Sunday Ticket Gets a Sponsor

Jun 20, 2005  •  Post A Comment

For the first time, DirecTV will have a presenting sponsor for its Sunday Ticket NFL football package.

DirecTV did not disclose the name of the advertiser, but the sponsorship includes exposure within the interactive advertising applications the satellite operator is rolling out, including a highlights package that will be delivered to subscribers via digital video recorders.

“People have been able to buy [advertising] units within the games, but there’s never been a presenting sponsor,” said Erik Shanks, DirecTV’s senior VP of advanced services and content. The sponsorship is a seven-figure deal, he said.

DirecTV expected this week to roll out set-top boxes equipped to handle interactive advertising in the Northeast, giving it a national footprint. Mr. Shanks declined to say what percentage of DirecTV’s 14 million subscribers now have boxes that support interactive advertising. “It’s a good chunk of the overall DirecTV universe,” he said. “Enough to build a business on.”

DirecTV announced earlier this year that Chrysler would be one of its first major interactive advertisers, taking part in its ad developer program. Other advertisers have signed up, but Mr. Shanks said they do not want to be identified yet.

Chrysler has not yet begun its interactive advertising.

DirecTV is currently conducting internal tests of DVR advertising that will work with a new DVR set-top box scheduled to be released next month. Creating interactive versions of 30-second spots isn’t likely to happen until next year, Mr. Shanks said.

For now, the first phase of DirecTV’s interactive advertising program involves its DirecTV Active page, which viewers access by pushing the Active button on their remote controls.

DirecTV has been testing its interactive capabilities with ads for pay-per-view movies, including “Meet the Fockers.” “When you click on the interactive ad, you get some deleted scenes and you can play a ‘Fockers’ game and get points,” Mr. Shanks said. “It’s things like that that we’re waiting to test until we start running real advertising flights.”

He declined to say how many people have interacted with the movie ads, noting that the rollout wasn’t yet complete and that the feature has not been promoted.

For advertisers, the DirecTV Active page would serve as a jumping-off point to a dedicated advertiser video channel that would provide viewers with more information about a product or service.

“At the heart of it is it’s got to be compelling audio and video. We’re not just trying to put up Web pages on TV. This is immersive audio and video, and a lot of times multiple clips of audio and video, so you can have the on-demand advertising experience,” he said.

“So for example, an auto manufacturer is going to let you go in depth with a particular model that they’re advertising to the extent where you can choose your options for your car, change your paint scheme, contact a dealer or have a dealer contact you,” he said. On the other hand, a more brand-oriented marketer, such as a shoe company, might not push a particular model, he said, noting that instead it might have a game consumers can play, getting them immersed in the company’s brand.

Mr. Shanks said advertisers are signing up, but he declined to discuss the specifics of how much DirecTV is charging. It’s selling one-week flights designed to give advertisers multiple exposures. “The rate card is obviously going to be modified once we get some time under our belts,” he said.