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TNT Shooting for Higher Ad Rates

Feb 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Building on the hoopla from last year’s record-breaking performance, the TNT network is on a fast break to the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles, which is proving to be one of cable’s biggest draws among both viewers and advertisers.
Last year’s game on TNT drew a 6.6 household rating-a record for a basketball game on cable. Spots for this year’s game, scheduled for Feb. 15, are about 90 percent sold out, at prices media sources peg at $150,000 to $200,000 per 30 seconds.
Trish Frohman, senior VP at Turner Sports Sales, said last week that fewer than 10 units remained for the game.
The NBA’s latest rights deals with Turner and ESPN/ABC Sports moved the bulk of pro hoops to cable, including the All-Star Game. Ms. Frohman said the price Turner is getting for the game is an example of a cable event drawing a broadcast-size cost per thousand. “There’s no question there are blurred lines between broadcast and cable,” she said.
Those CPMs aren’t “what NBC used to get for the game, but it’s higher than what you normally pay in cable,” said Mike Law, supervisor of national broadcast at Carat. At those prices, “I think they’re very well sold,” he said.
Turner Sports has been packaging the All-Star event with regular-season and postseason games, and additional advertisers are signing up, including American Express, Ms. Frohman said. Also spending heavily are the makers of the competing erectile dysfunction drugs.
Turner is adding advertisers that have signed deals directly with the NBA to sponsor events during All-Star Weekend, including RadioShack, 989 Sports, Foot Locker and Sprite.
In addition to the popular All-Star Saturday night, TNT has added another prime-time evening to its All-Star Weekend, with the “Got Milk Rookie Challenge” Friday night. With highly touted league newcomers LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony slated to participate in the challenge, Ms. Frohman said, “We’re very excited.”
Turner has heavily promoted the All-Star break. TNT will have on-air spots and cross-channel spots on other Turner networks. Turner is also buying spot broadcast, spot cable, national and regional print, outdoor, radio and in-theater ads.
The network is also going to wrap 125,000 pizza boxes in L.A. with All-Star ads and paint a 144-foot-by-94-foot mural on the side of the Hotel Figueroa, which faces the Staples Center.
Turner, which also carries NASCAR races, is sponsoring driver Jeff Burton’s car for the Daytona 500 and the Twin 125 events. For the Twin 125s, Mr. Burton’s car will be wrapped with All-Star messages. Images of All-Stars will be on the hood of his car during the 500. The driver will also make media appearances discussing his paint job, giving the NBA exposure in NASCAR territory.
All-Star Weekend comes at the midpoint of a season in which NBA viewership is up sharply in every demographic. Broadcasts on TNT are up 35 percent among viewers 18 to 34 and up 33 percent among viewers 18 to 49.
Ms. Frohman said that unlike last year, when basketball broadcasts slightly underdelivered ratings guarantees, so far this season the NBA on TNT is overdelivering. “This year we are performing even better than we had hoped for,” she said.
Bruce Cohen, senior VP and group director at MediaVest, said new players such as Mr. James in Cleveland and Mr. Anthony in Denver, have “rekindled interest in the NBA.”