NFL Nets VOD Sponsors

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NFL Network has signed up a pair of national sponsors for its video-on-demand highlights packages, and continues to discuss means for cable operators to get involved on the local level.

Adam Shaw, senior vice president of distribution, said two blue-chip sponsors for the popular “NFL Replay” and “NFL Blitz” VOD packages are signed. Both sponsors, who’ll be named next month, will run 15-second commercials at the beginning of the respective VOD segments.

NFL Replay provides 10-minute highlights of each weekend’s games, up to 16 per week. NFL Blitz features a variety of “bests” — as in catches or tackles — over 30 minutes.

During the second half of last season, T-Mobile ran 15-second spots atop the NFL Replay package, as commercials followed a hosted introduction and preceded the rundown of each game users accessed. Representatives for T-Mobile could not be reached by press time.

NFL Network is still pitching marketers about other national VOD opportunities. Shaw said it’s looking for two or three other sponsors to take additional positions with NFL Blitz, or to get involved in supporting NFL Films content available via VOD.

Separate packages might be proffered for the playoffs, including archival entries, and for NFL Draft and scouting combine vignettes, an NFL Network spokesman said.

Expecting to announce more cable-carriage deals in the weeks ahead, NFL Network could count some 30 million cable and satellite subscribers by the start of the 2005-06 pro-football season. Shaw said as many as 12 million to 13 million of the cable subs would have access to the VOD programming at that juncture.

Rentrak Corp. will provide data on NFL Network’s VOD usage.

Shaw also said officials are discussing ways for affiliates to involve local advertisers. “We’re trying to figure out a place for [the local sponsor] and determine how many operators can insert on VOD,” said Shaw. “They want to make sure they have capabilities for the different markets.”

There has been plenty of back and forth with Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest MSO and foremost VOD proponent, about local-sponsorship deals, said Shaw. Local VOD insertion could be driven from the Comcast Media Center in Denver. Comcast officials didn’t return phone calls by press time.

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