New York -- National Cable Communications has named a
sports-sales director to bolster spot dollars from that sector, especially with cable's
first Summer Olympic Games due next September.
Senior vice president and director of sales Andrew Ward
said Sal Tofano has been assigned those newly created duties for the spot-cable rep firm.
Tofano, formerly an account executive at Fox Sports Cable
Sales and national sales manager at Fox Sports Net, earlier worked at Fox Sports/Liberty
Sports and Group W Sports Marketing.
Tofano will work with NCC's existing sales offices and with
those of its represented MSOs, rather than forming a dedicated sports-sales staff, at
least for now, Ward said last week.
Due to air Sept. 15 through Oct. 1 on CNBC and MSNBC, deals
for carriage of the Summer Games have been reached so far with AT&T Broadband &
Internet Services, MediaOne Group Inc. and Cox Communications Inc., officials at NBC Cable
Networks and elsewhere have said previously. Ward said he has not heard of any additional
MSO commitments to date. (NCC's MSO owners are AT&T Broadband, Comcast Corp., Cox,
MediaOne and Time Warner Cable.)
Various sales executives at the major MSOs and
interconnects have said recently that they can't develop sales packages until MSOs
officially commit to Olympics coverage. Still, Ward expressed confidence that the Olympics
will have "maximum" cable carriage.
"The Olympics are certainly part of the
rationale" behind NCC's move, Ward said. "Other elements are sports-programming
opportunities on national networks -- the NFL [National Football League], MLB [Major
League Baseball], the NHL [National Hockey League] and the NBA [National Basketball
Those will entail going beyond the usual spot business, he
added, to "do a better job capturing sponsorships and season-long packages."
Ward also anticipated "unwired network
opportunities" involving, for example, the Atlantic Coast Conference or Pacific-10
Conference collegiate leagues. But regional sports networks won't be part of NCC's focus
unless they are part of the inventory on such NCC-managed interconnects as the Chicago
Cable Interconnect, he pointed out.
Tofano said he would target both traditional and
nontraditional sponsors of sports fare. "Internet/dot.com business -- currently on
fire -- and telecom" are among the nontraditional categories, while
"high-profile" marketers of beer, soft drinks, fast food, banks and airlines are
among what he dubbed "the usual suspects."
Moreover, since the Olympics also have strong female
appeal, Tofano said, marketers of women's products and services will be on his hit list.
NCC will work with MSOs to develop national spot packages
for the Sydney Games, but that won't necessarily entail affiliate-sales kits, Ward said.
NBC Cable plans a 17-market sales tour in the first quarter, "and we hope to be part
of that," he added.
NBC Cable estimated the local avails for the Summer
Olympics at 1,600 30-second spots, but NCC executives said last week that its spot
inventory could only be described as "substantial."
The International Olympic Committee's Sept. 15 through Oct.
1 scheduling will mean that the 2000 Summer Olympics will face stronger counterprogramming
than in the more typical July-through-August span due to the "Big Four" TV
networks' new fall season, the NFL, college football and postseason baseball coverage.
But Ward and Tofano maintained that the broadcasters' new
primetime season "doesn't entirely kick in" by that time.
On the sales side, Tofano added, there will be potential
for back-to-school campaigns.
Down the road, NCC may try to get involved in sports sales
linked to networks' and teams' Web sites, as well as in signage at sports events via
sports-marketing agents like The Marquee Group, Ward said.
"We're looking to explore all opportunities," he
added. "The Web will certainly be part of that."