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SBJ/20110103/This Week's Issue
ALMS to be first motorsport featured on ESPN3
Published January 3, 2011
Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.
A new, multiplatform rights agreement with ESPN will make the American Le Mans Series the first motorsport to be featured on ESPN3.
The deal, which will be announced this week, gives the series coverage of nine races on ABC and ESPN2 complemented by live, beginning-to-end broadcasts of each race on ESPN3.com.
The ALMS' new partnership with ESPN follows a yearlong search by the series for a new television partner. The series' 12-year relationship with Speed ended last year, and it hired Chicago-based Intersport to help it negotiate a new media agreement.
The resulting partnership with ESPN, which was described as a time-buy agreement, takes the series from 40-plus hours of coverage on Speed and CBS in 2010 to 58 hours of programming in 2011 on ABC, ESPN2 and ESPN3. It also gives it more commercial inventory to sell to existing and new sponsors.
Highlights of the deal include a 90-minute ABC special on the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, two-hour specials of three other races on ABC, encore airings of those races on ESPN2 and prerace and postrace programming before each event on ESPN3.com.
"This is without question the best possible outcome for our future television platform," said ALMS Chief Executive Scott Atherton. "Coupling the core of traditional television, ESPN/ABC, with the future of media that is ESPN3 gives us best-in-class benchmark communication platforms for the future."
Intersport President and CEO Charlie Besser added, "The fact we could stream all of the races live is fantastic. It's a really critical element for these guys to be able to engage with their fans and build their brand."
Under terms of the ESPN partnership, ALMS will sell advertising inventory during the programming across all platforms. Intersport will support the advertising sales efforts and manage the production of the race programming.
Atherton said he believes the deal has the potential to be more financially lucrative for the series. He expects the new commercial inventory to offer existing sponsors more exposure, as well.
ABC and ESPN2 are available in 114.5 million and 99.5 million homes, respectively, while ESPN3 is currently available in roughly 65 million homes. Speed is available in more than 75 million homes.
Last season, ALMS averaged a 0.2 Nielsen rating and 237,000 viewers across nine telecasts on CBS and Speed. For the seven telecasts on Speed alone, the average was a 0.1 and 198,000 viewers.
In addition to helping manage broadcast production, Intersport was hired to assist with improving ALMS' social media efforts. Because many ALMS races have two drivers in a car, the agency plans to work with ALMS to have the secondary driver tweet during the event.
"No other racing can really put fans in the car like that," Besser said. "That's going to be really cool."