SBJ/20090420/This Week's News

MSG Network plans virtual ads for Rangers playoff games

MSG Network is the country’s first regional sports network to run virtual advertising during its live NHL games, a potentially important application to attract advertisers during the economic recession.

The New York-area RSN successfully tested the virtual advertising by superimposing Subway’s logo on the glass above the dasherboards during the final week of the NHL’s regular season. MSG Network was set to expand on the application during the Rangers’ first-round playoff series with the Washington Capitals.

During Rangers home games this week, Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday, MSG will run virtual ads for Cablevision’s iO digital service during the first period and for Subway in the third period.

Virtual ads for Subway were tested
in season’s final week.

MSG’s sales staff also is expecting to sign an advertiser for the second period.

The virtual ads are part of an advertising package that includes traditional 30-second spots, live in-game promotional announcements and billboards.

“Virtual ads are the truest form of immersive advertising,” said Dan Ronayne, executive vice president and general manager of MSG Networks. “This puts a brand right in front of a game in a way that is prominent and impactful.”

Last year, the NHL had looked into selling virtual ads into its national playoff broadcasts, but the move fizzled because the technology had not been properly tested, a source said. The league hadn’t moved forward with its plan to let network partners use virtual ads. But MSG executives have worked closely with league officials in rolling out these virtual ads, as the company was eager to be a guinea pig for this form of advertising during hockey telecasts.

Using technology from Cablevision subsidiary Princeton Video Image, MSG will position the ads on the glass behind the nets and on the glass above the dasherboards between the benches. This allows the advertiser’s brand to remain on-screen for the entire period. The ads will be visible only to TV viewers.

MSG expects to sell virtual ads for all its games next season. MSG also has rights to telecast the Devils-Hurricanes playoff series, but at deadline, it had not decided whether to add virtual ads to those telecasts.

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