SBJ/January 15 - 21, 2007/This Weeks News

NBC and Versus ‘on the same page,’ say NHL sales are up

The NHL and its television network partners say ad sales are pacing ahead of last year, while ratings remain flat at best.

Versus has signed KFC to sponsor the
in-goal camera on its NHL broadcasts.

NBC claimed an impressive list of advertisers for its first game of the season over the weekend. It signed Heineken and Dodge  as sponsors of the intermission reports. It also has deals with Anheuser-Busch, ADT and Verizon Wireless, which recently signed an NHL sponsorship deal.

“We are much more on the same page this year,” said the NHL’s deputy commissioner, Bill Daly. “We are doing everything jointly, coordinating what Versus and NBC are doing in the marketplace.”

The NHL and networks jointly sell the ad time. Rates for the 30-second spots were not disclosed. Some media buyers said NBC is seeking about $20,000 per 30-second spot for its regular-season schedule, which includes games on nine Sunday afternoons this season, up from the six dates it broadcast last year.

Media buyers say NBC still has the season presenting sponsorship available for its pregame, which it is selling for $3 million. The package would include up to five units during the game.

Cable network Versus hit its fourth-quarter numbers and is pacing well in the first quarter, said Steve Margosian, Versus vice president of marketing solutions.

Versus signed Dodge and Verizon to sponsor its intermission reports. It also signed KFC to sponsor the “Goal-Cam” and Quizno’s to sponsor on-air scoring summaries. Enterprise Rent-a-Car and the U.S. Army also have signed on as sponsors.

Versus still is trying to land some of the league’s corporate sponsors, such as Anheuser-Busch, MasterCard and Cold-FX. The NHL’s corporate sponsors, which also include Bank of America and Pepsi, are not required to buy airtime on network broadcasts.

Media buyers say they are attracted to the NHL’s demos, which hit young, affluent suburbanites, but they balk at some of the rates being charged.

“We aren’t doing hockey yet,” one ad buyer said. “It’s still football season. We won’t concentrate on other sports until football season is over.”

Ratings have taken a hit on the regional sports networks, which are reporting a double-digit ratings drop, and in Canada, where TSN and CBC are reporting ratings drops of more than 25 percent. To date, ratings on Versus are flat compared with last year, at a 0.2.

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