Madison Square Garden Media Grabs for Upfront Money

Pitches Live Shows, Tours, Websites and New TV Series

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Just when we thought the upfront season was done, it pulled us back in for one last go-round.

Madison Square Garden Media held a presentation for advertisers May 28 to tout its sponsorship opportunities across its many platforms, which include popular music and sports venues (New York's Madison Square Garden, WaMu Theater at MSG, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre and the recently acquired Chicago Theatre), sports teams (New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Liberty and Hartford Wolf Pack), cable networks (MSG, MSG Plus and Fuse) and accompanying websites (including the revamped MSG.com).

Two-year restructuring
The event was the culmination of a nearly two-year-long restructuring of the MSG sales staff and media properties, focusing on bringing more cross-platform solutions to advertisers that want to take their sponsorships beyond just singular venues or sports teams. "We've made some dramatic changes to how we do business at the Garden," said Michael Bair, president-MSG Media.

It's hard to dispute MSG's share of the New York concert market when its venues account for 60% of the concerts in the metropolitan area and 91% of the total gross revenue. The annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular grossed $97 million in 2007 alone. That's why the Rockettes will be hitting the road for an 18-city arena tour this fall for the first time in the show's 76-year history.

Also adding more of a national footprint is the MSG Interactive Group, which brought all of Madison Square Garden's digital properties under one roof in January 2007. The group includes MSG's 15 venue and team websites, which reach a combined audience of 2 million unique visitors per month, along with video-on-demand channels such as Rangers on Demand and Knicks on Demand.

Spike's ad buy
All the new touchpoints have allowed for a unique structuring of recent ad and sponsorship deals. A recent ad buy from Spike TV, for example, to promote its show "Pros vs. Joes," included TV (spots aired on MSG and the recently rebranded MSG Plus), promos on GardenVision during Knicks and Rangers games, on-court promotions during Knicks games and signage outside the Garden on the 7th Avenue marquee.

Michael Guth, exec VP-marketing solutions at MSG Media, said several new broader partnerships with advertisers are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

And because it wouldn't be an upfront without new TV programming, MSG Entertainment announced its two new TV series, "Fight to the Finish" and "NYC Soundtracks." "Fight" is a boxing tournament from MSG Sports that will feature televised bouts filmed in venues across the city, leading up to the final match at The Garden, with exclusive content to air on MSG.com. "NYC Soundtracks" is an "American Idol"-esque competition series set on the subways of New York, where "underground" performers will compete for a chance to play as an opening act at an MSG venue. The show premieres on MSG network next month, with online voting to open on MSG.com.

Of course, MSG is only part of the New York dominance its parent company Cablevision has been expanding in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the company bought a 97% stake in Long Island-based newspaper Newsday worth $650 million. Notoriously press-shy Cablevision CEO and MSG Chairman James Dolan was not present at the upfront event, however.
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