SBJ/September 1 - 7, 2003/This Weeks Issue

USTA looks at potential competitors for CBS on U.S. Open rights

The U.S. Tennis Association has been quietly gauging interest from the broadcast networks to see if any would make a competitive bid against CBS for the rights to future U.S. Open tournaments.

CBS' deal expires after this year, but the USTA has an option to extend it for one more year. A USTA-affiliated source said no decision has been made on exercising.

It's been a difficult time for the other tennis Grand Slam rights holders, as the French Open and Wimbledon both settled for rights-fee reductions on the cable side and did not get increases with their latest broadcast network deals.

But the U.S. Open has generally been considered a strong property for CBS and a moneymaker in most years.

ABC could have interest but would run into Saturday afternoon conflicts with college football.

The more likely contender would be NBC, which already has Wimbledon and the French Open. NASCAR represents NBC's main scheduling conflict.

USTA officials could not be reached for comment.

  ADT DEAL WORTH ALMOST $30M: The ADT Security Services Inc. deal that includes title sponsorship of the college football national championship trophy, announced last week, will cost the company close to $30 million over three years, making it one of the most lucrative advertising packages sold by the ABC Sports/ESPN sales team. But ADT is paying less than previous sponsors. Sears paid $10 million a year for four years, and Circuit City did a one-year deal for $9.5 million a year ago, a source said.

ABC Sports/ESPN’s Ed Erhardt (from left), ADT Security Services Inc. President Mike Snyder, and ABC commentator Terry Bowden with the ADT-sponsored college football national championship trophy

ADT negotiated a slightly better price for the package, which includes extensive advertising inventory on both ABC and various ESPN networks, the source said.

The deal includes presenting sponsorship of the featured college football game on ABC to be called the "BCS Spotlight Game of the Week," sponsorship of an "ADT Spotlight Game of the Week" on ESPN Classic and sponsorship of the "ADT Coaches Spotlight" on ESPNews.

It includes advertising inventory on ABC broadcasts of all four BCS games.

ADT views the deal in a "holistic" sense, placing value on both the media and sponsorship marketing elements, said Jay Stuck, vice president of residential marketing and corporate communications.

"The media exposure is big and will benefit our sales efforts," he said. "Secondly, from a brand-building aspect, the national championship trophy is definitely going to increase awareness of ADT."

Sears and Circuit City arguably never got traction with consumers around the trophy, which did not exactly knock the Heisman off its perch as the most recognized piece of hardware in college football. It probably didn't even have as much recognition as the Dick Butkus Award, which goes to the nation's top linebacker.

But Stuck said ADT has consumer promotions and tie-ins planned that will help make the ADT Trophy a household name for many years.

"We view this as a multiyear relationship," he said. "At the end of three years, I'm sure we're going to look back with an eye toward continuing."

Next up for ABC Sports/ESPN: presenting sponsorship of the Rose Bowl. It was a late sell to Sony PlayStation last year, but ABC/ESPN hopes to have a deal done much sooner this time around.

  MTV HITS THE STREET: Exploring the mythic roots of street basketball through the Nike brand, MTV will air a prime-time special on Sept. 7 called "Battlegrounds: Ball or Fall," chronicling a six-city one-on-one streetball competition staged by the sneaker giant. Nike served as the executive producer of the show, which will include highlights from the competition as well as profiles of the players who go one-on-one in an elimination tournament to win the title of "King of Kings" and $35,000. New York-based Radical handled the main production duties.

The distinctly urban special is hosted by the poet Sekou and features appearances by NBA stars such as Gary Payton, Penny Hardaway and Baron Davis. Players compete on a customized half court with hip-hop music blaring in the background. Each regional winner got a one-year Nike apparel deal, a billboard in his home city, a $5,000 check for his favorite charity and, according to an information sheet released by Nike, "a lifetime of street cred."

Andy Bernstein can be reached at abernstein@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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