MSOs Buy Cup Pitch


The 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup will be on the sports scene the next three weeks, and so will Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable.

The MSOs will get an assist from an ESPN affiliate program that not only gives them an on-site presence at matches around the country, but will provide them with a dedicated, MSO-identified feed for their viewers for the 15 contests on ESPN and ESPN2.

Although the TV schedule was only finalized about a month ago, after the tournament was moved from China to the U.S. because of the SARS outbreak, ESPN vice president of affiliate ad sales and marketing Jeff Siegel said the MSOs were quick to sign on.

"Sometimes affiliates pass up on a last-minute offer, but Women's World Cup had such a terrific buzz and, following 1999 [when the U.S. team won, beating China on penalty kicks], they wanted to be a part of this major event."

The MSOs, which have the rights to integrate their corporate logo with the World Cup logo for marketing purposes, will have an on-site presence at the venues to host the matches in markets they serve — Comcast in Philadelphia, Washington, Foxboro, Mass., and Portland, Ore.; and Time Warner in Columbus, Ohio.

The MSOs will receive tickets that can be distributed to advertisers, subscribers, local officials or employees, and would gain exposure from on-site signage, as well as a field board visible to the TV audience, said Siegel.

Moreover, the operators can set up tables or tents to demonstrate their advanced products and services.

"It's a great opportunity for our affiliates to reach current subscribers and potential customers," said Siegel.

DirecTV Inc. is on board for a similar program in Carson, Calif., where the final will be held.

Siegel said ESPN has produced taggable spots for its distribution partners, but there are no requirements for cross-channel airings.

Viewers in the MSOs' service areas will also see a different feed than the rest of the country. Utilizing additional production facilities, the ESPN2 and ESPN telecasts will be prefaced by an 8-second animated opening that includes the words, "You are watching [Comcast or Time Warner's] presentation of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup." Siegel said the mixed corporate logos could then appear on screen.

The companies will also receive a five-second on-air billboard, accompanied by a voiceover, at the start of the match and the second half.

Siegel said the dedicated feed idea originated from the programming department, and is one that should add value for affiliates. "It's an important test for us," he said. "I'd like to see us use it for other major events, and I don't see any reason why we won't."

Time Warner and Comcast could not be reached.