter @MathewBernstein and let me know.