NBA TV has tipped off its coverage of the 2003-04 season, but the pro hoops league hasn't put a full-court press on advertisers yet.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said a number of league sponsors are committed to airing spots, which likely won't break until around the All-Star Game in February.
Stern said he wanted to make certain the network — which will air 95 regular-season games, including 50 in HDTV, as well as vintage contests and original programming — is running smoothly before it begins inserting ads. He added that some sponsors are working on dedicated creative for spots that would run on NBA TV, while others would air current campaigns.
With some 8,000 hours of programming, Stern said there is "plenty of room" for the promos — touting both the current campaign and seasons past — that are currently running on the service.
Stern — speaking after a press conference in the NBA Store on Manhattan's Fifth Ave on Oct. 27, during which Time Warner Cable of New York and New Jersey announced it would hold a free preview of the service through Nov. 18, before including it as part of a sports tier beginning the following day — said Anheuser-Busch, American Express, Gatorade, Hyundai, Nike, Reebok, Adidas and Verizon Wireless are the NBA sponsors whose commercials would run on the network this season.
Stern also noted that NBA Entertainment's sales staff would begin selling time to other advertisers at some later point.
Time Warner of New York and New Jersey president Barry Rosenblum said the sports tier would have to build up a "significant" subscriber base before it made sense for Time Warner to begin selling its of ads against NBA TV. He didn't anticipate sales staffers making those pitches until next season.
Rosenblum said the MSO currently counts some 600,000 digital subscribers in its footprint, including the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, as well as some communities in Bergen and Hudson counties in New Jersey; mid-Hudson counties in New York; and Mount Vernon, N.Y.
In addition to Time Warner, NBA TV's distribution roster currently comprises Cox Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp., DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network.
Stern said NBA TV continues to meet with Comcast Corp. and other MSOs and is confident about scoring digital distribution. "Every MSO is different," Stern said. "They are all at different places and have different issues about digital tiering."