SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2007/This Weeks News

Sponsors like Dew Tour’s expanded media reach

As the AST Dew Tour kicks off its 2007 season, executives hope a series of new content agreements will help in establishing a new brand and improving ratings from last season.

The five-stop action sports series, which begins in Baltimore on June 21, has signed new deals with MTV and iTunes and expanded its video-on-demand and international distribution this year. The series of agreements offer the tour increased exposure a year after its ratings on NBC fell 12.8 percent to a 0.8 average household rating in 2006.

The AST Dew Tour heroics of stars like Shaun
White will now appear on MTV and MTV2.

Sponsors have reacted positively to the new agreements but are still watching for ratings and attendance growth as the season begins.

“Eyeballs are always important,” said John Stamatis, the group manager of sports marketing for Pepsi-Cola North America. He added that ratings aren’t the only criteria but often are used to measure return on investment.

Still, he added, “Broadening the reach of action sports in general and working to take content to MTV and MTV2 is important.”

The one-year partnership with MTV will see the tour become the focus of a new action sports show, “Action Sports: The Freestyle Life,” debuting this summer on the music video channel’s sister network, MTV2.

Under the terms of the deal, which is expected to be announced this week, two of the new, 30-minute shows will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the tour. The first show will premiere July 14 on MTV2 and a second one will follow on Oct. 2. Both will air 12 times on MTV2 and one time each on MTV.

MTV2, which reaches 64 million homes, will complement the show with 60 short vignettes during the day that feature tour highlights and athlete profiles. The shorts will air during all 15 weeks of the tour.

The exposure on MTV will be supplemented by the tour’s first deal with iTunes. As part of the revenue-sharing agreement, fans will have access to two “Best of 2006” episodes later this month for $1.99. Additional content will become available on iTunes throughout the season.

X Games and Studio411, a surf, skate and snow production company, have had agreements with iTunes that have shown there’s an appetite for action sports videos.

The tour’s exposure domestically and internationally will grow this year, as well. In the U.S., video-on-demand distribution — which received 350,000 click-through viewers in 2006 — has expanded from 11 million to 30 million homes this season.

International deals with Eurosport, Fox Australia and Extreme in Europe also will send the tour to 130 million homes in Europe, South America and Australia for the first time this season.

The content and distribution agreements will be complemented by a series of changes to the NBC TV broadcast designed to increase ratings. Robbie Floyd will take over as lead commentator, with assistance from analysts Paul Zitzer for skateboard park and vert, Jamie Bestwick for BMX dirt and park and T.J. Lavin for BMX vert. The new talent is designed to bring more spontaneity to the booth, said AST Dew Tour President Wade Martin.

Broadcasts also will feature more interactivity. Fans will be able to vote on their favorite tricks and see coming programming with a vertical bar similar to what “SportsCenter” now offers.

The programming schedule offers two lead-ins from Championship Off-Road Racing, which has viewer demographics similar to the Dew Tour. It also has strong lead-outs into Notre Dame football games against Michigan State and USC in the fall.

While that should help ratings, Martin said, the primary focus is on using shoulder programming like the MTV shows and Fuel TV features to drive viewers to NBC.

“We didn’t view the content that way last year,” he said. “Driving ratings is always going to be a challenge, and we’re not going to make an overnight turn. It’s more important that we see these numbers go up in every place than anything else.”

Three Things to Watch

New markets
The tour moves into three new markets — Baltimore, Cleveland and Salt Lake City — in its third year. It needs to establish roots quickly as sponsors look for another year of attendance growth after last year’s 7.3 percent increase to 249,613.

New schedule
Unlike the first two years, Thursdays will feature only preliminary competitions and no tickets will be sold. Friday through Sunday will feature two final competitions each, so the tour will be leaning heavily on three days rather than four for paid attendance.

New stars
Ryan Sheckler, 17, emerged as the newest star of the Dew Tour last year. As Dave Mirra, Jamie Bestwick and Bob Burnquist get older, the tour will need other stars to take their place.

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