USA Network's U.S. Open tennis coverage is probably
its highest-priced single sports event, so the network is understandably going all-out to
make it a sales success, both on the network and local levels.
USA is projecting that its 12-day coverage, which begins
Aug. 31, will average a 0.6 Nielsen Media Research household rating for daytime and a 1.1
in fringe, climbing to a peak 1.5 in primetime, with its upscale viewership likely to be
especially strong among the key demographic groups of men and women aged 18 to 49 and 25
To lift local sales, this past spring, USA distributed kits
to operators that included marketing materials, a list of the network's Open sponsors
and a seven-page list of cooperative advertising contacts, as well as suggestions on how
to incorporate USA's clients into local advertising and promotional opportunities.
Among those most eagerly selling the two minutes per hour
of local avails was Time Warner CityCable (TWCC), the ad-sales arm of Time Warner Cable of
New York City -- not surprising, since the event is in its backyard, at the U.S. Tennis
Association Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
USA's Open sales totaled about $17 million, said John
Silvestri, the network's executive vice president of ad sales. USA's other
single events coming closest to that sum included miniseries Moby Dick, at $7.5
million, and its two-day Masters golf coverage, he added.
Last year, the network covered 95 hours of the Open --
nearly 10 more than initially allocated -- and it's slated to cover at least 92 hours
this year, from the Aug. 31 men's and women's opening rounds through the Sept.
13 women's doubles finals.
Among the tennis stars expected on the courts, USA said,
are last year's Open champs, Martina Hingis and Patrick Rafter, as well as Pete
Sampras, Andre Agassi, Venus Williams and Steffi Graff.
"We usually do quite well locally," as well,
Silvestri said, praising the kit, which was overseen by Diane Weingart, vice president of
affiliate marketing at USA Networks. The materials -- some of which are customizable,
allowing the addition of local-sponsor names -- include on-air promo and radio spots,
billstuffers and postcards. The latter can be used to remind advertisers of the benefits
of buying into the Open.
Larry Fischer, president of TWCC, said the kit was
"incredibly helpful," adding that Time Warner is using the billstuffer to
feature such local sponsors as Hertz Corp., World Yacht and the MSO's own New York 1
In fact, those two weeks are "probably our biggest
revenue periods," he said, due to the Open and to MTV: Music Television's Video
Music Awards show, which also takes place in New York.
In its kit, the network suggested that affiliates arrange
"U.S. Open viewing parties" at local restaurants, bars and shopping malls as a
way to enroll new subscribers. There's even a customizable "Viewing Party"
promo spot to generate consumer interest.
TWCC doesn't act on those suggestions because
"we're in the market," Fischer said, "but we do that for the French
Open [also on USA]." For the U.S. Open, the MSO prefers using tickets to the event to
entertain clients, he added.
USA also suggested pitching local prospects on packages
that could include USA's pre-Open special Aug. 30, hosted by John McEnroe.
Local tie-ins should appeal to some sponsors that are
committed to USA's coverage, or to their retailers, USA said, whether those are
viewing parties that might appeal to Heineken N.V., PepsiCo and Wilson Sporting Goods, or
sweepstakes with Canon U.S.A. cameras as grand prizes.
Other top local prospects include such USA coverage
sponsors as American Express Co., Fila U.S.A., FujiFilm, IBM Corp., TheNew York
Times, Tennis magazine, Prudential Securities and Texaco.
As USA noted in its kit, "Only U.S. Open sponsors have
the rights to be associated with the U.S. Open and U.S. Open-related promotions."
The network also pointed out that "Local advertiser
tags, in print and on-air, must include the phrase, 'Brought to you locally by ...
,' to avoid conflicts with USA Network national advertisers and USTA U.S. Open