New York -- In an effort to expand its viewership reach,
ESPN has signed two pay-per-view networks and two satellite services to distribute its
"GamePlan" college-football PPV package.
Cable PPV service BET Action Pay-Per-View and satellite
services PrimeStar Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network will join
Viewer's Choice and DirecTv Inc. in offering ESPN's 13-week, 100-plus-game
college-football package, which debuts Sept. 5, said Skip Desjardin, director of sales and
marketing for ESPN.
Action will offer a doubleheader telecast most Saturdays,
which will complement Viewer's Choice's three-channel, six-game weekly offering,
"This deal allows us to get more games to cable
systems," he said. "It provides what the package is all about -- giving
customers the widest amount of choice of the games that they want to see."
The package -- which retails at $89 for the season, or
$11.95 per day -- will be in front of 1.4 million additional subscribers via its deal with
the Dish Network direct-broadcast satellite service, which will offer up to 10 games each
week via PPV.
"ESPN GamePlan is a fantastic football package, and it
gives Dish national customers access to more top college-football games than ever
before," said Michael Schwimmer, vice president of programming for EchoStar, in a
The additions of EchoStar and PrimeStar, which reached an
agreement earlier this year, not only provide ESPN with more potential eyeballs, but also
with more opportunities to sell subscription packages, Desjardin said.
"Unlike cable, we've found that satellite
customers tend to buy the season packages instead of the per-buy -- mainly because DBS
typically offers more games than cable systems do," he said.
Although Desjardin would not reveal specific buy-rate
numbers, sources close to the situation said DBS generates much higher overall buy-rates
from GamePlan than cable does.
Last year's cable performance, however, was
"right within our expectations," while DBS exceeded expectations, Desjardin
said. "And we would expect that to happen again this year."