ESPN to NBC: Anything You Can Do, We Can Do Better

At NFL Kickoff Event, Touts It's the Original in Multiplatform Sports

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC is currently getting attention for its new "TAMi" metric, or "total audience measurement index," established to gauge its multiplatform Olympics coverage. But ESPN President George Bodenheimer would like to remind advertisers his company was measuring cross-platform sports content for them for several years prior.
George Bodenheimer
George Bodenheimer Credit: Bryan Haraway

"We're glad to see NBC has adopted [our] approach with the Olympics. Sports fans don't just want to access ESPN on TV. I love meeting with the CEOs or CMOs of these major companies and asking them, 'Why would you want to buy just TV? Our fans are everywhere,'" Mr. Bodenheimer said at an NFL Kickoff breakfast held by ESPN in New York this morning.

Although ESPN and its Disney sibling broadcast network ABC lost out on the rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics games (which went to NBC for $2.201 billion in June 2003), should the companies succeed in the next round of bidding for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics, it would mark the first time ABC has broadcast an Olympics since 1988.

ESPN remains bullish on its multiplatform content strategy, even if it doesn't always include live streaming of big-ticket games online. NBC and the National Football League's recent announcement to stream games live on NBCsports.com and NFL.com didn't have much sway on Mr. Bodenheimer's plans to do the same. "We would not be interested in delivering premium content on the free internet," he said.

Mr. Bodenheimer was similarly diplomatic about the rise of the NFL Network, the league's cable network that caused distribution controversy last year with its exclusive rights to major meet-ups such as Cowboys vs. Packers.

'Pie is big enough'
"The NFL effectively changed their business model, as have several other leagues," he said, hinting at the concurrent growth of the Big Ten Network. "We're very happy with our [NFL] schedule, and I have never said anything to the contrary. ... I think the pie is big enough for all of us to exist."

And although expensive cable-operator contracts with the likes of Comcast and Time Warner Cable won't be prompting ESPN to change its online distribution model any time soon for its top-tier games, Ed Erhardt, ESPN's president-customer marketing and sales, was quick to plug the company's ability to harness "the game around the game."

Geico recently signed on as an integrated sponsor of "SportsCenter," which went live last week. Elsewhere, marketers suchas IBM, UPS and Miller are on board for on-site and multiplatform promotions for this season's NFL games, as are AT&T and Chic Fil-A for a new series of on-site activations at major college games.

"People are going to watch things on the TV screen, but they're also going to want to experience that on other platforms, which we're uniquely positioned to take advantage of," Mr. Erhardt said.
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