Cable Operators

NFL Net Makes Local Pitch

1/02/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

While all the Xs and Os haven’t been finalized, NFL Network’s video-on-demand game plan for 2005 includes local sponsorship opportunities.

NFL Network vice president of media sales Chris Fuller said cable operators will likely have the chance to let local and regional advertisers attach their names to some of the team-specific content and interview segments currently available via the channel’s on-demand highlight shows.

“We expect that all cable operators with VOD will have some local sponsorship opportunities next year,” he said.

NATIONAL ROSTER FORMS

Such efforts would complement what figures to be an expanded roster of national advertisers affixed to the on-demand highlight shows, one of cable’s most popular VOD offerings.

Since Week 9 of the current NFL campaign, T-Mobile has run 15-second ads prior to each highlights package viewers select — up to 16 per week.

Adam Shaw is senior vice president of distribution for NFL Network, which recently signed a carriage deal with Adelphia Communications Corp. that includes the service’s on-demand product. While it “might be a little complicated,” he said, more MSOs should have the ability to insert locally next year.

Comcast is already inserting ads locally on a market-by-market basis.

Eyeing the upcoming playoffs, T-Mobile could retain its highlight-package position.

“We took it to them first. They’re evaluating it internally,” said Fuller.

Bob Flood, executive vice president and director of national electronic media at ZenithOptimedia, which secured the sponsorship for T-Mobile, said: “We’re still tracking the delivery. A decision will be made on that and consumer feedback.”

Next season, NFL Network expects to cast a wider net for its VOD-highlights package. “We’re thinking of rotating two advertisers per weekend,” said Fuller.

As for T-Mobile’s current sponsorship, terms of which were not disclosed, Flood called the highlights package “a low-clutter, great environment.”

MSO data “comes in a little slow, lagging each week’s performance,” but the shop has received information about the number of viewers and duration of their visits.

T-Mobile has mostly run brand spots and lately has touted a new “sidekick” product. “We didn’t start this until midseason, and our plans have been morphing,” Flood said. “We’ve been trying different formats, but have yet to engage anyone by trying to push them to a T-Mobile Web site.”

4 MILLION VIEWERS

Comcast vice president of marketing for new video products Page Thompson said the NFL Network VOD highlights package has delivered more than 4 million viewers across Comcast’s VOD-enabled footprint from September through the end of October.

T-Mobile’s sponsorship was just one of a number of advertisers that have been involved with Comcast’s on-demand offerings; others include The Coca-Cola Co., General Motors Corp. and KFC.

Advertising has included regular spots, as well as invitations to long-form information presented under the “GM Showcase” heading, Thompson said.

September