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Adelphia, NBC Affiliate Team On Olympics

11/04/2001 7:00 PM Eastern

In what could prove to be a model for other MSOs, Adelphia Communications Corp.'s Buffalo, N.Y., cable system has teamed with the local NBC broadcast affiliate to jointly sell local avails for February's Winter Olympics.

Adelphia Media Services, the MSO's ad-sales arm, will work with Gannett Co.-owned WGRZ-TV on pitches for several different local ad packages for the Salt Lake City games, according to Adelphia local sales manager Brent Cowen.

Cowen said the joint sponsorship packages have been christened — in descending price order — as "platinum," "gold," "silver," "bronze" and "torch." The platinum level carries a price tag of more than $57,000 for commercial units across the two weeks of the Salt Lake City games, while the gold package is being offered at $37,000-plus.

He declined to specify the amount of inventory offered under the different headings. All told, there will be 2,000 minutes of total avails in Buffalo, Cowen estimated; cable's share will be around 1,300.

Joint packages have already been sold to an unspecified manufacturer and a clothing distributor, said Cowen. He estimated that the team effort could bring more than $440,000 to Adelphia and WGRZ.

At least a dozen combo sales presentations are scheduled for the coming weeks, Cowen said. The official sales kickoff was Sept. 8, but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced a postponement until late October.

Advertisers will receive two bills — one from Adelphia and one from WGRZ — Cowen said.

"Clients will have the option to buy one or the other. They're not forced to buy both," Adelphia regional marketing director Chuck Haring said.

The emphasis is on nontraditional marketers whose headquarters or divisions are based in the western New York region, added Haring, including Fisher-Price Toys, industrial companies and tire companies like Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., clothing firms, healthcare providers and labor unions.

Cowen and Haring said that NBC Cable executives have been enthusiastic about the joint sales strategy and also "extremely curious." The cable officials added that NBC Cable executives felt "this could be the prototype for future sales, if it works."

NBC officials did not return phone calls by press time.

Howard Nass, senior vice president and director of local broadcast at Initiative Media North America, called the gambit a "smart move. I'm surprised more people around the country haven't done it. Selling against one another doesn't make sense.

"When you put it all together for an advertiser, you have ownership [of the event]," he added. "Moreover, there's the potential for both parties to forge "promotions around the Olympics collectively."

Haring believes that the in-tandem selling effort will truly deliver "the Complete Olympics" to local Buffalo sponsors that NBC has been touting in its trade ads — one that involves the Peacock Network and its cable cousins, CNBC and MSNBC.

Cowen said the idea came to him when he realized that the NBC affiliate, WGRZ-TV, was "literally right next door."

"We need to get together," he told Haring. "It's a no-brainer."

Cowen said that they have not talked up their arrangement within the MSO, preferring to wait until sales are in hand.

But they are eyeing other potential TV-and-cable crossovers for local sponsorships, including other major sports franchises like the National Basketball Association and National Association for Stock Car Racing (via NBC and Turner Sports); the National Football League (through ABC and ESPN); and Major League Baseball (on Fox Broadcast Network, FX and Fox Sports Net).

Nass also is bullish on the idea of joint selling tied to major local sports events.

"It has to be done," he said. "Cable and over-the-air are so competitive, they let stubbornness get in the way of good business sense."

In the entertainment arena, the Adelphia executives pointed to the Academy Awards on ABC and E! Entertainment Television's pre-show coverage.

"The [ad-sales] pie is not getting any larger," Cowen observed, "so instead of [each entity] banging heads, why not partner up with the right partners?"

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