Comcasts New Philly Conquest: X Games

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ESPN last week announced it will stage its next two annual "X Games" action-sports competitions in Philadelphia.

The X Games bring together nearly 350 athletes from around the world and award nearly $1 million in monetary prizes.

Comcast Corp. was instrumental in bringing the games to its hometown. Its Comcast Cable Communications and Comcast-Spectacor divisions signed the two-year agreement, along with the state of Pennsylvania and city of Philadelphia.

"Comcast is proud to help Philadelphia host premier international events like the X Games," president Brian Roberts said in a press release. "With our growing roster of television and communications offerings and a first-class sports arena and facilities, Comcast is committed to providing the resources to help make Philadelphia's first X Games the best ever."

Comcast-Spectacor's First Union Center in Philadelphia, which hosted last summer's Republican National Convention, will host many of the X-Games events. The company also owns the adjacent First Union Spectrum sports arena, and will also use that venue and some of the parking areas to host events, Comcast-Spectacor director of public relations Ike Richman said.

"Philadelphia represents the largest market where we've staged the games," ESPN executive vice president Ed Durso said. Its proximity to New York and Washington, D.C. will also help attract crowds, he added.

As part of its deal with ESPN, Comcast will get special access to the games and their athletes, allowing the cable operator to provide extended coverage to its subscribers, Comcast vice president of original programming and promotion Jon Gorchow said.

Both Comcast Sports Net and the MSO's regional channel, CN8: The Comcast Network, plan their own coverage, including an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the X Games.

Comcast also plans to promote the X Games through cross-channel spots, ads in programming guides and possibly through radio partnerships.

"One of the reasons ESPN was interested in Philadelphia to begin with was the marketing assets we could bring to the table," Gorchow said.

Last summer, Gorchow took a team of city officials and Comcast-Spectacor representatives to the most recent X Games in San Francisco and was impressed with what he saw there.

"The excitement level was something I hadn't seen before," Gorchow said.

Comcast would not disclose the financial terms of the contract.

"The amount of exposure the company and the facility will get out of this is tremendous," Richman said.

In addition to its on-air exposure on ESPN, ESPN2 and the ABC television network, video from parts of the X Games will streamed over the ESPN.com and EXPN.com Web sites. Past X Games have drawn crowds of up to 200,000, and Durso said he believes the Philadelphia events will draw even more.

The games, which feature such action sports as skateboarding and bicycle stunt riding, draw a decidedly young audience. ESPN's announcement last week quoted a recent Harris Interactive Survey that rated the X Games as the second-most appealing sports event to U.S. children ages 6 to 17, behind only the Olympics.

The events are also shown to ESPN audiences worldwide.

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