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Volume 20 No. 42
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Comcast brings some RSN spot sales in-house

Comcast Sports Group is in the process of bringing its national spot advertising efforts in-house for four of its regional sports networks.

The sales previously have been handled by several companies, including Fox Sports-owned Home Team Sports. The work now will be the responsibility of NBC Owned Television Stations, a group that comprises the 10 local television stations that NBC Universal owns.

The group chose Joseph Gallagher to be vice president of national sales for the RSNs. He will be based in New York and is expected to increase staff.

Ray Warren, Comcast Sports Group EVP and chief revenue officer, says the move is one he’s wanted to make from the beginning.
Initially, the focus will be on selling spot ads on the Comcast SportsNet channels in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Northwest and Philadelphia. The partnership will be phased in market by market over the next several months, starting this month in New England. Eventually, it will be expanded to other channels, but given an ownership structure that has Comcast as a minority owner in some of the RSNs, it’s not certain the partnership will ultimately cover all 14 of the RSNs.

“This is something that I’ve wanted to do from the beginning,” said Ray Warren, executive vice president and chief revenue officer for Comcast Sports Group. “We would have done this sooner, but we had to wait for contracts to end.”
The change is noteworthy because it shows that Comcast and NBC are approaching the ad sales market differently as a result of their blockbuster merger more than a year ago.

If a national advertiser wants to place a schedule in Boston Celtics games, for example, it now will go through this new group. The moves do not change Comcast’s relationship with Home Team Sports, which still handles national multimarket sales, such as when a national advertiser wants to place a schedule across several of Comcast’s RSNs.

Warren is confident the move will be successful, especially considering a test he conducted last summer with New England Cable News, which also is part of the Comcast Sports Group. When NBC Owned Television Stations took over NECN’s national spot ad sales last August, sales through December were up 58 percent compared with the previous year. Warren attributed that increase to the presence of an in-house staff that was more invested in ad sales for the channel.

“We didn’t have to do this,” Warren said. “We only want to do it if it makes sense. Thanks to our NECN test, we know it makes sense.”

The move, which was led by the Comcast Sports Group, is an example of areas where Comcast and NBC still are figuring out how to work together.

“The Comcast SportsNets are powerhouses all over the country,” said Frank Comerford, chief revenue officer and president of commercial operations for NBC Owned Television Stations. “The ability to add them to our national sales portfolio is a natural extension that will help us provide stronger and even more reputable products to advertisers.”