Veteran media executive Larry Novenstern has moved to the other side of the media net at Tennis Channel.
With a polished game in the worlds of sports media and brand building, Novenstern, as vice president of integrated partnerships, is charged with expanding Tennis Channel’s efforts with current high-profile sponsors and finding new ways to leverage the network toward its sales goals. Moreover, he will be taking swings at rounding out the service’s automotive, financial and other major sponsor categories with additional media partnerships. Based in the network’s New York office, Novenstern reports to senior vice president of advertising Gary Herman.
Novenstern, most recently senior vice president U.S. media director with barter shop Orion Trading, has had executive and senior vice president-level stints at Optimedia U.S., Deutsch Inc. and BBDO. Over the course of his career, he has worked with such major brands as Pizza Hut, Visa, T-Mobile, British Airways, Anheuser-Busch, Ford Motor Co., PepsiCo and Google, in addition toViacom, NBC Universal, Discovery Communications, ESPN, FOX Sports and Turner Sports. With a rolodex full of representatives from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, NCAA and the PGA Tour, he is the creator of Fox’s Visa NFL halftime show and part of the team that developed naming rights for both the FedEx Orange Bowl and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Novenstern cited three main reasons for joining Tennis: the chance to work full time in sports; “where in this day and age do you get the opportunity to create category exclusivities”; and the strength of net’s management team.
“I just spent a week in LA , getting introduced and integrated so to speak to the network," he said. "It’s great to be working with people, like [chairman and CEO] Ken [Solomon], Gary [Herman] and [senior vice president of marketing] Robyn Miller."
Calling Tennis “a diamond in the rough,” he said the network is about “to take off from 60 to 90 miles per hour. “He said this will occur even if the U.S. Court of Appeals doesn’t rule favorably in Tennis’ program carriage complaint against Comcast. If the court upholds the FCC’s ruling that Comcast discriminated against the network, Tennis could lift its sub base from 35 million to well north of 50 million.
That possibility aside, Novenstern, who acknowledges sports rights have spiraled over the top over the years, said Tennis is in a strong position, because its costs are stable via long-term deals for key tournaments, ranging from four to 15 years. “We’re not going to be asking advertisers to help foot the bill for rights increases,” he said.
Novenstern says Tennis has a sound inventory base, not only with coverage in and around the four Grand Slams, but top-flight tourneys in Indian Wells and Miami, as well as the rest of the ATP Masters Series 1000 events and the clay season run-up to the French Open. Tennis not only wants to capitalize on the first three quarters, but in the fourth-quarter as well, he said.
As he meets with long-time business associates and other professionals in the weeks and months ahead, Novenstern wants to expand the network’s position, “establish a buyer’s mentality around the service, about what we have to offer here. We want to take advantage of the marketplace. Joe media buyer at agency A, he doesn’t just want to work with ESPN. He wants options at MLB Network, NFL Network and Tennis Channel.”
Those will go beyond just 30-second spots within tourney coverage. “We want to create events. Look at CNN Heroes and who would have thought MTV Networks would build the Spike Video Game Awards into a tentpole event, but that's what is.”
To date, Tennis has enjoyed some success in developing brand integration with clients. For example, the network has partnered with Garnier, pairing Tennis “Fit to Hit” host Danielle Dotzenrod and former tennis great Virginia Wade in a series of customized (“Take Care”) shorts that get the skin/hair care company's messaging across. Last year’s Longines “Passport to Paris” sweepstakes generated more than 300,000 visits (a 60% increase over 2011) to Tennis’ Web site and integrated the watch company into all aspects of the project.
Asked how soon he expected to ink a deal for an integrated initiative, Novenstern demurred, saying things will happen over the next few months. “We’re talking about sales that will happen naturally,” he said. “As for product integration, we’ll look for that to occur organically.”