SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Media

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  • Bush strategist: Sports reaches voters

    Bush used ads on the Olympics and other events in his campaign against John Kerry.

    The chief strategist of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign says that advertising on sports telecasts was one of the Republicans’ most effective strategies last year, and he expects sports to be a focal point for many campaigns in the future.

    “It was very important,” said Matthew Dowd, the architect of Bush-Cheney media and target marketing strategies, following an appearance at the NBA’s Technology Summit held the Friday before the All-Star Game in Denver. “Traditionally, political campaigns avoided [sports advertising], because of cost and because there was a thought that people didn’t want to hear about politics while watching sports.”

    But Dowd said sports ads offered a chance to reach audiences with specific political leanings, because different sports attract different types of individuals. NASCAR, golf and hockey were identified as sports with heavy Republican audiences, while basketball viewers leaned more Democratic, Dowd said.

    The campaign went as far as to pinpoint specific broadcasts during the Olympics to match up ads with particular sports.

    “We found, for example, we could reach female Republicans through gymnastics,” Dowd said.

    He said the Bush-Cheney campaign spent more than $20 million during the Olympics in August, on both Olympic broadcasts and other programming.

    Dowd also described college football as a “very good buy,” especially when the matchup was two schools that hailed from so-called “swing-vote” states.

    The Bush-Cheney campaign primarily tried to reach Republicans through its TV ads, to stress key messages of the re-election campaign, Dowd said. The campaign bought television time primarily on a local basis but also purchased some national cable, including on ESPN.

    Dowd said the success with sports will transform political campaigns.

    “My guess is the share going to sports will go up,” he said.

    Print | Tags: ESPN, NASCAR, NBA, Olympics
  • Buying time: A-B leads ad list for featured events

    Anheuser-Busch Cos. led the way among companies that advertised during coverage of both the Daytona 500 (Fox) and NBA All-Star Game (TNT) on Feb. 20. A-B is signed with each property as an official sponsor.


    Following are the national companies that had at least 2:00 of ad time on either of the event broadcasts, including pre- and post-event coverage. Neither network promotions nor segment sponsors are represented. Feeds were monitored from Charlotte.
    For more on the advertisers for these two events, please see


    DAYTONA 500
    Anheuser-Busch (Bud Select, Bud Light, Busch)
    4:00 (7)
    1:00 (2)
    5:00 (9)
    2:30 (5)
    2:00 (4)
    4:30 (9)
    Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut, KFC)
    4:00 (8)
    0:30 (1)
    4:30 (9)
    4:00 (8)
    4:00 (8)
    Coca-Cola (Sprite)
    2:00 (2)
    2:00 (3)
    4:00 (5)
    3:00 (6)
    3:00 (6)
    3:00 (6)
    3:00 (6)
    Paramount (“The Longest Yard,” “Sahara”)
    2:30 (5)
    0:30 (1)
    3:00 (6)
    3:00 (6)
    3:00 (6)
    0:30 (1)
    2:00 (4)
    2:30 (5)
    2:30 (3)
    2:30 (3)
    2:00 (4)
    2:00 (4)
    MGM (“Be Cool”)
    2:00 (4)
    2:00 (4)
    2:00 (4)
    2:00 (4)
    American Express
    2:00 (3)
    2:00 (3)
    2:00 (3)
    2:00 (3)
    Research by Paul Sanford, The Sports Business Daily

    Print | Tags: Basketball, Motorsports, NASCAR, NBA, Nokia, Verizon
  • Cablevision, Fox swap assets

    Last week’s announcement that Cablevision and Fox Entertainment Group will swap sports assets could be a precursor to Cablevision CEO James Dolan taking full ownership of Madison Square Garden, several Wall Street analysts said.

    It also spelled the effective end of the joint venture in regional sports television between the two companies.

    Cablevision Systems Corp. and Fox are joint owners of an entity called “Regional Programming Partners,” which owns Madison Square Garden and seven regional sports networks, most of which are affiliated with Fox Sports Net. They also each have a 50 percent interest in Fox Sports Net’s national programming and advertising arm.

    Division of power
    How the joint assets of Cablevision and News Corp. will be divided
    Madison Square Garden
    New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty
    Radio City Entertainment
    MSG Network
    FSN New York and FSN Chicago
    50 percent of FSN New England*
    News Corp.:
    Fox Sports Net (national advertising and programming)
    FSN Ohio and FSN Florida
    * Comcast owns the other 50 percent of FSN New England.
    Note: Fox Sports Net was 50/50 joint venture between News Corp. and Cablevision. FSN Ohio and FSN Florida were 60 percent owned by Cablevision and 40 percent owned by Fox. FSN Bay Area will remain a 60/40 joint venture between Cablevision and Fox.
    The transaction, which will be a cashless, tax-free swap of assets, will leave Cablevision with full ownership of Madison Square Garden and related New York-based sports franchises and regional sports networks. Fox will become full owner of Fox Sports Net’s affiliates in Florida and Ohio. All of those assets had been 60 percent owned by Cablevision. Fox also will become the 100 percent owner of Fox Sports Net’s national programming and advertising arm, which had been a 50/50 joint venture with Cablevision. The total value of the assets was about $2.4 billion, according to a report issued by Merrill Lynch.

    Several analysts said that having full ownership of Madison Square Garden could free up Dolan to sell Cablevision’s cable business and take private ownership of all of the company’s New York sports properties. That includes the arena, the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty, MSG Network, Fox Sports Net New York, and the operating rights to Radio City Music Hall.

    “Having full control of the New York sports assets gives Jim Dolan something to do after he creates value for shareholders by selling off the cable assets,” said Richard Greenfield, a media analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners.

    The company recently sold off its struggling Voom satellite business.

    Dolan’s stewardship of Madison Square Garden, which began when Cablevision bought a 50 percent interest in the arena and its teams in 1994, has been controversial. The Knicks and Rangers have both struggled despite having large payrolls, and the regional sports networks lost rights to the New York Yankees and Mets, touching off legal action against both clubs.

    Madison Square Garden, under Dolan, has led attempts to block the New York Jets from building a stadium near the Garden, and offered to buy the land envisioned for the stadium for $600 million as a pre-emptive strike. Several analysts speculated that this was one reason Fox wanted to exit its partnership with Cablevision, as it would have been financially responsible for 40 percent of that purchase.

    Fox and Cablevision officials declined to comment.

    Madison Square Garden and its related assets had revenue of $778 million last year and earnings of $41 million, according to Cablevision’s annual earnings report released last week.

    The regional sports networks that were jointly owned by the company and Fox, which also include Fox Sports Net Bay Area, Chicago and New England, had revenue of $387 million and earnings of $35 million, Cablevision’s annual report said. Fox’s ownership stake in FSN Chicago and New England will be assumed by Cablevision as part of the transaction, while Bay Area will remain a partnership, with Cablevision having a 60 percent stake and Fox owning 40 percent. However, Fox will have more operational control of FSN Bay Area than it had previously.

    FSN New England is half-owned by Comcast Corp., leading to analyst speculation that Comcast will buy Cablevision’s stake and make it part of Comcast’s growing stable of regional sports networks.

    Fox Sports Net’s national programming and advertising, which had been a 50/50 joint venture between the two companies, lost $50 million in Fox’s most recent fiscal year.

    Print | Tags: Fox, Merrill Lynch, New York Jets, New York Knicks, New York Liberty, New York Rangers
  • MetroStars in the news biz

    The MetroStars this season will become the first MLS team to offer an online team-related newscast on their Web site.

    Chris Canetti, vice president of marketing for the MetroStars, said the team is going to streamline video to its Web site in six- to eight-minute packages every Tuesday and Thursday.

    The broadcasts, which will begin airing a couple of weeks before the start of the season in April, will include player interviews and behind-the-scenes video clips, Canetti said.

    The news clips will run twice a week throughout the year for a total of 60 broadcasts. Canetti said the team is selling commercial time and sponsorship opportunities for the newscasts.

    “Inventory for us is hard to come by,” he said. “This is another possible revenue stream.” The team has not sold any sponsors or ad spots yet, but Canetti said those would likely be part of a larger, fully integrated team deal.

    Canetti said the initial investment for the digital video equipment will be less than $10,000. SportsOnEarth will be responsible for uploading the footage to the site each week.

    Print | Tags: MLS, Soccer
  • NFL Pro Bowl, Daytona 500 ratings

    Click image to enlarge


    Recent weekends have brought the last event of the NFL season and the first points event of the new NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season. Following are the markets that posted the highest ratings for coverage of this year’s Pro Bowl and Daytona 500.


    NFL Pro Bowl Daytona 500
    When: Feb. 13, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) When: Feb. 20, 1 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Avg. rating^


    Avg. rating
    Pittsburgh (19)
    Greensboro, N.C. (48)
    New Orleans (41)
    Orlando (20)
    San Diego (26)
    Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C./Asheville, N.C. (35)
    Boston (5)
    Charlotte (28)
    Providence, R.I. (49)
    Atlanta (9)
    Indianapolis (25)
    Nashville (30)
    Atlanta (9)
    Jacksonville (52)
    Norfolk, Va. (41)
    Indianapolis (25)
    Philadelphia (4)
    Knoxville, Tenn. (59)
    Buffalo (46)
    Dayton, Ohio (56)
    * Ranked by number of TV households
    ^ Coverage-area ratings
    ^^ Fast national rating. Final rating was not available at press time.
    Sources: ESPN, Fox
    Research by Katherine Johnson-Reid, The Sports Business Daily

    Print | Tags: ESPN, Football, Fox, Motorsports, NASCAR, NBC, NFL
  • NFL quiet as a Mouse over what Disney must pay to keep the NFL

    The Walt Disney Co. is waiting for the NFL to put a dollar figure on what it will take to keep the NFL, a company source says. It’s been two months since Disney offered $900 million for ESPN to keep football on Sunday nights and $450 million for “Monday Night Football” on ABC.

    NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Disney Chief Operating Officer Robert Iger have met at least twice since then, including one meeting in the last two weeks. But the talks have not progressed past the league indicating Disney will have to spend more to keep all of its NFL rights.

    Also back on the table, a Disney source said, is the idea of flip-flopping Sunday and Monday nights, with ESPN becoming the “Monday Night Football” rights holder and ABC showing games on Sunday nights.

    The $900 million offer from ESPN probably has considerable play in it, as the network might spend as much as $1 billion to hold onto a full season of NFL rights. The Sunday night package is still split into separate first-half and second-half rights agreements, and the NFL can extract a premium for granting ESPN both, rather than allowing a rival like TNT, which previously had a half-season of rights, from returning.

    As for the $450 million ABC bid, the source said there is little room for negotiation off that number, and ABC is prepared to lose “Monday Night Football” if the price isn’t right.

    HOOPS RATINGS STEADY: College basketball ratings are holding steady compared with last season on most networks. CBS is flat at a 1.8 household rating through 17 telecasts. Ratings for the male 18-34 and male 18-49 demographics were off a tenth of a point each, to a 1.0 and 1.1, respectively.

    ESPN is up slightly for its 86 telecasts, averaging a 1.1 compared to a 1.0 last season. But it has shown healthy gains in the key male demographics, averaging a 0.9 for both the 18 to 34s and 18 to 49s. Last season those demos averaged a 0.6 and a 0.7, respectively.

    ESPN2 college basketball ratings are flat, but up slightly in total households, 428,000 vs. 416,000. That network has shown 20 more games than last season to this point, 102 total, primarily because college basketball has been used as a replacement for canceled NHL games.

    The one network to struggle with college basketball this year has been ABC, averaging a 1.5 rating for four games. Last season, it had averaged a 1.9.

    COMCAST SPORTS PROGRAMMING: With multiple regional sports networks as well as regional news channels in its stable, Comcast Corp. is starting to develop some sports programming intended for national distribution. The first such foray is “Out of Bounds,” a half-hour sports interview magazine show produced through the CN8 local news station out of Philadelphia.

    The show, which debuts March 7 and will air each weeknight at 11 p.m. local time, will air in markets from Sacramento to Boston, reaching a total of 14.6 million homes.

    Andy Bernstein can be reached at

    Print | Tags: ABC, Basketball, Colleges, Comcast, ESPN, Football, NCAA, NFL, NHL
  • Nielsen Weekly Sports Ranking

    For the week of 2/7/05-2/13/05

    AFL’S WEAK THREE: The average rating for NBC’s Sunday afternoon regional AFL coverage on Feb. 13 dropped 21 percent over last year’s comparable game and was 35 percent lower than that weekend’s game in 2003. The 1.1 average for what was this season’s third weekend of play is the league’s lowest this early in the season since NBC began carrying AFL games in 2003. In each of the previous two seasons, ratings have stayed at or above a 1.2 average until week six of the season. This year’s AFL season started one week earlier in the year than the past two seasons and featured a first-time-ever opening-weekend doubleheader.

    UNC TOP 10 IN BOTH POLLS: About 2.3 million households watched the North Carolina-Duke men’s basketball matchup on Feb. 9, up 63.5 percent over last year’s early February game, which also was played on a Wednesday night. About 2.5 million viewers watched CBS’ early Sunday afternoon UNC-UConn game, making it the seventh-most-watched sports program of the week.

    Click here for full chart.

    Print | Tags: ABC, Basketball, Cleveland Cavaliers, Colleges, ESPN, Football, Fox, Golf, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Motorsports, NASCAR, NBA, NCAA, NFL, PGA Tour, San Antonio Spurs
  • OLN aims for ‘actumentary’

    Outdoor Life Network will air the Winter Gravity Games in what it calls “actumentary” format, a production style it is devising to separate Gravity from its more competition-oriented rivals.

    The March 3-6 competition will be filmed with enhancements such as variable-speed and high-definition cameras, and the action will be edited in novel ways and carefully integrated with music, said John Carter, vice president of production and executive producer for the games.

    OLN hopes its coverage of the Gravity Games sets them apart from other events.
    When the original production airs March 27-30, it will feel as much like a documentary or action video as a televised sports event, he said.

    “There’s a lot of clutter in the marketplace now,” Carter said. “We feel we can redefine it and go a little bit back toward the core or the root of the sports and give a sense of a backyard or local park-type competition without scaling down on the national championship aspect of the event.

    “What has been lost is sort of the passion and a lot of the camaraderie and music-driven motivation of actual events.”

    Production costs will be roughly the same, he said, with expenses shifting to the post-production side. There will be relatively less expense in on-site resources such as talent and mobile units.

    Bode Miller and skiing are already drawing winter-sports fans to Outdoor Life.
    Saturn (the presenting sponsor) and Yamaha Motorsports are the event’s two major sponsors, and Snickers, Edge Advanced and Champion are new sponsors and advertisers.

    Outdoor Life Network bought the Gravity Games from Octagon in January 2004, and the planned changes follow a trend of action television properties adjusting their presentation.

    ESPN’s Summer X Games went to narrower, more elite fields of athletes this year and tied in the airings with “SportsCenter” telecasts.

    Vans has focused its efforts away from its Triple Crown, applying that name to only three surf events this summer and adding programs like title sponsorship of the Vans Invitational in Portland in August, one of five stops on the new Dew Tour, the NBC/Clear Channel property.

    The Dew Tour is taking more of a traditional-sports-competition approach than the others. The series rewards season champions and has invitationals to draw new talent into the mix.

    Print | Tags: Clear Channel Communications, ESPN, NBC, Outdoor Channel
  • Speed Channel, NASCAR Images may share a new home

    Two motorsports-related media companies are searching for new homes, with the potential for collaborating on a 125,000-square-foot hub in the Charlotte area opening as soon as 2007.

    Speed Channel, owned by News Corp., and NASCAR Images, a joint venture between the stock car sanctioning body and News Corp., have outgrown their existing facilities in the city, as Speed Channel now occupies 19,000 square feet and NASCAR Images, a film archive and video production company, has 30,000 square feet.

    Speed Channel works closely with NASCAR Images on much of the network’s stock car programming. “The idea that could make financial sense [for building a new headquarters] is that we’re together,” said Jim Liberatore, Speed Channel president.

    Neither Liberatore nor Jay Abraham, chief executive at NASCAR Images, has any estimate on what a new facility might cost.

    For Liberatore, a decision on what to do next must come by midyear. Speed Channel’s lease runs out at the end of 2006. Since the network was acquired by News Corp. for $750 million in 2001 and relocated to Charlotte in February 2002, its staff has grown to 66 employees, up from 44 three years earlier.

    Industry experts predict the News Corp. stakes in both Speed Channel and NASCAR Images will persuade the two companies to share a new home.

    Abraham declined comment on NASCAR Images’ size and scope, but industry analysts say the company employs 90, with plans for additional staff expansion.

    Sites for a possible new hub have not been determined.

    H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, president at Speedway Motorsports Inc. in Concord, N.C., just north of Charlotte, said: “We would like to see them in this part of town. The biggest thing, though, is to make sure we keep them somewhere in North Carolina and don’t let them slip across the border.”

    The speedway executive acknowledged earlier discussion about potentially pairing a Speed Channel location with the upcoming bid for a NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte, but he said land costs complicate those talks.

    Industry consultant Terry Hanson, a former executive at Turner Sports, said pairing a Hall of Fame with expansive TV venues uptown may not be far-fetched. A similar strategy worked at the PGA Tour hub outside Jacksonville, where a museum and TV production facilities are housed near a signature course that hosts the golf circuit’s version of an all-star event, the Players Championship.

    “Since the city is trying to hang on [to the NASCAR all-star race], this could be an ideal combination,” he said. “Having the sport’s broadcasting partners added to the mix makes perfect sense.”

    Both media companies want to stay in the region, since NASCAR’s teams and business concerns are concentrated in and around Charlotte.

    “What makes the most sense is to be closer to the track, the drivers and all the rest,” Liberatore said. “But it will come down to 10 percent what makes sense and 90 percent what we can afford. That’s just how it works.”

    NASCAR-related shows account for 60 percent of Speed Channel’s programming. At NASCAR Images, all of its work — spread across DVDs, production and event-planning — is focused on NASCAR.

    Hanson and other experts say the relocation of the two media outfits presents an opportunity for business recruiters and local governments to support the burgeoning sports media industry here.

    Liberatore and Abraham, the executives at Speed Channel and NASCAR Images, both anticipate staff increases in the coming years. For Speed Channel, which is comparable in size to The Golf Channel in cable household distribution, rapid growth has made the network a $1.3 billion property in value, according to a 2004 Credit Suisse Boston report.

    Liberatore hopes the network can expand its reach to compare with ESPN2, Spike TV and The Learning Channel, which all reach 88 million U.S. homes or more. TNT reaches 88.8 million homes and ESPN is seen in 89.1 million, according to Kagan figures compiled in December.

    Erik Spanberg writes for The Business Journal in Charlotte.

    Print | Tags: ESPN, Motorsports, NASCAR, PGA Tour, Speedway Motorsports Inc., Spike TV
  • Turner targets NBA limit

    Turner Sports and the NBA won’t begin negotiating a new television deal until this spring, but battle lines already are being drawn.

    No matter how much promotion Turner throws at TNT’s exclusive Thursday night broadcasts, it is the matchups that drive NBA ratings. That’s why Turner is expected to demand the rights to broadcast more games of any one team when both sides begin talking on a new deal after the regular season ends in April.

    Turner is now allowed to broadcast a maximum of nine games of any one team, and the network gets the national exclusive broadcast rights to six of those nine games. Teams can broadcast Thursday games locally if they have appeared more than six times on Turner, creating side-by-side NBA programming in their markets.

    That’s not enough for Turner, which is in the third year of a six-year agreement that pays the NBA $365 million annually for the exclusive rights to Thursday night broadcasts. Turner recently announced that it was increasing its minority stake in NBA TV, a sign of a growing business relationship between the league and the network that dates back to 1984 when Turner began airing NBA games.

    The NBA, mindful that its teams don’t want to give up an abundance of local broadcasts to Turner, is expected to balk at Turner’s request.

    “It’s a sensitive issue for teams,” said Adam Silver, president of NBA Entertainment.

    “The NBA wants to protect its local broadcasts of teams,” said Turner Sports President David Levy, “but I’d like flexibility.”

    The issue is of greater concern for top NBA teams that already have high national profiles and generate strong local ratings, resulting in lucrative local broadcast revenue. For example, the NBA champion Detroit Pistons have seen ratings increase 9 percent this season on Fox Sports Detroit and 35 percent on its over-the-air carrier WDIV. Each Turner exclusive Pistons broadcast cost the team between $100,000 and $300,000 in local broadcast ad revenue, said Pistons President Tom Wilson.

    “It’s a big price to pay and we all mumble and grumble, but it is like revenue sharing,” he said. “There are some years when we aren’t on [Turner] that much and then the national deal helps us.”

    For nonexclusive nights when Turner and local carriers have side-by-side broadcasts, local ratings drop 40 percent, Wilson said.

    “Ratings deteriorate and for teams using ratings to sell, it comes at cost,” he said.

    In the 2002-03 season, the first of the current six-year deal on Turner, the NBA generated a 1.2 regular-season rating, followed by a 1.4 rating last season. So far this season, the NBA is tracking to a 1.3 rating on Turner.

    Levy also said that when the two sides begin talking, he will push for more starting times of 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Eastern time for Thursday night doubleheader broadcasts. It’s a time slot that brings the highest ratings on TNT.

    Last year, TNT had 30 games in the Thursday night 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. start times. This season, TNT has 40 games in the more favorable 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. starts and will push for the right for more scheduling flexibility.

    The network also wants to get away from its early week broadcasts. This season, TNT will have just three games on Monday and Tuesday nights compared to seven Monday and Tuesday broadcasts last season.

    Print | Tags: Basketball, Fox, NBA
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