ESPN Offers Local Ads During PPV

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In an effort to increase the value of its pay-per-view programming to cable operators, ESPN is offering systems local ad inventory within all of its event and out-of-market sports packages.

The offer affords operators three minutes per hour to insert local advertising in each game from ESPN’s college-basketball, college-football and college baseball out-of-market packages, as well as in its K-1 martial-arts events, ESPN vice president of affiliate ad sales and marketing Jeff Siegel said.

ESPN will prompt systems to start running the ads via cue tones embedded in each PPV telecast.

The sports network is also placing national ads throughout the games. It currently has an exclusive deal with Procter & Gamble Co.’s Old Spice for its college-football package, but Siegel would not reveal how much revenue it has generated from the sponsorship. Ads will run three times during the game.

ESPN’s local-ad-time offer is an outgrowth of its move earlier this year to handle all distribution and marketing of its PPV and out-of-market sports-package content.

According to Siegel, it was virtually impossible for the sports network to offer such inventory when it licensed content to PPV purveyors such as In Demand and TVN Entertainment Corp.

Operators can either sell the ad time on a stand-alone basis or offer it as a value-added service for companies already advertising locally on ESPN’s various basic-cable networks.

Siegel said ESPN has already teamed up with Comcast Corp. to offer ad time in various systems, and other operators have expressed interest in selling ad time beginning in November for the start of the “ESPN Full Court” college-basketball package.

For more on ESPN’s local inventory, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 12 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.