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NBC LOOKS TO RETAIN ITS YOUTH DEMO WITH GRAVITY GAMES
Published November 6, 1998
NBC Sports and Petersen Companies announced Thursday a joint venture in which they will create the Gravity Games, an extreme-sports competition that will air on NBC next fall. The inaugural Gravity Games will be in a four-day format featuring eleven sports including skateboarding, inline skating, wakeboarding and freestyle motorcross competitions. In addition, the Gravity Games will also feature a music and entertainment component with live performances, product demonstrations and interactive clinics between fans and athletes. The games will take place in an undetermined U.S. city next summer and be broadcast on NBC over ten hours of programming on Sundays next fall. Advantage Int'l will create and operate the event, while NBC and Petersen will share ownership of the Games, including plans for a Winter Gravity Games in 2000 (NBC Sports). INTEGRATED APPROACH: In L.A., Greg Johnson writes that "the endorsement by two media giants is seen as further proof that alternative sports once dismissed as kids-only fads are coming of age." NBC Sports VP Ed Markey: "We're looking at something on the order of 'Extreme Lollapalooza.' It should be about 85% competition and 15% lifestyle." Johnson writes that San Diego, L.A., Atlanta and Miami are "reportedly" a few of the cities being considered to host the Games (L.A. TIMES, 11/6). AD AGE reports that the Games will receive media support through print ads in Peterson's 16 sports-related titles beginning in March, as well as through ads on NBC and in outdoor media. The Games will also have a Web site, http://www.gravitygames.com, that will eventually include e-commerce (AD AGE, 11/5). X-CELLENT ADVENTURE? USA TODAY's Sal Ruibal writes that NBC's Gravity Games now become a competitor of ESPN's X Games, whose format "has been one of the most successful ideas on cable television." Petersen Chair James Dunning, Jr.: "These sports have experienced a tremendous surge in popularity and now define the male youth culture" (USA TODAY, 11/6). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes that NBC recognized that extreme sports "offer an opening to explore a viewer niche that is rarely touched by conventional sports." He adds that the X Games "have helped ESPN reach the viewers NBC craves," such as the 12 to 34 year-old demo which accounted for 51% of the Games' audience last year. NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer: "We never sensed that ESPN owned the entirety of the market. There's an abundance of room" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/6). NBC Sports Chair Dick Ebersol: "ESPN does a terrific job with the competition, but we are looking to make the Gravity Games edgier, with much more emphasis on lifestyle and entertainment. The networks are losing the audience in the 18-34 or 12-34 male groups. We felt we needed a vehicle to introduce those `lost boys' into our parts of the world" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/6). ESPN spokesperson Mike Solyts: "We are not surprised others would follow our lead" (USA TODAY, 11/6).