Armed with its widest distribution universe ever, ESPN is
hoping to drive significant buys and revenue for the upcoming season of its "ESPN
Full Court" out-of-market college-basketball package.
ESPN will distribute its more-than-450-game Full Court
package to almost 12 million digital-cable and direct-broadcast satellite subscribers --
the most ever for the five-year-old package -- director of sales, marketing and
distribution development Skip Desjardin said.
The package will benefit from approximately 1.5 million
digital-cable homes via the Headend in the Sky digital sports transponder. "This
represents the first time that we have widespread cable distribution," Desjardin
ESPN will also add EchoStar Communications Corp.'s
Dish Network's more than 3 million subscribers to its Full Court distribution base,
"We are pleased with this enthusiastic commitment by
our satellite and cable distributors to make the ESPN Full Court out-of-market
college-basketball package available to more consumers than ever before," vice
president of distribution development Bryan Burns said. "The significant increase in
distribution for ESPN Full Court offers viewers a more attractive selection of games each
ESPN will sell the service at a suggested retail price of
$99 for the full season. The network will also offer an $89 early bird PPV package.
To help support the package, ESPN has developed a national
advertising campaign that will utilize print, radio and television ads. Desjardin said the
campaign will also include target marketing in several select markets through various
ESPN is hoping to ride the rising interest in college
basketball. Desjardin said college-basketball ratings on both ESPN and ESPN 2 increased
significantly last year compared with the 1997-98 season. Furthermore, Full Court
generated its highest revenue performance ever last year, although he would not provide
"Across the brand, we have seen an increase in the
popularity of college basketball," Desjardin said. "We hope to be at a point
where sales for Full Court and [ESPN's more successful 'GamePlan'
college-football PPV package] are the same."
The package -- which will offer up to 30 games per week --
includes games from top conferences such as the Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference,
the Big East, the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12, Conference USA, the Atlantic 10 and
the Mountain West.