Comcast Creates Sports Sales Group

Jan 25, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Comcast Programming Group is combining the advertising sales staffs of Golf Channel and Versus to form the Comcast Sports Sales Group.
The group will be run by Comcast Network Advertising Sales President Dave Cassaro.
Gene Pizzolato, who had been executive VP of advertising sales and new media for Golf Channel, has been named chief revenue officer of the network, in charge of marketing and new ventures, including online commerce.
Mr. Cassaro said that at some point he expects to name an executive to head the new sports group, a position for which he is looking at candidates both inside and outside Comcast.
The new organization was designed with the goal of better serving audiences and advertisers, Mr. Cassaro said.
“The type of viewers who tune in to watch both of these networks are very passionate about what they tune in to watch, whether it’s the PGA Tour or other golf content we have [on Golf Channel], or if it’s hockey or bull riding or college sports” on Versus, Mr. Cassaro said. “We know that because of the passion they have, we can make an emotional connection with our audience, which is something that’s important, particularly to advertisers.”
Both Versus and Golf Channel are relatively small players in the sports category, and combining them could create a bigger footprint.
“We don’t intend to be ESPN. We don’t intend to be Fox Sports,” Mr. Cassaro said. “We think we have what can be a compelling value proposition. You have the ability to get involved in a big way and take an ownership position at what we think is a reasonable price.”
While there are some advertisers that clearly fit on one channel or another, there are many that overlap, he said.
“If you lined up the list of advertisers on the Golf Channel and the list of advertisers on Versus, you would probably see duplication in the middle third,” he said. “Obviously you’re not going to see Titlist golf balls on Versus. Nor are you going to see fishing equipment on the Golf Channel.”
But there are a number of general advertisers in categories including credit cards, financial, automotive, beer and other alcoholic beverages that advertise in sports programming.
“A lot of those advertise on both” Golf Channel and Versus, he said.
Maraj Parikh, who heads up sports buying activity at Spark Communications, said the move made sense for Comcast, so long as it wasn’t overly aggressive in packaging the networks together.
“I think they’d be complementary to each other because they can now focus on male-oriented clients,” Mr. Parikh said, noting that Comcast’s E! and Style networks skew female.
“I think it helps to grow the contact base. If nothing else, they can try to leverage the networks together, maybe do some cross-promotional opportunities,” he said.
But some specialized and upscale Golf Channel advertisers just don’t belong on Versus, and vice versa, Mr. Parikh said.
“Hopefully they will use the positive of where it makes sense to leverage the two networks, but will not make it a forced fit that you have to buy one to buy the other,” Mr. Parikh said. “In this marketplace, that just wouldn’t make sense.”
Mr. Cassaro said Comcast’s networks are doing relatively well given the economic climate. Versus has been enjoying ratings growth, with total viewership up 24% last year.
Things were a bit rougher at Golf Channel, partly due to the knee injury that took Tiger Woods out of the tournaments the network televises. Total viewers were down 4% last year.
“But when Tiger Woods comes back, his first golf swing on television will be on the Golf Channel,” Mr. Cassaro said.


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