SBJ/20080825/This Week's News

Favre’s move stirs interest among ad buyers

CBS and ESPN are crediting Brett Favre’s move to the New York Jets for helping NFL advertising sales remain flat with last year’s record number, despite the sluggish economy. CBS executives said Favre’s move to the biggest media market — and the AFC, which the network covers — has generated interest among ad buyers.

“We have Dolphins-Jets to lead off the season, a game that wasn’t generating huge interest until Favre moved to New York,” said John Bogusz, CBS Sports executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Similarly, ESPN/ABC Sports saw some money shift to its Week 3 Jets-Chargers game after Favre was traded, said Ed Erhardt, customer marketing and sales president for the network. He also highlighted ESPN’s first “Monday Night Football” game, which will be the Packers’ first game without their longtime quarterback.

CBS’s Dolphins-Jets
matchup gained interest
after Brett Favre was
traded to New York.

Sales execs from CBS, ESPN and NBC said their NFL ad sales for the coming season are tracking similar with last year, with cost per thousand increases in the high single digits. A Fox spokesperson said the network also is “on par, perhaps a bit ahead of last year’s sales pace.”

“We still have to write business in the fourth quarter scatter market,” CBS’s Bogusz said. “Overall, it’s a more challenging ad marketplace.”

ESPN has limited availability left in its September games. Much of ESPN’s sales effort has been to sell what it is calling the “Game Around the Game,” meaning shoulder programming that accompanies its “Monday Night Football” game. “We want to elevate the whole concept so advertisers can own part of it,” Erhardt said.

NBC also said the NFL brand has been showing its strength in the current economic climate. “We’re delighted with what we see so far,” said Seth Winter, NBC senior vice president for sports and Olympics sales and marketing. “The NFL brand is impervious to most shifts you see. It remains the gold standard of sports programming.”

Meanwhile, ESPN said its “Monday Night Football” telecasts this season will focus on all-football-all-the-time, a marked shift from the last two years, when the network’s announcers frequently delved into pop culture. The changes this year mean the official end to in-booth guests — such as Christian Slater and Carmen Electra, among others — which were widely criticized by fans and media critics. And they mean heavily scaled back use of sideline reporters. ESPN made its decision following a series of focus groups in San Diego, Chicago and Boston, which nearly unanimously reacted negatively to nonfootball types of intrusions on the game, said “Monday Night Football” director Chip Dean. “We’re getting back to what we’re really good at,” he said. “There’s an expectation and demand from sports fans that you talk about the NFL. And the majority of our audience is avid football fans.”

ESPN still will use sideline reporters, with Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya attending every game, said Norby Williamson, the network’s executive vice president of production. ESPN, however, plans to use them more judiciously.

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