SBJ/August 29 - September 4, 2005/Media

NBA and AZN to target Asian-Americans with series, specials

The NBA has signed a programming deal with Comcast Corp.’s AZN Television for two regular series and a group of specials targeted at the Asian-American audience.

AZN, which reaches 12 million cable homes, will produce a magazine-style weekly show with highlights, features and NBA-focused stories premiering in January. It will air for the rest of the season and all of the 2006-07 season, 48 episodes in all. The network also will show a 12-part documentary on Yao Ming in October. The program was co-produced by Shanghai Media Group and NBA Entertainment and originally aired in China. Ten more NBA specials will air in each of the next two seasons.

The agreement with AZN calls for the NBA to provide footage for AZN’s use and other considerations. AZN will pay a licensing fee and also provide the league with advertising inventory, which can be used for NBA promotional spots or sold by the league to sponsors.

AZN Television will show a 12-part documentary on Yao Ming as part of the deal.
“The NBA is right in our sweet spot, really, because it rates so highly with our audience,” said Steve Smith, managing director of AZN Television. “In research, both from the NBA and our own research, we identified the sport as the most popular among our audience.”

The arrangement also serves the NBA’s multicultural marketing objectives, which have taken a turn toward Asian-Americans since the emergence of Yao and other players from the Far East.

While not generating the media attention that the Latin American audience has, the 14 million Asian-Americans in the U.S. are considered by many marketers to be the most desirable ethnic demographic group to reach, because of high levels of education, disposable income and growth. The Asian-American population is increasing three times faster than the U.S. population as a whole. The average household income of Asians living in the U.S. is $10,000 higher than Caucasians’, accounting for $363 billion of collective buying power, and 75 percent of the audience is 45 or younger.

“The AZN deal is part of our longtime programming strategy of going to where viewers are,” said Gregg Winik, executive vice president of programming and executive producer for NBA Entertainment. “So whether it be ‘Inside Stuff,’ shows we’ve done with MTV or Nickelodeon or recently with Spike, through the years we’ve said, ‘If there’s an audience these networks have, let’s populate it.’”

AZN Television is produced by International Networks LLC, a wholly owned division of Comcast that also provides premium cable television channels from various international sources in the languages of the country of origin. AZN was formerly known as International Channel, but was sold by Liberty Media to Comcast a year ago and then rebranded in March. It is generally carried on digital basic tiers by Comcast and a handful of other cable operators.

POKER HOLDING STRONG: The first six episodes of the World Series of Poker on ESPN have averaged a 1.3 rating and 1.1 million households. That’s down from a 1.5 and 1.3 million households at the

The World Series of Poker is making a bid to increase the audience it has built at ESPN.
same point last year. But it’s difficult to gauge the numbers because this year ESPN kicked off the season with circuit championships not shown on the network a year ago.

The actual World Series didn’t begin airing until last week, and the main-event No Limit Texas Hold ’Em championship won’t start airing until Oct. 11, preceded by 14 episodes of championships from other poker disciplines such as seven-card stud.

In all, ESPN is showing 32 World Series of Poker shows this year, including the circuit championships, up from 22 a year ago. So while the softer initial ratings may be a sign that the glut of poker on television is having an adverse affect, no one will be able to get a really good read until the main event starts airing in October.

NIKE TO SPONSOR PREP SERIES: Nike has signed on as title sponsor of a five-game high school football series on Fox Sports Net, to debut Saturday. The “Nike High School Football Game of the Week” will be carried on all 20 FSN affiliates, featuring schools from football hotbeds like Texas and Florida.

The opening game features Springdale (Ark.) facing Shreveport (La.) Evangel at Independence Stadium in Shreveport. Three of the games will be on Thursday nights and one on a Friday, the traditional night for high school football.

Andy Bernstein can be reached at

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