SBD/Issue 227/Events & Attractions

On The Streets Of Philadelphia, The X Games Kick Off Today

The Summer X Games opens today in Philadelphia, and "more than 200,000 fans are expected to show up for the five-day celebration" of extreme sports, according to Sal Ruibal of USA TODAY. ESPN/ABC's coverage of the event begins tomorrow, and X Games Manager of Communications Josh Krulewitz said, "For TV viewers, we'll put out a totally new graphics look and lots of new camera angles. You'll see things you've never seen before at the X Games." Meanwhile, Ruibal notes that since the X Games launched in '95, the NSGA says that "only three sports registered growth in participation for boys 7-17: skateboarding (129.6% increase from 1995 to 2000), snowboarding (119.3%) and golf (31.8%) (USA TODAY, 8/15). Last year's event, also in Philadelphia, "hosted a record 234,950 spectators" (A.C. PRESS, 8/14).

BIG IMPACT: ESPN VP/Programming & Global X Games Managing Dir Ron Semiao, on the effect the event has had on other sports: "Primarily, the influence from the X Games is the recognition of the appeal that these sports have to kids. We see that across a lot of sports. NBA teams will bring bike stunt athletes to do demos at halftime. ... We are getting asked from the leagues, 'How can our sports stay in touch with yours?'" More Semiao, on the tape-delayed X Games broadcasts: "It's not like we can't do it live. The reason we don't do the X Games live is that our viewers tell us, 'We don't want them live.' The kids say, 'I want the best show that you can give me'" (AP, 8/15).

MONEY MAKER: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Rick Westhead wrote the X Games has "become a profitable hit for [ESPN] by drawing young, action-oriented male viewers who are coveted by advertisers." ESPN's "only costs are about $1[M] in prize money and $10[M] for production, expenses that are more than offset by $22.9[M] in revenue from advertising and sponsorships." While advertisers spent $6.7M on last year's telecast, led by AT&T's $517,000, ESPN also gets about $2.7M from each of its six "gold-level" sponsors, "up from $1.2[M] apiece in the event's early years." Last year's X Games drew a 0.9 average Nielsen rating, up from 0.7 in '00. iNDemand Senior VP/Programming Dan York, whose PPV service carries the Gravity Games, an X Games competitor, said, "Given its ratings compared to major sports, one could call extreme sports mainstream already" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 8/14). ESPN/ABC President of Customer Marketing & Ad Sales Ed Erhardt appeared on last night's edition of CNNfn's "The Biz" to discuss the marketing behind the X Games. Erhardt said of the target demo, "It's a very difficult audience to reach, and I think that's why it's got such appeal. ... It's very interesting how companies kind of utilize the X franchise and the X audience. Many times companies will change their marketing strategy to go after this segment as a way to really splash into the marketplace. It's a hard to reach demo, and because it's a hard to reach demo, it can command premium pricing." Erhardt, on X Games ratings: "In the last year, we've had double-digit growth on ABC and on ESPN and ESPN2. What's unique about the X Games is it's bigger than just a television buy. It incorporates ESPN The Magazine, huge EXPN.com play — which you would expect given the audience — so it's multimedia and on-site. (250,000) people are going to be in front of these kinds of advertisers and their products, so they really try to surround them 360, if you will" ("The Biz," CNNfn, 8/14).

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