SBJ/20090126/This Week's News

Comcast combines Versus, Golf Channel sales efforts

Comcast is combining the national sales teams of Versus and Golf Channel under the Comcast Sports Sales banner, which will be led by advertising sales president David Cassaro.

Comcast made the move to offer a one-stop shop for ad buyers looking to buy on one of Comcast’s sports properties. It also allows Comcast to try to sell advertisers positions on more than one network, not to mention online and in video-on-demand. “Bringing golf under the umbrella supports all of our customers by offering more ads, more programs and more consistency on how we do business in the back room than maybe existed in the past,” Cassaro said.

Cassaro said both networks’ ad sales are more “challenging” than usual, due to the economic recession. But he said the downturn had no effect on the formation of Comcast Sports Sales, which had been planned since last spring.

Golf Channel, which is in 82 million homes, was the last Comcast sports network with an independent sales team. Versus is in 74 million homes.

Cassaro said there were companies that already advertise across both networks, and that the multiplatform offering “has yielded more sales,” though he wouldn’t name names.

“It’s tough to judge in an economically tough time,” he said, “but since we formally brought them into the group we’ve seen the benefit of sitting with a major beer client, major automotive partner and major packaged goods company. They’re interested in hearing our ideas.”

The 18- to 49-year-old demographic is drawn to live sports programming on Versus such as mixed martial arts, the NHL and Professional Bull Riding, while outdoor programming generally appeals to wealthy, older men, the same core demographic as Golf Channel.

“You would be surprised at how affluent the people in the fishing and hunting category are,” Cassaro said. “I like to think we can be a little more nimble [than our competitors]. Our ratings and events sometimes aren’t as big, so we can afford to find integrations that maybe some of our competitors can’t.”

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