OLN Catches Stanley Cup Fever

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OLN will begin its coverage of the National Hockey League’s second season Friday night with a doubleheader featuring the Edmonton Oilers-Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Mighty Ducks-Calgary Flames games.

The Comcast Corp.-owned network -- which will air up to 54 playoff contests, depending on the length of series, including the first and second games of the Stanley Cup Finals championship series -- also appears to have a strong line for the advertising side for hockey’s second season.

“We’re very excited. The playoffs not only bring in avid fans, but sports fans in general. Our advertising base is strong going into the playoffs,” said Neil Baker, executive vice president of ad sales for Comcast Networks, who declined to comment on the network’s NHL sell-through level.

OLN officials said the NHL has helped the network to ink deals with 23 new advertisers and to expand budgets with one-dozen others.

Baker said OLN is still pursuing playoff schedules, as well as potential features that “go beyond the 30-second spot” (OLN already has 10 such NHL elements). He noted that OLN was also in discussions with clients about opportunities for positions with the network’s video-on-demand and podcast playoff offerings.

Moreover, OLN also attracted a sponsor, Esurance Inc., for its expansive hockey shoulder programming that includes archival games and documentaries.

Baker declined to comment on if OLN had many any ratings guarantees to advertisers for the playoffs. As was the case with the regular season, Baker said, “We made responsible estimates. We looked at ESPN, which is fully distributed, and went from there.”

ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 0.7 and 0.5 Nielsen Media Research household ratings, respectively, during their coverage of the 2003-04 playoffs. Last season was iced in a labor dispute.

OLN averaged a 0.2 household rating with its NHL coverage during the 2005-06 regular season.

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