MSO Execs Get ESPN Airtime

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ESPN Classic is offering MSO executives from around the country their 15 minutes of fame-or at least a few minutes of national-TV face time.

The digital network's ESPN Classic Road Show
has shrewdly offered to give cable-system executives a chance to promote new local services while branding their companies throughout the U.S.

When the National Basketball Association All-Star Game was held in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, Comcast Corp. got the star treatment. Washington Metro and Northern Virginia regional vice president Jaye Gamble was interviewed on-air, talking about high-speed data, digital cable and future offerings, such as video-on-demand.

The live interviews have typically aired over the weekend, filling the gaps between scheduled shows.

"Most subscribers are not very familiar with some of the new services MSOs can offer," said ESPN Classic vice president and general manager Mark Shapiro.

To help the operator kick off a public-affairs partnership with the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation that focuses on at-risk youth, ESPN offered up its ESPN Zone restaurant in D.C. Comcast played host to more than 40 children who got to talk to Mitch Richmond of the NBA's Washington Wizards.

Comcast has been expanding in the D.C. area and offers ESPN Classic on most local systems, Gamble said. During a Road Show, local operators typically offer ESPN Classic on a local-origination channel so viewers that don't yet have digital can catch a sneak preview-and get treated to some MSO executive face time.

ESPN Classic, of course, hopes the previews help drive distribution above its current 31 million homes.

At Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Fla., local operator Time Warner Cable co-hosted a live pregame event with ESPN Classic. Time Warner Cable senior vice president of marketing Brian Kelly, who moved to his current corporate-level position in Stamford, Conn., from Tampa last year, appeared on the nationally televised show.

"I called my Mom and my wife and my girls," Kelly said. "It was a fun thing to do."

Later that day, Time Warner Cable Tampa Bay Division director of commercial development Dave Marvin was interviewed.

Earlier Road Shows
featured AT&T Broadband senior vice president of marketing Doug Seserman at Denver's Mile High Stadium, where Seserman assured viewers, "There's no need to get a [direct-broadcast satellite] dish."

Lest the interviews start to resemble infomercials, the cable guys also talk about local sports. Seserman talked about his late father, Bob Seserman, who in the late 1960s led a fundraising effort to keep the National Football League's Broncos in Denver.

Insight Communications Co. CEO Michael Willner was also interviewed during the Breeders' Cup Road Show
in Louisville, Ky.

Adelphia Communications Corp. regional vice president of sales and marketing John Cimperman appeared at a Buffalo, N.Y., event and admitted his earliest sports memories were formed while growing up in Cleveland.

Adelphia is a big cheese in Buffalo sports. It owns the HSBC Arena and its primary tenant, the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres. It also bought naming rights to Adelphia Coliseum football stadium in Nashville, Tenn.

ESPN Classic has hosted Road Show events for about six months. It plans to stage more in various cities on most weekends this year.

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