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Here are year-end advertising revenue and page counts for sports publications in 2004 compared with 2003. Titles are listed in order of their 2004 ad revenue.
Fox hit the streets looking for rate increases above 15 percent for advertising in NASCAR races, but the increases appear to be settling in around the 9 to 10 percent range.
Buyers say the market is healthy but there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about it that would warrant rate hikes out of step with other sports properties.
“I don’t really see it as a double-digit marketplace right now,” said Larry Novenstern, vice president of national broadcast at Deutsch Inc. “Unless someone can show me why it should be, I’m not going to think it is.”
High-single-digit increases have been the norm for advertising in marquee sports programming for the last few years.
The NASCAR market developed late this year, in part because Fox’s sales force has been busy hawking the Super Bowl. But the pace picked up last week and a frenzy will continue this week, with most of the business likely cut by then, Fox executives said.
Fox has benefited from the return of most incumbents and several new NASCAR and race team sponsors buying media.
Buyers say the network has leveraged strong demand for Daytona into larger packages, compelling advertisers to buy into other races to get choice spots and pricing for the Feb. 20 Daytona 500.
It is not unusual for a network to seek 15 percent or greater rate hikes for commercials in a major property, but ultimately to be pleased with a high-single-digit increase. CBS, for example, put a 15 percent bump on NCAA tournament advertising this year when it made initial presentations to buyers, but also ended up settling for the high single digits.
HBO’S “PERFECT UPSET”: HBO Sports documentaries generally focus on events that transcended the playing field and became cultural phenomena. But every once in a while the network turns its historical eye on a good old-fashioned upset.Villanova upset Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas in a game that HBO Sports will revisit.
“Many sports fans can recall exactly where they were that night,” said Rick Bernstein, senior vice president and executive producer of HBO Sports.
Drawing out angles that may have been forgotten over time, the documentary will look at how the Big East Conference sent three teams to the Final Four that year, including Georgetown’s archrival, St. John’s. Georgetown and St. John’s were considered the two best teams in college basketball that year, and their semifinal showdown was largely expected to decide the national champion. When Georgetown advanced to the championship game, Villanova was given little chance of knocking off the Hoyas.
Ewing, Villanova’s Ed Pinckney and St. John’s alum Chris Mullin all will appear in the documentary, along with former coaches John Thompson of Georgetown and Rollie Massimino of Villanova.
C-USA NOT SLATED FOR ESPNU: One interesting element of Conference USA’s new six-year television package is that ESPN won’t be able to show any games from the conference on its new ESPNU channel. That’s something CSTV, which will share Conference USA rights with ESPN, insisted on. Because CSTV is putting up most of the money in the $11.3 million-a-year packages (CSTV reportedly will pay $7.65 million a year, while ESPN will pay $3.65 million), CSTV had the leverage to keep games off its new college-specific rival.
With both its Conference USA and its Mountain West deals, CSTV has pursued a model in which it will have exclusive rights within the “niche college” space — a previously nonexistent genre that now has multiple players, including Fox College Sports — but will not be the only cable network showing conference games. In the Mountain West deal, CSTV guaranteed the conference significant national coverage for some games, as measured by cable penetration levels, which means it will have to buy time on or sublicense rights to another network, such as ESPN or TBS.
With the Conference USA deal, the ESPN component takes care of the broader distribution.
Andy Bernstein can be reached at email@example.com.
For the Week of 1/3/05-1/9/05
LEADING THE PACK: ABC had its best prime-time ratings week in four years, thanks largely to its NFL playoff and BCS championship game coverage finishing among the 20 most-watched shows of the week. The net averaged 15.9 million viewers, easily beating No. 2 CBS (12 million).
WITH HOCKEY ON ICE … : NBC was supposed to kick off its NHL coverage on Jan. 8 but had to find alternative programming because of the league’s lockout. The result: The network aired “The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge” from 3 to 4:30 p.m. ET. The special averaged 2.23 million households, 42.9 percent more than what ABC drew on the same Saturday last year for its season-opening NHL coverage and more than double what NBC got last year with “PGA America’s Year in Review.”
NBA GETS DOGGED: ABC’s Saturday afternoon New York-Cleveland/Denver-San Antonio split national coverage on Jan. 8 averaged 86,000 fewer households than NBC’s dog show, which aired against the game coverage. The NBA broadcast average a 2.0 rating/5 share.
See full chart.
ESPN.com capped 2004 on top of the monthly sports Web site traffic rankings, but its December 2004 traffic count was down more than 15 percent from December 2003, according to recently released Nielsen/NetRatings data.
Notable in the Web world in 2004 was foxsports.com replacing espn.com on July 1 as the primary sports content destination on the MSN system. That change gave the Fox site, rather than espn.com, exposure to MSN’s audience of users, helping fuel foxsports.com’s more than threefold increase in traffic for December 2004 from December 2003.
Here are the top 10 sports Web sites for December 2004, ranked by traffic.
While CBS and Fox were airing NFL playoff games on Jan. 15, ABC aired coverage of the 2005 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships from the Rose Garden in Portland. ABC, which has broadcast the championships since 1962, faces the final year next year of its current eight-year, $96 million rights deal for the event.
Here are ratings for ABC’s coverage in recent years.